Work: Idle or Idol

141005_timwaiWe are continuing our series on our perspective on work this week by looking at Colossians 3:22-25. In Gallup's 2013 State of the American Workplace study, only 30% of the people said that they honestly enjoyed their job! 18% honestly dislike their jobs and 52% don't really like their jobs or feel engaged in them.

Because of this there are two extremes work can be viewed: 1) idleness - just doing the minimum amount to get by; and 2) idolatry - work consumes you and you find your identity, value and worth in your work rather than in Christ.

For those of you who work, how do you feel about your work? Which group are you in? For those of you in school, do you really understand what you are striving for? If the only reason you are going to school is because you have to and you just want to be finished just to finish, you may well be part of the 70% of people who don't really like their job.

But there is so much more to work! Today we are going to take a look at having a Christ-like perspective on work (that will hopefully also give you direction for school.) that will take us out of idleness and idolatry.

This passage from Colossians comes as Paul is concluding his letter. He is writing now about the practical implications of what it means that in Christ, all the fullness of God dwells.

Since Christ is supreme, how we live our earthly lives must reflect who we are in Him. We must put to death what is earthly and the old earthly distinctions: neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, slave or free. But putting aside earthly distinctions doesn't mean to destroy the social order. Instead Paul writes in Colossians 3:18-25 of three relationships that are transformed in Christ (husband/wives, parents/children, and slaves/masters). It is that last relationship that we will look at today.

Colossians 3:22-25 points to three ways we can view work:

1) Is work just about being idle? Are you working just to get by and with the least possible effort? In v.22 Paul tells the slaves to obey their masters not just when they are being watched. Idleness is not God's intention for our lives (2 Thessalonians 3:10-13).

Paul calls on the slaves to work with sincerity of heart and reverence for Christ. In the past they worked hard only to avoid being punished. But now they can choose to work hard because their real master is the Lord Jesus Christ.

2) Not only can we become idle at work, work can become an idol. An idol is something that you look to for security, worth, value and purpose. And many people look for their career or their job to provide those things. But in v.23 Paul tells the slaves that they are to work as "working for the Lord."

Work also is an idol when you are working so hard out of pride. Many people work really hard for earthly acclaim and reward. But in v.24 Paul tells the slaves that they will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. In Christ we are promised an eternal reward that will never spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:4).

3) How then do we strike a balance in our attitude about work? Colossians 3:17 "And whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" and Colossians 3:23 "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters."

Your value, worth, identity and security comes from Christ so your work doesn't have to! Your work is the means by which you create value in the world and God's kingdom purposes are advanced.

Have you lost sight of the purpose for which God has called you to work in the first place? Do you need to work harder and better or relax and trust God more?