"Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality." (Colossians 3:22-25)As a twenty first century westerner, it's hard sometimes to read and relate to what Paul has to say to and about slaves. Few of us have ever seen slaves and fewer of us have ever experienced slavery in our own lives. However, slavery was very much the norm in the first century Roman Empire. With each conquest of a foreign nation, Rome made slaves of its inheritance. Often relocating them to serve others within the Roman Empire. In many cities, there were more slaves than freeman and much of the early church was made up of the destitute poor and slaves. It was only as the church continued to grow and expand that people of the upper classes would come together with the poor and the slaves to worship their common creator and Father in heaven.
Paul's words to slaves were written in the reality of their situation. They were slaves and slaves they would be. There was very little opportunity to change their social status and less to abolish the institutionalization and acceptance of slavery. Paul's words to the slaves were to help them understand how to honor and obey God even as they lives as slaves to another man.
Today, while we may not have masters, most of us do have bosses, managers, and people in authority over us and some under us. We all serve masters. Even if we are a self-made man or woman, we still have God as our master over us. The question is not so much what we do in life, but how we do it. This questions extends over every area of "work" in our life. There is no aspect of our life that is hidden from the question: How shall we life our life?
First of all, we must live our lives nor for the sake of appearances but from some deeper reality within us. The Greek term for "external service" literally means "eye-service" So many people live their lives for the purpose of being seen by others. They live their lives to project some imaginary image of themselves but they never live from the reality of who they are inside. They pretend to be someone else rather than expressing who they really are. Especially as believers, it is important that we live lives that are consistent with the new life of Christ that had been born within us; that we live as the new creation we are. Living not to be seen by men but by God.
Secondly, regardless of how we live, we must live from within ourselves. The Greek term "heartily" means "from one's self" or "from the soul." The truth of the matter, as Christians, is that we are no longer slaves of men but slaves of God. We no longer have to do anything out of obligation but we can choose to do all we do out of choice. As God's freemen we no longer have to obey our masters out of duty but we can choose to obey them out of heart. We are now free to choose. There is a great difference between doing your job and choosing to do your job. One is automatic, done out of what is expected, the other is a choice, done out of will; driven by will rather than dragged by compulsion.
God does not want people who are drifting though life, only doing what the think is expected of them, only living by what is required of them. God wants people who are engaged in life; who live life "from their soul", who live life by choice and purpose and, who in their choosing, recognize that it is God who is their master and the master over all. From Him comes their ultimate reward and it is unto Him that they choose and live life. Let us learn to live life as free men and women and let us choose to live life to the honor and glory of God.