Paul does so in the context of the master/slave relationship because slavery was pervasive in the first century Roman Empire and because slaves made up a large part of the workforce.
The 1st fundamental. In addressing slaves, Paul sets forth the first workplace fundamental: Do your work with all your heart. Paul says it like this: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily.” (Col. 3:23). The word translated “heartily” literally means “from the soul.” In other words, Christian employees should do their work with all their heart, not merely punch a clock or go through the motions but pour their heart into their work.
An example. When I think about working with all my heart, giving it my all, that scene from Chariots of Fire comes to mind, the one where Eric Liddell falls during a race, gets back up and somehow wins the race. He gives so much of himself, he literally falls across the finish line and collapses. That’s doing your work heartily.
No room for excuses. We can come up with lots of excuses for coasting. “This is not what I ultimately want to do.” “This is just a part-time job.” “My boss doesn’t appreciate what I do already.” “They don’t pay me enough.”
But here’s the thing–and this is why I spent so much time explaining the context of Colossians 3:23-25–any excuse we might come up with, a first century slave could have come up with a better one. “I didn’t choose to be a slave.” “My master treats me like dirt.” “I don’t get paid anything.” “This entire work relationship is immoral.”
And yet Paul says, “Whatever you do, do your work with all your heart…” If this principle applied to first century slaves there is no job situation, no set of circumstances, no excuse we could come up with, where it wouldn’t apply to our work.
Why does God require this? Now, a fair question is, “Why?” “Why does the Lord demand this of Christians?” I think the answer is two-fold. First, it’s how we’re designed. We are designed in the image of God, and God is a worker, as I have addressed in another post. It’s in our DNA. It’s why you feel so good after a really hard days work. It’s what we were designed to do.
Here’s something you’d never guess would happen. And there is something else too. I learned it when I was in college, waiting tables at a local restaurant. I was pretty much just punching a clock for a paycheck. I didn’t look forward to work and couldn’t wait to leave work each night. Then our manager instituted a sales contest. The server who had the most in gross sales on Friday and Saturday nights would win a gift certificate or cash. This punched my competitive buttons, and I begin to really think about my job for the first time, trying to figure out how to increase my gross sales.
I quickly realized I didn’t always ask people if they wanted drinks before dinner, and I wasn’t really pushing desert either. I began honing my pitches for both and my sales immediately went up. I started winning the sales contest; and something else happened: I began to enjoy my job for the first time.
I found the harder I worked, the more I enjoyed my job. We think we need to change our attitude so we will work harder; yet, it is the other way around. Your attitude follows your effort. The more of your soul you put into your work, the more you will like your work.
So this is fundamental #1: Do your work with all your heart. GS