Work Heartily as for the Lord
My mind was racing with possibilities and questions. I’d been looking for opportunities to change our financial situation and now I had choices to make.
I’m probably not the only one who gets ahead of themselves. A new venture turns up and within 90 seconds I’ve played out every possible scenario in my mind. What if, what if, what if?! Before I know it I’m overwhelmed with circumstances that might never materialize.
Ah, the life of an over-analyzer.
- Will I be a good employee after 10 years of not having a “real” job?!
- What am I “supposed” to be doing? What the heck does that mean?
- Why does God allow fabulous opportunities to cross my path yet stay out of reach?
- What if I get this job?
- What if I don’t?!?!?!
I headed to Scripture to calm my head, to find something to hold onto. I ended up in Colossians at a favorite verse.
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 your inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Colossians 3:23
Some of my questions are shallow and baseless. I know the world doesn’t revolve around me and so I can’t expect every opportunity or event that pops up around me to be relevant to my specific circumstance. Maybe this job has presented itself before and I just wasn’t paying attention. Maybe this has more to do with someone else than me.
Maybe it’s not all about me all the time.
Furthermore, I know – from my knowledge of vocation – that there are lots of things I could be doing that are God-pleasing and that serve my neighbor. There’s not only one job for me. There’s not one perfect ideal position and if I miss it I’m doomed. Wherever I am, I can serve. I can work. I can walk in the works God has prepared for me in advance.
So I end up in Colossians and I see this verse 3:23 and I’m comforted that I’m serving God and not man. Because let’s face it: God is way more forgiving than man and also a more worthy master. When my kiddos were tiny and crabby and I was frustrated and couldn’t understand how the chaos of mothering tiny humans was useful, this verse spoke to me. Among other lessons on vocation I liked the idea of doing this dirty work for God. Of serving for something larger than the mess of dishes and laundry I could see in front of me.
Today the other part of the verse catches my eye. “You will receive the reward of your inheritance.” What does that mean? A reward? That sounds great! Makes me think of a pot of gold. A prize.
That’s probably not what Paul is talking about.
So I start looking. What is the context of this verse? Open up Colossians.
In chapter 3, we see Paul has been talking about what it means to live new in Christ. He says our lives are hidden with Christ and that some day we will be revealed with Christ in glory – reborn. Resurrected as Christ was (3:3-4)!
He explains we can consider the evil in us to be cut off from who we are in Christ (3:5). That we are in the process of “being renewed to a true knowledge” of who God is (3:10). When we walked in the garden with God, we had a knowledge of God. But that has been distorted. With Christ giving us the Word to richly dwell in us (2:16), we can rediscover Him. With the peace of Christ (2:15), we can be made one with God.
All of these truths are part of the inheritance we are given! This is the reward we have because of what Christ has done. The promises all come tumbling out of the book.
In Him we have been made complete.
In our baptism, our old Adam was buried with Christ’s burial;
In our baptism, we are raised up with Him just as He was resurrected.
He has made us alive,
forgiven us our trespasses,
canceled out our debt!
Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us..He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Colossians 2:14
What incredible imagery. Christ nailed my debts to the cross. Canceled them out. Forgave them all.
With His own suffering and punishment.
And so we have “attained all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding” (2:2). We now have this assurance and understanding that results in a true knowledge of God’s mystery: Christ himself.
Colossians is all about this mystery. All about how we were “rescued from the dominion of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son, who has redeemed us and forgiven us for our sins”(1:13). It’s all about our inheritance.
Back to verse 3:23. If I work hard for God I receive the inheritance? NO. Not at all. Because I have received the inheritance, I do my work in thanksgiving. I recognize that I am serving Christ, and not man. I understand, on some level, the mystery of love and sacrifice. Because I am a called child of God, He has prepared works for me to walk in. He will guide and direct me. He will not abandon me, no matter what my job is.
It would be nice if I could go to Scripture and find a directive: a clear bulleted list of what I should do with my life
That rarely happens.
Instead, though, I do find comfort in the promises. I find assurance. I find strength to muster up some patience and some resilience.
I find an inheritance.
And I am thankful.
This blog post is based on the podcast episode Work Heartily As For the Lord, which can be found here, where I process through this in a more conversational way. Check it out for my discussion of career issues and the assurances we can lean on.