“When the cat’s away, the mice will play.”
This proverb took a whole new meaning after I started working.
After I was recruited to manage a department with a staff of 20, many of whom were 10 years my senior with years of work experience, it didn’t take me long to discover that people will naturally take advantage of a situation when the person of authority is not around. This was a thing that was not lost to me, as I also had to deal with my own bosses. I realized that when no one’s looking, there’s this strong internal urge to put aside what we are supposed to do and be preoccupied with something else.
In fact, a recent survey1 revealed that 89% of respondents waste at least some time at work on a daily basis. That’s a whopping 9/10 employees in your office! Top reasons why workers waste time? 2
1) aren’t challenged enough (35%)
2) have long working hours (34%)
3) have no company incentive to work harder (32%)
4) are dissatisfied (30%)
5) are bored (23%).
Given these realities, how exactly are we supposed to conduct ourselves at work? How are we to work if we are unhappy? In the first place, why bother when slacking off seems to be the norm?
That’s precisely what we can learn from Colossians 3:22-25. You see, OUR WORK MATTERS.
Though we are unlike the Roman slaves who had extremely limited freedom, Bible scholars agree that the slave-master relationship in the New Testament is probably the closest thing to our present-day employee-employer relationship. And just like the slaves, employees report to their boss, who in turn expects their employees to contribute to the organization to best of their abilities.
In verse 22 alone, we can see a number of principles for us. So if you report to someone, this is for you:
We are to obey our earthly masters in everything (v. 22a)
The verb obey is in present tense, implying an ongoing command. Notice, also, that the command to obey is not limited to “good,” “deserving,” or “Christian” masters alone, but to ALL kinds of earthly bosses. What’s more, we are to obey in everything, not just when it’s convenient, or when there’s a bonus, or if we are well-treated. This submission to our earthly masters does not depend on our income, benefits, or workload, when we are happy or having a good day. This obedience should be rendered under all circumstances.
And do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. (v. 22b)
We ought to work not only for “eye service,” to comply to work standards even when “the cat’s away.” We do not work to win favors, or to attract attention, but we do it with sincerity and most of all, with a deep regard and respect for the Lord.
The Supremacy of Jesus Christ.
The theme of Colossians is all about the supremacy of Jesus Christ, and chapter 3:1-17 discusses what it would look like if Jesus is paramount in one’s life, where He has full authority over every aspect of our life. Our work-life should reflect that reality. The big difference between us and the New Testament slaves is that we actually have the option to resign from our jobs if we are already being led to sin. Employees are to obey their bosses at all times as long as it does not contradict with what GOD wants.
Most of the time, our performance is usually tied up to how we perceive our boss. If we don’t like our boss, chances are we won’t do our jobs well. Why bother doing well then?
Because you have a BIG BOSS. When we work, we should remember who our REAL BOSS IS, “as working for the Lord not for men,” because all work ultimately belongs to him. So, while we may have an earthly master, the reality is Jesus is our Boss and all work should be done in honor of Him.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (v. 23)
Because Jesus is Supreme, there’s no such thing as “no one’s looking,” because even though no one’s around, He still sees what we’re doing…the “big cat” is never away and we can be sure that He evaluates our job performance.
The passage concludes its instructions to workers with this: depending on our work attitude, there’s either a corresponding reward (v. 24) or punishment (v. 25).
24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
If Jesus is truly supreme in our life, it should be evident in our workplace as well. So… when you’re done reading this, get back to work. Because work matters… OUR WORK MATTERS.
1 https://www.salary.com/2014-wasting-time-at-work/ 2 https://business.salary.com/why-how-your-employees-are-wasting-time-at-work/slide/4/
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