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Work as Worship

Thank God It's Monday  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  27:38
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NOTE:
This is a manuscript, and not a transcript of this message. The actual presentation of the message differed from the manuscript through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is possible, and even likely that there is material in this manuscript that was not included in the live presentation and that there was additional material in the live presentation that is not included in this manuscript.
Engagement
Nicolas Herman grew up in Paris in the 17th century in poverty. When he became old enough, he joined the French army in order to have food and clothing. After being injured in battle he became a personal servant on a family estate.
After working in that position for several years, he felt compelled by God to join the local monastery. Since he was uneducated, he was not eligible to become a monk, so for the rest of his life he served in menial jobs. He was given a job working in the kitchen where he cooked and did dishes. He worked in that job for many years before he was finally given a promotion near the end of his life to the job of sandal repairman, where he mended the monks’ sandals.
He took on the name “Lawrence of the Resurrection” and eventually became known as “Brother Lawrence”. Upon his death a number of his conversations and letters were compiled into a book titled The Practice of the Presence of God. Here is an excerpt from that book:
The time of work does not with me differ from the time of worship; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, even while several people are at the same time calling out for different things, I commune with God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees in prayer in the holiest cathedral of worship.
Tension
So my question to you this morning is this? Can you honestly say, like Brother Lawrence, that your work is worship? My guess is that most of us have never even thought of work in those terms. Again, as I’ve pointed out frequently in this series, we are looking at work very broadly here so even if you don’t have a paying job, I want you to think about that question as it applies to your school work, or your volunteer work, or in your role as a stay at home mom, or anything else you do on a regular basis.
Although there are a number of ways to view our work, they all essentially boil down into one of these three approaches:
As a means to an end - “I work to live
As all consuming - “I live to work
As worship - I work as an expression of my relationship with Jesus
Be honest with yourself - which of these three best describes your attitude toward your work?
Truth
Today, as we continue our “Thank God It’s Monday” series, we’re going to learn how to develop a mindset in which we view our work as worship, not merely a means to an end or something that is all consuming.
Last week we talked a bit about the master/slave relationship in the Roman Empire in the first century and today we’re going to explore some things that Paul wrote about that relationship that will help us to think of our work as worship.
We’ll be looking at a brief passage in the book of Colossians. Interestingly both that letter and Paul’s letter to Philemon were delivered by a companion of Paul named Tychicus and a slave named Onesimus. Onesimus had stolen from his master, Philemon, and fled to Colossae. There he met Paul and became a disciple of Jesus.
Under Roman law, Philemon had the right to put Onesimus to death, since slaves were considered to be nothing more than property and they had no rights. But Paul sent Onesimus back to Colossae with a letter asking Philemon to take back his slave and offering to personally pay for any losses that Philemon had incurred. That letter, along with the letter to the church in Colossae, gives us some good insight to the situation in the early church when it came to slaves and their masters.
As I mentioned last week, slavery in that culture was much different than we are used to. However that doesn’t mean that slaves were always treated with dignity and they certainly didn’t have the same social standing and rights as their masters. The early church largely consisted of the down and out in the culture, including quite a few slaves. But the church was the one place that masters and slaves were considered to be on equal footing. As Paul writes in another of his letters:
Galatians 3:28 ESV
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
However, once their gatherings were over and they went back to their own homes, the distinctions between the roles and rights of masters and their slaves were still in place regardless of whether either party was a disciple of Jesus. So that created a lot of tension between those brothers and sisters in Christ.
That is why when Paul writes to the church in Colossae about how their faith ought to impact their daily lives, he spends more time writing about the master-slave relationship than he does about the relationships between husbands and wives or between parents and children.
With that background in mind, let’s read our passage for today:
Colossians 3:22–4:1 ESV
Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.
Here’s the main idea we’re going to develop from this passage today:

Work becomes worship when I make Jesus my boss

Howard Hendricks, a long time professor at Dallas theological Seminary, once told a story that illustrates this principle:
He was on an American Airlines flight that was delayed for six hours. As you can imagine, the passengers became irate. One man was especially difficult with a flight attendant, and yet the flight attendant was a model of grace and kindness. After a long while, Hendricks remarked to the flight attendant,
“I have been extremely impressed with the way you handled that difficult passenger. Could I have your name so that I can write the company you work for?”
Her answer surprised him. “Sir, thank you very, very much. But you should know that I do not work for American Airlines. Sir, I work for Jesus Christ.”
The key word in this passage is the word “Lord”. I want you to take a second and count how many times Paul uses that word in this passage. [Wait for answers].
Seems like most of you found the word “Lord” four times in those five verses, right? Would you be surprised if I told you that word was actually there seven times? That’s because the Greek word translated “Lord” is the same word that is also translated “master” three other times in our passage. In the underlying Greek, there is no capitalization, so the context determines where the translators rendered it “Lord” when it refers to Jesus and “master” when it refers to earthly masters.
As disciples we talk a lot about “making Jesus our Lord” and sometimes I think we even use the word “Lord” like it’s part of Jesus’ name. The word simply means “one who has absolute authority over another”. So if Jesus is truly our Lord, that means that we have yielded the control of our life to Him. Or in simpler terms we can all understand, we have made Him the “boss”.
Without a doubt the main idea in this passage is that both slaves and masters are to work as if Jesus is their boss. And fortunately for us, Paul gives us some very practical instruction about how we are to do that:
Application

HOW TO MAKE JESUS MY BOSS AT WORK

Work with respect
There are three commands in this passage. The first one is found in verse 22:
Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters...
The verb translated “obey” is a compound word that literally means “to listen and respond”. In classic Greek it described the obedience of children toward parents. So there is a sense of obeying out of respect.
It’s also important to note here that this command is not conditional. It doesn’t say to obey if you have a good boss. Remember, Paul is writing this to slaves who often had harsh masters. No matter how harsh you think your boss might be, your working conditions are far better than those of a first century slave.
Peter gives us similar instruction:
1 Peter 2:18 ESV
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.
And you’ll also notice that we are to do this in “everything”. Obviously there are limits to that. We should never obey if we are asked to do something illegal, immoral or which would violate the commands of Scripture. But other than that, the general rule is that we owe respectful obedience to our bosses.
Work with integrity
None of us want to be this guy:
In case you can’t read the caption, it says:
“I skimped a little on the foundation, but no one’ll ever know it”
In verse 22, Paul warns against two tendencies that all of us have in our flesh:
…not by way of eye-service, as people pleasers, but with sincerity of heart...
In other words we should not just work to impress the boss when he is looking.
Although it is wrongly attributed to C.S. Lewis and nobody really knows the original author, most of you are probably familiar with this definition of integrity:
Integrity is doing the right thing when nobody's watching
But the fact is someone is always watching - Jesus. So that means I need to work with integrity even when I have no earthly overseer.
The way we do that is to have “sincerity of heart”. The word translated “sincerity” there is literally “singleness”. So I must not be the kind of double-minded man that James warned about:
James 1:8 ESV
he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
The way I approach my work should be the same when the boss is there watching me as when he is not.
Work diligently
In verse 23, Paul commands us to “work heartily”. In the underlying Greek it literally means to “work from the soul”. In our culture we would say, “put your heart and soul into it”. It’s the same idea we find in the book of Ecclesiastes:
Ecclesiastes 9:10 ESV
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
In my time in the business world, I have seen people use all kinds of tactics to avoid working diligently:
There are those who always come in late to work and then to make up for it they leave early. Sometimes they get someone else to clock in and out for them so that they get their full pay.
I once had an employee who would take a day of sick leave every time he accrued a day. Interestingly he always got sick on Friday or Monday.
If Jesus is my boss, then I will never resort to those kinds of tactics. Instead, I will be the hardest working employee in my company.
Work with excellence (but not perfection)
At the end of verse 23 we read that we are to:
work…as for the Lord and not for men.
If we are truly doing that, we will work with excellence. We will use every resource we have available to do the very best job we can.
Think of how you would work if you were called to repair Jesus’ house. Would you just do the work as quickly as possible and leave a big mess behind, or would you also make another minor repair while you were there and leave the place cleaner than when you got there?
What if Jesus came into the bank where you worked to open an account or apply for a loan? Would you make sure that all the paperwork was complete and offer Him a cup of coffee while you double-checked everything? Or would you just rush through all the paperwork and have to call back several more times to finish things up or fix your mistakes?
What if Jesus brought his car to the shop where you were a mechanic? Would you do only the work that was needed and do it well and wash His car when you were done or would you charge Him for unneeded work and leave your half-empty coffee cup in the front seat?
What if you were Jesus’ mother and given the responsibility of raising Him when He was a young child. Would you just stick Him in front of the TV and let Him fend for Himself or would you read to Him and spend time with Him and teach Him and cuddle Him?
I could give you some more examples, but I think you get the idea.
I think it’s important to know that excellence is not the same as perfection. In fact, perfectionism can actually become an idol that keeps us from being good employees. Pastor Tim Keller’s definition of an idol helps us to understand how perfectionism can become an idol:
What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give…
Perfectionism almost always has its roots in our desire for acceptance and our fear of rejection by man. And often it paralyzes us from acting at all or becomes a convenient excuse not to do something hard.
Work for a “raise” in the life to come
If you merely work for other people, then the only reward you can expect is from your human boss. But those rewards, no matter how good, are only temporary, and they can be taken away at any time. But if Jesus is your boss, then you’ll receive rewards from Him - rewards that are eternal, and, literally, out of this world. That’s the idea Paul is conveying in verse 24:
…knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.
For slaves who got no wages from their masters, who were not allowed to own property and who never expect to receive an inheritance here on earth, that was an incredible promise. And it is still and incredible promise for us, too. We can be assured that if we make Jesus our boss and work in the manner we have talked about today, that Jesus will reward us one day. And I’m convinced that at least part of that inheritance is that we’ll be given responsibilities in the New Jerusalem that will be commensurate with how faithful we were to work like that here on earth.
Verse 25 is the flip side of that. God is not partial, so those who do not work as if Jesus is their boss will lose out on those rewards.
And then Paul ends this section by reminding those who were masters that they, too, have a master and that therefore, they had better work as if Jesus was their boss, too.

Work becomes worship when I make Jesus my boss

When I make Jesus my boss, then there is no such thing as “secular” work. All work is spiritual. It doesn’t matter if you’re a student, or a stay at home mom, or a volunteer, or an engineer, or an accountant, or you’re retired. If you work with this attitude then you are involved in full time Christian ministry.
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul reminds us that the way we work not only reflects on us, it reflects on Jesus, too:
1 Timothy 6:1 ESV
Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.
You are Jesus’ ambassador in your classroom, in your office, on that assembly line, in your home. The way that you make the gospel attractive to others is by working in a way that is different, in a manner that is consistent with who Jesus is and that will bring glory to Him.
Action
So let’s go back to the questions I posed at the very beginning of the message:
Can you honestly say that your work is worship?
Do you view your work...
As a means to an end - “I work to live
As all consuming - “I live to work
As worship - I work as an expression of my relationship with Jesus
I want to encourage every one of you to take some time this week to honestly evaluate your approach to your work. I want you to consider whether your work is worship because Jesus is your boss. I want you to assess whether, you are working with respect, integrity, diligence, excellence and for a “raise” in the life to come. And if you are falling short in any of those areas, you need to do whatever is necessary to change that.
Inspiration
If an uneducated, hard-working dishwasher and sandal repairman in 17th century Paris could worship in his work, then certainly all of us can do that, too. When we make Jesus our boss and undertake our work in partnership with Him, then our work becomes and expression of our love for others and for Him - and that is worship just as much as what we do here every Sunday morning.
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