Colossians & Philemonby Mike Raiter
How much does knowledge of the coming judgement influence your Christian behaviour now? In Paul’s final piece of advice to people in the home, slaves and masters, the motivation he gives for obedience is that everyone will have to answer to the Lord (v. 24).
Paul gives a surprising amount of space to addressing slaves, especially when we recall how brief his comments have been to all the others in the household. In fact, most of the space is taken up in developing the reason why slaves ought to be subject to their masters. I suspect this is because Paul recognises that while our levels of submission are different, we all have people who we are accountable to.
Paul’s command is that the slave should be wholeheartedly obedient, and not be the kind of worker who works hard when the boss is around, but slacks off when he is away (v. 22). Why should workers do this? Well, because they fear the Lord! On the one hand, there is the earnest expectation of receiving a heavenly reward for their obedience, and on the other, there is the terror of the loss of that reward (vv. 24–25). After all, “it is the Lord Christ you are serving” (v. 24). Our real master is Jesus. Therefore, if you think you are deceiving your earthly master, remember the one you are really trying to deceive is the Lord Jesus.
Paul then rounds off this warning by reminding his audience of a great biblical principle: God shows no partiality (v. 25). God will not say, “Oh, you were a lazy, slothful, deceitful Christian, well, that’s okay.” No, God is impartial and He will always punish deliberate, persistent disobedience, no matter who it is.
When Paul turns to the masters, he similarly bases his command on the certainty of Judgement Day. Masters are to treat their slaves, or employers are to treat their employees, fairly because they have a master in heaven. Masters may be the head of their earthly households, but they are still answerable to the Lord in heaven.
There is a banner over my life: “Judgement Day Integrity”. We live now in the light of that day. Let us work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).
How much does the reality of the coming judgement influence your Christian life? If perfect love casts out fear, why does Paul frequently exhort us to fear the Lord?
What is an employee’s obligation to a boss who is a bully or unjust? How should Christian bosses deal with lazy or troublesome employees?