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The Supremacy Demonstrated: In your Home and Work Part 2 (Col. 3:20-4:1)

Intro

How many of you have ever used Google Earth? It is actually very fascinating software. What is it? Well, it is a virtual globe program which maps the earth by superimposing images obtained from satellite imagery and aerial photography. It has a sky mode which enables you to look at stars and then you can zoom in as close as sometimes to the roof of your house.

Paul started out Colossians as declaring the Supremacy of Jesus Christ. He was in “sky mode” in Chapter 1. But now as we are in Ch 3, it has become “street mode.” In fact, he has zoomed in further than Google Earth has, which is into your house! Today we are continuing our series two-part series on what it means to have Jesus Christ Supreme in your house and work. How can we demonstrate His Supremacy in our closest relationships? Before we go on, I failed to mention last time how many references are made in this section to Jesus Christ. Look at these references:

a)    Wives…fitting “in the Lord” Col. 3:18

b)   Children…”pleases the Lord” Col. 3:20

c)    Slaves…”fearing the Lord” Col. 3:22

d)   Whatever you do…”for the Lord” Col. 3:23

e)    Knowing that…”from the Lord” Col. 3:24

f)    You are serving “the Lord Christ” Col. 3:24

g)    Masters…”have a Master in Heaven” Col. 4:1

Catch the drift? Jesus wants to be #1, Supreme, above everything else, in our home and work. Everything must come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It also shows us that we cannot be all these things without His strength and grace. Last time we looked at marriage and we said the Supremacy of Jesus Christ is demonstrated:

I.      In the marriage through submissive wives and loving husbands (Col. 3:18-19).

Let’s move further out to the next closest relationship. The Supremacy of Jesus Christ is demonstrated:

II.    In the family through obedient children and nurturing parents (Col. 3:20-21). 

Paul addresses children and parents next. This suggests that they are in the congregation listening when this letter is being read. One of the things I noticed that happens once children come into the picture is the neglect of marriage. They told us when we first got married that it is no longer “me” but “we.” Now with a daughter, it is no longer me or we, but she! Children are a blessing from the Lord (Ps. 127:3), but if the marriage is not right, it will affect your children. Notice in all passages the marital relationship is mentioned before the parental relationship.

Illus: Have you ever been on an airplane and heard the fight attendant say, “For those of you traveling with small children, in the event of an oxygen failure, first place the mask on your own face and then place the mask on your child’s face”? I think that is wise advice on another level as well. Lot of marriages are suffocating because parents are so consumed with putting oxygen masks on their children. Make sure the oxygen of love is freely flowing in your marriage or the whole family will suffer.

Nothing in the text suggests an age here. But the assumption is that these children are still in the home and under the parents’ supervision. Therefore, I do not think this applies to those who have left their parents and started their own families. Nevertheless, we are still told to “honor our parents,” which we should always do.

The measure and motive of their obedience is given. The measure is “in everything.” No exceptions? Obviously like the commands to wives, if the parents are asking them to do something contrary to the Word of God, they are not to obey. We must obey God first.

The reason why parents ask you to obey is to teach you about authority. The child growing up not obeying their parents will likely not obey any authority: teachers, police, employers and anyone else who tries to exercise authority over them. The motive is given as “this pleases the Lord.” It is right to point children to the highest authority of their life, God, as early as you can! A good place to get your life on track is your obedience to your parents.

Here is some application to children, which means all who are living under the authority of your parents currently:

1.     Do what your told.

2.    Do it completely. Partial obedience is disobedience. This is true for our relationship with God as well!

3.    Do it immediately.

4.    Do it whole-heartedly. Eventually parents love to see children obeying gladly with a good attitude.

Here is some application to parents in this regard. Ephesians tells us that parents need to bring up or train their children in the fear of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Part of this training is teaching them obedience. We have to teach obedience, because a child is born in sin and they are good at disobeying. You never have to teach a child to disobey. They are born sinners. Cute and cuddly sinners! Listen to one writer describe the property laws of a toddler[1]:

1. If I like it, it’s mine.

2. If it’s in my hand, it’s mine.

3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.

4. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.

5. If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.

6. If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.

7. If it looks just like mine, it’s mine.

8. If I saw it first, it’s mine.

9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.

10. If it’s broken, it’s yours.

So we need to teach obedience. How do you do that? What does the Bible say? Four quick things God gives you to teach your child to obey as long as they are under the roof.

1.     The Rod. Contrary to cultural beliefs, spanking is encouraged in the Bible (Prov. 13:2422:1523:13-14;29:15). However, it must be age-appropriate. Dr. Dobson, from focus on the family, says between age 18 months to 7 or 8 years, spanking is a good way to teach obedience. It should never be in anger. It should never be for mistakes, but for rebellion and deliberate disobedience like lying, refusing or disobeying. It should never be on the face and it should never cause injury. When there is a reason to spank, take the child alone, explain the reason, spank them and restore them by embracing them and reassuring them of your love. The Lord disciplines those He loves (Heb. 12:6).

2.    Reproof. Prov. 29:15. This is using your voice to rebuke. It is the deep voice, intense, fear producing, ominous, “don’t do that again!” in the face kind of warning to the child. This is a powerful tool for training.

3.    Removal of freedom. Some have suggested that about 10 years old, you start to allow your child some more freedom. As you give freedom, trust is built and then you give more freedom.

4.    Responsibility. Work and learning to work, work at home and work outside the home as they get older.

 

Like the wives submission is in the context of a husband’s love, the children’s obedience is in the context of a parent’s nurture and love as well. We can get really adamant about children’s obedience, but what about this command to the parents?

 

Paul says, “Fathers,” but it can also be translated as “Parents” as in Heb. 11:23, where it says Moses was hidden for three months by his parents. Here the negative command is not to “provoke” your children.

NIV: “embitter”

NASU: “exasperate”

NLT: “aggravate”

 

The word means “to stir up” or “irritate” or “deriding them” and the end result of this is that they become “discouraged.” Other translations say “lose heart” or “crush their spirits.”
The positive side to this is found in Ephesians 6:4 which says, “…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

How do you provoke your children so that their spirits are crushed? I am crushing my child’s spirit when I:

 

1.     Neglect them. This was the case of Absalom. David was indifferent to him and the result was rebellion, civil war and eventually Absalom’s death. An often quoted survey says that a father spends an average of 37 seconds a day with their children!

2.    Do not have balance. 90% of the problems lie here. Too much freedom, too little freedom. Overprotection or total lack of standards. Too much affirmation and no discipline. Or all discipline—the home is a boot camp—and zero affirmation. It is at the excesses where Satan thrives.

3.    Show Favoritism. This is often done through comparison. Comparing the child to other siblings or to other children in general can often make a child feel like he/she will never measure up.

4.    Set unrealistic expectations or goals. Some parents try to live through their children. Never any reward, nor succeeding in anything they do. Some parents are trying to make their children into something they themselves were not. Parents, let your kids succeed in your own eyes! Did you always succeed in life? You failed too! So do not be harsh toward them when they do as well.

Illus: John Newton, best known for penning the hymn, Amazing Grace, once said, “I know that my father loved me—but he did not seem to wish me to see it.” [2] I pray that will never be said by our children! May they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are loved, loved by us and loved by their Father in Heaven.

A friend of mine said when my daughter was born, “Love her. You will be the first man she will ever love and you will be the picture she will have of all men and God.” I never forgot that!

Dorothy Law Nolte in her poem entitled “Children learn what they live” describes the things children learn as result of the way they live:

If a child lives with criticism,

he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility,

he learns to fight.

If a child lives with ridicule,

he learns to be shy.

If a child lives with shame,

he learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with tolerance,

he learns to be patient.

If a child lives with encouragement,

he learns confidence.

If a child lives with praise,

he learns to appreciate.

If a child lives with fairness,

he learns justice.

If a child lives with security,

he learns to have faith.

If a child lives with approval,

he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,

he learns to find love in the world. [3]

 

May our children see consistency in us! At home, at church, in public and in private, may we be the same! May they see that everything we do is out of love to see them grow and flourish. When they see that, we are demonstrating the Supremacy of Jesus Christ in our homes. Submissive wives, loving husbands, obedient children and nurturing parents are descriptions of those who seek to have Jesus Christ first in their homes.

The last point here is that the Supremacy of Jesus Christ is demonstrated:

III.  In the workplace, through excellent workers and just bosses (Col. 3:22-4:1).

The final section is actually the longest out of all the groups. It is addressed to slaves and masters. Since slavery is no longer an institution in our day, the closest parallel is employees and employers. Not because working is like slavery, but the idea of working under authority is similar, though not exactly. Still there are things we can learn about work here. Before we get into the specifics of responsibility, let me go over some background issues here.

 

Paul seems to spend a considerable longer time addressing this group than the previous two groups. This may be because there might have been a large number of slaves in the congregation at Colossae. Also, Colossians was written around the same time as the letter to Philemon and there may have been some trouble among the slaves at Colossae, who were inspired from that incident.

 

If you recall that story, there was a slave named Onesimus, who apparently caused a great loss of some sort to Philemon, his Master, who was a Christian. Onesimus ends up running away from Colossae and finding the imprisoned Paul in Rome and through Paul, he becomes a believer. Paul sends Onesimus back with this letter, urging Philemon to forgive him and to take him back graciously as a brother in Christ and even offering to pay the debt Onesimus owed. Perhaps this encouraged slaves at Colossae, (looking to Onesimus as the hero of the downtrodden), to stir up some trouble with their Masters, thus resulting in Paul spending more time to address them? We are not exactly sure.

Nevertheless, slavery was an established institution in the first century.  There were 60 million slaves in Paul’s day. People became slaves by being prisoners of war, or as convicts, or through debt, kidnapping, purchase, or birth from slave-parents.[4] It is never said in Scripture that it was a divinely established institution. It is certainly not God’s will that one man own another man.

At the same time, Paul did not encourage the slaves to overthrow and revolt against their Masters. Although it is good and right for Christians “to get involved in the promotion of honesty and morality in government and society, this concern must never replace the mandate to go into all the world and preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15).” [5]

Paul’s approach is different. He decided to take the social order as he found it, bring the gospel and the Supremacy of Jesus Christ into it and allow the Lord to change it from within. So as one commentator puts it, “His rule, in summary, amounted to this, ‘Let the slave wholeheartedly obey his master, and let the master be kind to his slave.’ Thus the ill-will, dishonesty, and laziness of the slave would be replaced by willing service, integrity, and industry; the cruelty and brutality of the master, by considerateness and love. And a new and gloriously transformed society would replace the old.” [6]

 

In addition, it must be noted that slavery in the first century is a lot different than slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries. We must avoid the tendency to read our familiarity with the slavery that existed in America to that of the first century world. Some examples of differences:

a)    Racial factors played no role.

b)   Education was greatly encouraged (some slaves were better educated than their owners) and enhanced a slave’s value.

c)    Many slaves carried out sensitive and highly responsible social functions; slaves could own property (including other slaves!).

d)   Many sold themselves into slavery because it guaranteed better job security.

e)    Their religious and cultural traditions were the same as those of the freeborn.

f)    No laws prohibited public assembly of slaves.

g)    The majority of urban and domestic slaves could legitimately anticipate being emancipated by the age of 30.[7]

 

In some senses, slavery then was a lot better than the one in America! But still being a slave was still not the greatest situations to be in. They were still looked down upon and treated more like animated machines or farm animals, without any worth. So what is really shocking to that congregation was the fact that Paul treated them like the children’s section before, as responsible members of the congregation. He respected them and thus gave them a sense of manhood. You would not command moral obligations to animals.

Now with all that being said, let us get into the specifics of the responsibilities of slaves and Masters, with application being made for us as workers and bosses. The point again is that the Supremacy of Jesus Christ is demonstrated in the workplace, through excellent workers and just bosses.

For all those working out there, from Col. 3:22-25, Paul is going to give us six ways to be an excellent employee or an excellent worker, with four of them packed into Col. 3:22:

1.   Work thoroughly. Look at Col. 3:22. Slaves are asked to obey in “everything.” The idea there is not to do just the work you like to do, but do everything you are asked, even if it might be unpleasant. Complete the task. All of it. If you are given four objectives to complete, how many should you do? Again, just like with the husband-wife as well as the parent-child relationship, being asked to sin is where you draw the line. But stay on top of your stuff and don’t make your boss ask you to do something twice, be dependable and faithful.

2.  Work habitually. Col. 3:22 again, Paul says “not by way of eye-service, as people pleasers.” Paul is encouraging slaves not to slack off and just work only when under constant supervision. Illus: Ever been in gym class and you had to push ups and when the teacher is walking around and comes to you, you are doing it all the way, but when he moves on, you are doing like half a push up? That is what he is saying here. Make it your habit that the productivity and quality of your work is constant from the time you clock in until the time you leave; when the boss is around and when the boss is not around. The reason is, you are under total watch, by your Heavenly boss, which Paul will elaborate in the next verses.

 

3.   Work honestly. Col. 3:22 says with “sincerity of heart.” Other translations say with “singleness of heart” (RSV). It means without ulterior motives or hidden agendas for selfish gain. This would mean you are honest about the hours you worked, for example, coming late and/or leaving early, but logging in as if you worked your normal hours. It means you do not take longer lunch or coffee breaks than you are supposed to. It means you are not wasting work time on the internet, playing computer games, balancing your checkbook, napping, or chatting for long periods with co-workers. It means you are not running personal errands on company time. It means you are not taking items that are not yours from work (pilfering, cf. Titus 2:10). It means you are not making or receiving personal phone calls or making personal copies against company policy.  When you do these things, you are lying and really just stealing time and resources from your employer and you are cheating God!

 

4.   Work with humility. Col. 3:22. The last part of this verse calls for slaves to “fear the Lord.” The idea is that the Christian worker is a humble worker. He/she realizes the ability to work is a gift from God. He/she realizes every penny on that paycheck belongs to the Lord. He/she realizes that he/she is not the boss and even if the company’s policies are not always the best, the worker seeks to bring excellence with his job. This means when you make a mistake, you own up to it. This means you listen to feedback with an open mind and not get defensive about it. This also means you are not out gossiping or slandering other co-workers or your boss.

 

5.  Work heartily. This is straight from Col. 3:23 which says, “whatever you do, work heartily.” Notice I did not say “Work hardly.” This means to work hard, to put your whole inner self into it. This means not to be lazy, but industrious. Part of working hard is being a good student of your work and your boss. Pay attention to what kinds of questions your boss asks so you get a better understanding of the types of things he/she cares about. We always complain about work and most of us hate to work, but remember God put Adam first into the garden “to work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). It is God’s will for us to work. Notice he says, “whatever you do.” It does not matter what work we do, but how we do it.  God is more interested in the quality of your work that the type of job you have.

 

As one journalist put it, “Rather than adopting the unsaved man’s attitude of ‘how much can I get paid for as little work as possible,’ the Christian must work willingly and enthusiastically. Hybels describes Christian workers as individuals who ‘do their work without the need for constant pep talks, who are willing to go the extra mile, and who actively look for better, faster, more efficient ways to get the job done.’”[8] Therefore, it is a good thing when you have worked all day and are exhausted. You are doing what you were made to do: work!

6.  Work with a Christ-honoring motivation. Col. 3:23-25. In these verses Paul starts talking about motivation. Motivation is what makes the difference. When I work just to make money or to climb the corporate ladder or because it is easy or anything where a motivation to honor the Lord is lacking, I will get frustrated, bored, start complaining and will dread work and want to just get by. I like what one commentator noted here, this is worth jotting down: “Genuine service in honest vocation brings honor to God.”[9] Three motivations are given here:

 

a.    Christ is my Master. Col. 3:23 says “work…as for the Lord, not for men.”  Col. 3:24 says “You are serving the Lord Christ.” Christ is my employer and one day I will have to report to him regarding my job evaluation. We work first for Jesus Christ and then the company which writes our paychecks. Yet the Lord is keeping my records. He’s going to look at the quality of my work and the motives of my heart.

b.    Christ is my Rewarder. Col. 3:24 says “from the Lord…you will receive…your reward.” Paul is applying Col. 3:1-2 for the slaves, i.e., what it means to “seek the things that are above.” Slaves might get some rewards for good work, but none of them had an inheritance. But with the Lord, they do! Even though the earthly master does not give the slave enough as he should, the Christian slave can be assured his Heavenly Master will give him the fullreward. The “Lord Christ” emphasizing the fact that the Lord who saved them and “bought them” from sin will take care of them as well as the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe. Working for Him will you give you benefits out of this world!

c.    Christ is my Vindicator. Col. 3:25 says “the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.” It is not clear who Paul is writing this to whether slaves, masters, or both. Since masters are clearly addressed in Col. 4:1, it is best to see this as addressed to slaves. Paul is warning slaves that everyone will have to go through the judgment seat and God will avenge any wrong done by slaves.

 

Lastly, in Col. 4:1, a word is given to the employers. If workers demonstrate the Supremacy of Jesus Christ through excellence, then bosses demonstrate the Supremacy of Jesus Christ through being just. Paul’s exhortation is for masters to stop looking at the slaves as “things” and unworthy of anything and treat them fairly and honestly as brothers. Both slaves and masters had a Master in Heaven. They should treat the slaves as they would want their Master, the Lord, to treat them.

So the final word is for all employers, whether you are CEO or chairman of the board, remember that Jesus Christ owns everything, even the ground that your company’s building is built on. Be fair in paying employees what their work is worth. Don’t be a jerk. Yelling, disparaging people, defensiveness, shooting the messenger, and publicly telling someone off do not make a good Christian witness. Keep your employees to high standards, but be reasonable, not asking them to work 24 hours straight, for example. Keep your word. Do what you said you would do in the timeline to committed to, or let people know where you stand if you cannot. Figure out what your employees need to do their job better and help them get it. Lastly, don’t assume you know what is going on. Ask questions to your employees like: How is your job satisfaction? How is your workload? Are there obstacles that are making their job more difficult? What part of their job are they struggling with? Come humbly beside them with encouragement so that they know they can trust you when you ask these things.

Conclusion

The Supremacy of Jesus Christ must be demonstrated in the home and workplace. We said this means submissive wives, loving husbands, obedient children, nurturing parents, excellent workers and just bosses.

As I was thinking about all of my jobs I have had over the years, the Lord brought to mind my time working in the warehouse at Tyndale House Publishers about 7 years ago. I worked in the Returns department. In other words, any books from Christian bookstores that were published from Tyndale that they no longer needed for whatever reason could be returned. We then had to open these boxes and decide whether or not the returned books could be restocked. It was a lot of busywork and it was a temporary job, so I did not really think too much about why the Lord had me there or bringing the Lord into my work.

Until about a few weeks of working there, my supervisor asked me to do something different. I had to sit at a table and put new covers on books, replacing old ones that were torn or damaged. This included hardback Bibles. But I hated this job! I was thankful I got to sit down (most of the time I was running around), but I was bored out of my mind! My attitude went sour and I was complaining and muttering under my breath. All of a sudden it dawned on me that each book I was handling, it would eventually be handled by someone else. I started thinking of possibly an unbeliever who would receive the Bible I was holding. Or a discouraged believer who would be given this book on hope I was putting a new cover on. I was convicted. I confessed my bad attitude and invited the Lord to come sit with me at this table. It became a prayer table. After I put each new cover, I put every book in the Lord’s hands and asked Him to use it. Working there was never the same!

So I would encourage you this week with a 2 minute rule. This means with everything you are about to do this week at work, start it off with prayer. Invite the Lord in. Allow His Supremacy to rule you whether you are going to be making photocopies, sealing envelopes, speaking to clients or patients, encouraging hurting people, teaching students, extracting a tooth, or driving around. Ask the Lord to love like He loves and to serve like He served. Do it through him, with him and for Him.

 

 

 

 
—-

[1] Deb Lawrence, Missionary to the Philippines with SEND International, quoted in Prokope, November/December,

1992, p. 3.

[2]The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians.2000, c1975 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University        of  Glasgow, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The Daily Study Bible series, Rev. ed. (163). Philadelphia: The   Westminster Press.

[3]MacArthur, J. (1996, c1992). Colossians (172). Chicago: Moody Press.

[4]Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953-2001). Vol. 6New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Colossians and  Philemon. (173). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[5]Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible Exposition Commentary, (Col 3:22). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

[6]Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (173).

[7]Freedman, D. N. (1996, c1992). The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (6:66). New York: Doubleday.

[8] Reformation and Revival Ministries. (1996; 2003). Reformation and Revival Volume 5 (vnp.5.4.141-5.4.145).

Reformation and Revival Ministries.

[9] Melick, R. R. (2001, c1991). Vol. 32Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The

New American Commentary (316). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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