18 Jun Monthly Practice: Do It All in Jesus’s Name
To begin, mediate on the following passages:
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Col 3:17, 22–24)
In this section of his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul focuses his attention on the work of the people—both slaves and free people. Shocking to our modern ears, he doesn’t make an effort to speak of emancipation or liberation from slavery. Instead, he directs the listener’s attention to the ways he or she works and the real recipient of our efforts: the Lord Jesus.
Along with the church in Colossae, we, too, need to hear these words. We need to know that our work is not in vain and that there is one to whom it is directed. But it is confusing. What does it actually mean to “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus”? We know we’re called to do this, but what does it actually look like in our everyday, 9–5 working lives?
To begin, I want to explore what Paul’s words mean, what it actually looks like to work for the Lord. Paul takes care to identify the ways we can work for ourselves or work for our earthly masters, neglecting the Lord. To bring this home to us, I’ve prepared a simple prayer and reflection guide. My hope is that this practice would help you each to comprehend how your work may indeed be working for the Lord.
Working for the Lord
In the letter to the Colossians, Paul warns against working for the favour of human masters. Our work may well be fruitful and gain favour with our human employers and colleagues or even achieve our own desires for fame and glory. But when we are working to this end, we become buoyed up by praise, pay rises, promotions, good Google reviews, and so on. This stokes our ego and builds up our own name. Instead, Paul exhorts the Christian to work for the Lord, doing everything in the name of Jesus, and with gratitude. When we work in his name, our sense of worth at work is not swayed by the accolades (or lack thereof) from our boss or colleagues. Our worth remains rooted in the love of our Saviour, and our identity (or “name”) is no longer threatened.
When we work for the Lord, it doesn’t matter who sees what we do or don’t do because we are no longer doing it for the approval of human beings. Of course, when we are working for the Lord, hopefully we will be giving it our best and, therefore, by default, we will be doing our best for our employers, colleagues, and clients. When we work purely as a response to the demands of our boss, it’s easy to feel enslaved or resentful. When we work instead for the Lord and offer it up to the Lord as an act of worship, we become liberated in our spirit, even if outwardly we aren’t doing anything different.
And then, when we are working for the Lord, we become content in the fact that we don’t see the big picture in all its detail. The Lord’s ways and plans are higher than ours. We can see this in this passage from Colossians where Paul did not seek to redress the injustice of slavery. That issue would take another 2,000 years to address as the full implications of Christ’s death and resurrection, both as a slave and for slaves, were worked out. Instead, by choosing to work for the Lord, even the work of slaves could be dignified and sanctified. In a similar way, when faced with what we may consider to be unjust situations at work that are beyond our control, rather than question the justice and the goodness of God, we can instead trust that God is working on a far larger canvas than we can ever dream of. We can know that he holds everything together and will work all things for his glory.
Finally, we realise that wherever we are, whatever we do—whether it’s our lifetime dream job or an in-between job—we bring the presence of the Lord with us. In living out our calling as priests, mediating the presence of God to all around us as “imago dei”(images of God), we participate with Christ in bringing his kingdom here on earth and bearing witness to his name.
Working in the Peace of Christ
The wider order of Paul’s letter suggests some ways in which this truth might apprehend our lives at work. In Colossians 3:15, Paul identifies that for those made alive in Christ, it is only with the peace of Christ and his message of grace, redemption, and hope dwelling among us that we can hope to do anything in his name. If we glance at the beginning of his letter, Paul writes that he has not stopped praying for the people to be filled with the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding that the Spirit gives for it is only through this power of the Spirit that his readers can “live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work” (Col 1:9–12) with the endurance and patience required. As Tom Wright observes, “it takes serious prayer and real moral effort” to work and live in the way Christ calls us. Three times in the space of three verses, Paul calls us to practise gratitude (Col 3:15–17). A posture of gratitude lifts our eyes in worship, bringing glory to the name of the Lord Jesus through whatever we do, and away from building a name for ourselves. We are re-centred as we remember everything comes from him as a gift. We offer the skills that we have been blessed with back to the Lord, thanking him that he will bless and multiply through us, even if we may never see it.
Prayer and Reflection Guide
To help us apply this passage to our own lives, I invite you to participate in this daily practice. It’s an opportunity to consider how your work can be dignified and sanctified if you choose to do it for the Lord as an act of worship.
At the start of the working day, either at work or home, but at a time and place where you will be undisturbed, bring your work, workplace, and colleagues before God in prayer. In preparation, you might like to light a candle or some other symbolic practice to remind you of the Holy Spirit’s presence going before you into your working day
- In your own words, thank the Lord for the new day ahead and for the way Jesus’s death and resurrection have brought peace and hope to our working lives.
- Prayerfully consider how your work participates in the work of God’s kingdom. This might be through bringing order and structure, life and growth, justice and healing, creativity and beauty, and flourishing and hope to the world.
- Pray for God’s presence to be witnessed in and through you as you work and interact with others around you. Lift your employers, employees, colleagues, or clients to the Lord, asking for particular needs. Ask that the space in which you work might be a “thin space” where others experience the presence and fragrance of the Lord as you interact with them (2 Cor 2:15).
- Offer your work and workplace to the Lord, asking him to reign and fulfil his kingdom purposes here and now. Ask for the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and to show you new ways in which you can work to God’s glory, using the skills and talents he has blessed you with. Take time to sit in silent, attentive prayer.
- Close with a prayer of gratitude.
(Image by Quino Al, CC Zero)