What is our motivation? Why do we do what we do? When all is said and done, what really matters most to us?
As we’ve noted throughout this study of Colossians 3, the Apostle Paul is delivering a message to Christians that helps to readjust our perspective. That adjustment begins in verse one (“If then you have been raised with Christ…”) and continues, as well, with verse 23:
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. – Colossians 3:23 (ESV)
Verse 23 immediately follows the instruction given to wives, husbands, children, fathers and slaves and is really a bookend to the command given in verse 17:
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:17 (ESV)
Like with verse 17, verse 23 is addressing “whatever we do.” And “whatever we do” really means “whatever we do.” In some verses, the idea of “whatever, ” or all, is presented, though there are some obvious exceptions (which don’t dilute the meaning or integrity of the passage). Verse 20, for example, exhorts children to “obey your parents in everything.” The obvious exception to this would be parents instructing their children to do something that would not please God. In this case, a strong argument could be made that children should not obey their parents.
But there are no such exceptions to verse 23. The command is made to for whatever we do:
* “…work heartily…” – The idea behind working “heartily” is to give our best. Our best, no matter how weak we may be or how strong we may be, honors God. Less than our best does not honor the Lord.
* “…as for the Lord…” – We are doing our best, or working “heartily,” for the Lord. This part of the verse gives us our perspective. We may be taught to have a good work ethic, or be taught to do our best in all situations, but our motivation should clearly come from wanting to please God and honor Jesus Christ.
* “…and not for men…” – Conversely, our motivation should not primarily be to please those around us. Yes, it is important to do our best for our boss or for our parents, or even for our spouse, but our perspective should not be on pleasing these folks alone. No, our perspective should first and foremost be on pleasing God with what we are doing.
If what we are doing pleases the Lord, then we should be satisfied that it pleases those around us. But, we really should make sure that what we are doing is our best, that we really are working heartily to please the Lord. And remember – we aren’t working our best to earn our salvation, but we’re working our best to say “thank You” to the Lord for what He has done for us.