Col. 4:1. “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.
This verse could just as easily have been included in Chapter 3, since it continues the theme of godly behavior in the home and the workplace.
If you are a Christian employer, this verse is for you. Your testimony for Christ will be either destroyed or enhanced by the way you treat your employees. The first verse that came to mind for me was a favorite of mine: Micah 6:8. ““He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
Those who use the word justice instead of justly are misleading. Justice belongs to the legal system, and above all, to God. But all of us can “do justly.” That is, we can behave in a fair and even-handed manner, doing what is right in any situation; and especially, in regard to employees, doing what is fair for all of one’s employees, not playing favorites.
The last clause in this verse applies to employers, of course, but to each one of us as well in our relationships with others. We need to remember that all of us, each one of us, is under someone’s authority; that ultimately, we are under God’s authority. It is He Whom we need to please in our daily walk, in our dealings with those we may employ, in our relationships with family and friends.
Col. 3:25. “But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.”
The Blue Letter Bible gives a general usage of “he that doeth wrong” that I think is worth repeating here:
to act unjustly or wickedly, to sin,
to be a criminal, to have violated the laws in some way
to do wrong
to do hurt
to do some wrong or sin in some respect
to wrong some one, act wickedly towards him
to hurt, damage, harm
“Absolutely” is to simply be an unjust, wicked, hurtful person. “Transitively” is to inflict that wrongdoing on someone else.
Those who behave in such a manner WILL be called to account for it.
No respect of persons: When the evildoer faces God on that dreadful day, it will not matter who he was, how important, how wealthy; being the wealthiest man on earth will not protect him. His earthly status will be worthless. His race or ethnicity won’t matter. Only his heart will matter, and God is the only One Who can look into a man’s heart and see what lies within. There will be no excuse. No team of top lawyers can be retained to get the evildoer out of his punishment. No plea bargains. No bribes. No promises to reform.
I will be too late, when we stand face to face with God to answer to Him for our sin. If we have not repented of our sin, and accepted His sacrifice for our sin and given our hearts to Him BEFORE that day, then there will not be any more chances. The time to escape eternal damnation is now, not when we stand before Him at that final judgment.
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
The illustration above shows a farmer somewhere who probably started at dawn and worked to sunset. What he’s doing is hard work! Dirty, slow, hot, sweat-producing work. I don’t know if he’s a believer, but if he is, he is to do that work with full effort; he is to do it as unto the Lord, and not to please men.
I dislike housework, always have. Even as a little kid in my parents’ home, dusting and mopping and using the carpet sweeper (before we got a vacuum cleaner!) was not enjoyable. It was an assigned chore, fully within reason. My mom worked full-time while Dad was in Bible college; he also worked. My sister and I were competent enough to take care of the cleaning, and we always did it with the understanding that it had better meet our parents’ expectations.
I don’t remember the first time I became aware of this verse, but I do remember realizing that my attitude needed an adjustment. I started singing while I worked, “church” songs; and I started reciting my Bible memory work. The necessary chores become less burdensome when I quit griping inwardly about having to do them.
Later, I learned to be thankful that my babies were healthy and that their digestive systems were working properly, even when changing a particularly nasty diaper. I learned to pray for the person whose garment I was ironing while I worked. I learned to thank the Lord for the house He provided for our growing family. Terry and I had prayerfully chosen for me to stay home while our kids were little, a decision I’ve never regretted.
The point is, when I learned to do repetitive, mundane household chores unto the Lord, those chores became less onerous. I knew that God’s blessing would be there for me when I worked with a thankful heart.
What is the reward of the inheritance? In this context, reward means recompense, repayment. The inheritance, according to Strong’s, is:
what is given to one as a possession
the eternal blessedness of the consummated kingdom of God which is to be expected after the visible return of Christ
the share which an individual will have in that eternal blessedness
In short, we will be rewarded in heaven for the work we do in His Name here on earth. Every toilet that is cleaned as unto the Lord (aren’t you thankful for indoor plumbing!) will have its reward in heaven. The most humble work we do here, in His Name, will earn its reward there because we do it for Him, and not to please men.
“Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink; or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” I Corinthians 10:31.
“Good grief,” you may be thinking. This one sounds like a downer!”
I’ll try not to make it that way.
Haven’t there been times when it was just hard for you to consider one more day, one more hour, one more minute? When you’ve wanted to head for the hills, build a shelter invisible from the world, and just hide there alone with an endless stack of good books and your choice of coffee, tea, or water?
Honestly, I’m feeling a little bit like that right this minute. I didn’t even scan my Facebook newsfeed yet, because I’m tired of politics and I know there will be some. I’m tired of Covid and “get the shots-don’t get the shots.” I’m just tired of man’s unkindness to man, even in Christian circles where we ought to know better.
Truth is, it’s just about impossible to hide forever in this world if techno-spying. Sometimes I feel like this funny guy:
But there is a hiding place! Tons of music floods my mind when I think about hiding in the loving arms of God, the best place I know to find shelter, peace, refuge, rest, restoration, and spiritual renewal.
If you, like me, are feeling a need for a safe haven, take heart. Jesus is just a prayer away. And maybe you do need to just check out of life for an hour, or a day, or whatever you can manage. Even Jesus had to get away from the people, go up into a high mountain or across to the other side of the lake, or take a nap in a boat during a wild storm. He understands.
Col. 3:22. “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God.”
Paul addressed this passage to slaves, as well as paid employees. In Paul’s day, it was common in Greek and Roman culture to have slaves. Depending upon the master, slavery could be horrible or it could be becoming a beloved part of the family. God is not endorsing slavery here. It simply existed, and this passage encourages servants, paid or unpaid, to be obedient to their human masters in all things.
They were not to be guilty of “eyeservice,” obeying only when the master can see. Having the master present could motivate a servant to perform better than he would if the master were not there.
They were not to be “menpleasers,” putting on a show to gain favor, but being insincere.
They were to work with singleness of heart. This means they were to work with sincerity, mental honesty. It is to be free from pretense and hypocrisy; not self seeking, being openhearted, showing generosity (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance).
Since we no longer have (legal) slavery in America, this verse can still apply to paid employees in a family. Chauffeurs, gardeners, cooks, maids, nannies, etc. all come under this category, being servants in a household. I’ve been both a housecleaner and a nanny. I didn’t always like it, but it helped pay my college bills. I was treated well, but I have to admit, I still dislike cleaning house. It’s boring, and just needs to be done all over again. I’ve reached the point in my life in which I have to be careful how I move. Housework is done very slowly and in small stages, so there is always cleaning to be done. Doing it with a right heart attitude does make it less burdensome.
Fearing God: Respecting God, and doing one’s work without resentment. Slaves in Paul’s day were often the first ones in a household to come to belief in Jesus. That belief made it even more important that they serve with a right heart and a cheerful spirit, being the kind of testimony that would bring their masters to faith in God.
The truth is, we are always under some authority other than our own. You don’t think so? Well, do you pay taxes? Stop for a red light? Obey zoning laws in your neighborhood? These are simple examples, but they serve to prove the point that there is some authority on earth higher than our own, unless we disappear into the wilderness, as some have. Even then, we are subject to God’s authority. He controls weather; He provides water, fish, and game for hunting to put meat on the table. He created the fertile soil for growing food. We depend upon Him for life.
Col. 3:21. “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.”
Are you a dad who, no matter how well your child does, can always find something that wasn’t quite perfect? The child will eventually do one of several things. He will give up. He will become angry and begin to act out when he is old enough not to fear your anger. He will sink deep inside himself to protect himself from your critical spirit. He will become merciless toward others. His faith in God will be destroyed.
Dad, never forget that especially when your child is very young, you represent God to him. The kind of man you are is how he sees God. That’s a heavy responsibility. You’ll need prayer, God’s Word, and a humble spirit if the only reaction you know is anger, sarcasm, criticism. You probably had that kind of dad, and even though you hated it, you’re repeating the pattern. It is completely possible to break the pattern.
“But my child won’t respect me if I’m weak!” He’ll respect you more if you’re weak and kind than if you’re “strong” and angry ALL the time. Kindness is not weakness. Jesus was kind, but He was never weak. Anger is not strength. Proverbs 22:4 says, “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go.” Anger, rather than denoting strength, shows a lack of self-control and a lack of godliness.
Anger and bitterness usually come from a lack of forgiveness. It’s a poison that eats you up from the inside. Do you want to reproduce yourself in your children? Do you want them to grow up angry and resentful, critical and impossible to please? No? Then you need to set a better example.
Micah 6:8. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thyGod?
To “do justly” is to be even-handed and fair. To love mercy is to be quick to forgive and pardon. To walk humbly with God is to recognize His holiness, and to know that without His mercy, we are lost.
Col. 3:20. “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.”
Again, a verse that seems simple at first glance. It is simple in its intent and purpose. It isn’t always simple or easy, however, in achieving the goal of having obedient children. That is a process, not an event, and the process must begin from the moment a new baby is brought home to the hospital. Training starts early.
King Edward VIII, father of Queen Elizabeth II, said, “The thing that impresses me most about America is the way parents obey their children.”
I think he would be even more deeply impressed by that today than he was 100 years ago.
We have been sold a bill of goods, Christian parents, by the philosophies presented to us by the “experts” in child development and training. They have taught us for years, now, that we may NEVER raise a voice or a hand to a disobedient child; we simply have to give him a series of choices that are acceptable to the parent. Trouble is, if the choices are not acceptable to a child who has learned that throwing a tantrum will get him what he wants, the battle is lost before it begins. And by the way, the idea of acceptable choices has also led us to see not sin, but “poor choices” or “mistakes” in our own behavior as well as the behavior of our children.
So let’s break this verse down.
Children: Any offspring of the parents, in this context. A son or a daughter. A child who lives in his parents’ home, and who is dependent upon them for protection, food, clothing, education, and training in how to live. The goal of good parenting is to prepare a child to go out on his own and no longer be dependent upon his parents.
Some want to say that this verse means a child, no matter how old, must always obey his parents until they die. No, this verse is addressed to children in the home, not to adults. We are enjoined in Eph. 6:2 to honor our parents, and that never stops. Terry and I have tried to be very careful never to put our adult children in the position of making any decision based upon our own desires. If they consult us for advice, we give it. We do not demand that they follow it.
Obey: Strong’s translation is to listen attentively; by implication, to heed or conform to a command or authority:—hearken, be obedient to, obey. Many times, in my counseling office, parents would tell me that their children just wouldn’t listen to them. What they meant was, “They pay no attention to me, and they don’t do as I say.” How does that happen? Children learn early whether or not they need to pay attention and obey. When an order is repeated endlessly, but never enforced, then the parents have taught their children that they don’t have to pay attention.
I strongly recommend Boundaries with Kids by Cloud and Townsend. The clue to making their system work is to establish clear boundaries and clear consequences that you are able and willing to enforce. Don’t make threats you–and your kids–know you will never put into action. When your children are very small, make the rules short and clear. Don’t say, “Clean up your room.” That’s too much. Instead, say, “Put all your toys where they belong. I’ll come and look in a few minutes.” What kinds of consequences should you use if they don’t comply? Spanking? No, I don’t think every instance of disobedience is a spanking offense. But losing a favorite toy for a period of time is a good consequence, because it fits the crime.
Your parents: I’d like to add, here, that parents must make sure their children know who else they need to obey. Civil authorities, grandparents, teachers, the babysitter, a friend’s mom or dad if they are in their friend’s home. But primarily, this verse is for parents and children.
In all things: No excuses, no reinterpretations allowed. Just obey.
For this is well-pleasing unto the Lord: To obey our parents is approved of or acceptable to God.
Mothers, do you want your children to obey you? Then set the right example by honoring and obeying God and your husband.
Fathers, do you want your children to obey you? Then set the right example by obedience to God expressed through His Word, and by loving and cherishing your wife. Love God, love each other, love your children.
So, did Terry and I do a perfect job of all this? Of course not! I believe most godly parents, once their children have grown, will look back and think, “I wish I had done better. . . ” We all have our own sinful nature with which we contend. Sometimes the old nature gets the better of us, and we sin against our children. Parents are not perfect, because we are human. We can, however, learn with each time we mess up, and grow in “grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).
Col. 3:19. “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.”
This seems like a simple verse, at first glance. It really isn’t. Husbands are called upon to rise above daily irritations and stress, and LOVE their wives.
A husband is any man who is married. In some cultures, wives are still bargained for and marriages are made without the man or woman being consulted. So, does this verse apply to those husbands?
Isn’t that HARD, though?
Yes. And in some cultures, it’s much harder on the wife than it is on the husband, because he is given legal and religious permission to beat her into submission.
Paul, however, was speaking here to believers. This verse removes all earthly permission for a man to be bitter, harsh, violent, against his wife.
Love: from the Greek agapao, this use of the word love is multi-layered. The love a husband is to have for his wife is further describe in Ephesians 5:25-33. This passage is written to husbands, and encompasses the incredible love that God ordained for them to show their wives.
First, husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Jesus Christ willingly sacrificed His life out of His love for all who would become a part of the church, His Bride. Are you willing to die for your wife? My husband would. I don’t even have to ask. And that, gentlemen–the knowledge that he would die for me–makes it very easy for me to choose to submit to his leadership. As I said yesterday, my position is one of privilege and protection under the leadership of a man who would literally give his life in order to protect me.
We need to take few minutes to let that sink in, for both husbands and wives. Men, do you long for your wife to be submissive to you? I promise, unless there is something deeply wrong in your relationship, that if you love her as Christ loved the church, you will see amazing results.
You are to love your wife as you love your own body. You are to take care of her physical needs the way you do your own. If you are a lazy man who dislikes work, and who abuses your body with harmful overindulgence, you need to go to the Lord for help in understanding why you are what you are. The truth is, most of us do take pretty good care of ourselves. We eat when we’re hungry. We sleep when we’re tired. We wear cool clothing in the heat, and warm clothing in the cold. We provide for our own comfort. That’s what you are to do for your wife. Ephesians 5 says you are to nourish and cherish her—just as you do your own body.
I’m going to make this personal again. I have chronic pain. So does Terry. But in spite of his own pain, he takes any measure he can to ease mine. He takes over my household responsibilities when I’m having a severe episode. He bought me an adjustable bed to relieve my pain so I get better sleep. He makes sure I have my cane and a pillow for my back, double-checking when we leave the house to go to church or to a friend’s home. He knows I’m faithful about taking my pain meds, but he checks anyway when things are really bad. If he sees me even thinking about bending over for some reason, he stops me. I’m thankful that I have a really good reacher/grabber tool so I can do a lot for myself, but he watches. We do our best to take care of each other, but he resists my “fussing” at him to take care of himself.
Again, having that kind of loving care from him makes it easy for me to accept his leadership in our home. Usually. I do have that independent streak, but the Lord is working on that with me 🙂
Finally, Ephesians 5 says that a man is to leave his own parents and cling to his wife. That does NOT mean he is never to see them again; it does NOT mean he can’t love his parents any more. It’s a comparative thing, and it goes for both husband and wife: The love they have for each other is to outshine the love for their parents, not to eliminate it. Eph. 6 says we are to honor our parents, and that doesn’t end when we marry.
Be not bitter: Bitterness is usually rooted in an unforgiving spirit. You will become bitter against your wife if you fail to forgive her when she has sinned against you. If you become bitter, you will be harsh. Verbal, emotional, and physical abuse follow after bitterness. None of that is love.
Col. 3:18. “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.”
This verse sets some women aflame with indignation. It isn’t politically correct. In the beginning of the women’s lib movement back in the 60s and 70s, it was Gloria Steinem who sarcastically stated that a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle. (She’s married now, by the way, unless there has been a divorce I haven’t heard about.)
It isn’t surprising that people who do not know Jesus Christ would rebel against the mere idea that a woman should be under her husband’s authority. I want you to consider, though, just a few thoughts today.
A marriage is an organization of two people. Any organization needs some kind of order. Someone has to be ultimately responsible for all the important decisions that a couple makes. An organization, even one of only two people, needs a head. One head. Two heads never works very well.
God says that wives are to submit (arrange oneself under someone else’s leadership) to our own husbands. I don’t have to submit to YOUR husband 🙂
Notice that the verse says submit yourselves. It does NOT say that men are to force their wives into submission. It says that the wife is to voluntarily accept her position under her husband’s leadership.
As it is fitting unto the Lord: This means to be appropriate, convenient, and honoring to God.
God’s plan was for order. He gave the man the responsibility of leading the home. He gave the woman the place of support, help, assistance, cooperation, and respect for her husband’s leadership.
Now, let me make this very personal. I often joke that I was born on the one day of the year that best describes my character–Independence Day, July 4 🙂 I was supposed to come on the 20th of June, but my Mom always told me that even before I made my arrival, I was showing my independence. It is part of who I am to be self-sufficient. I want to do it myself. I want to figure it out myself. I have trouble asking for help. I don’t want anyone to take something from me and say, “Here, I’ll do it for you!” Those are fighting words! I couldn’t wait to leave home and go to college. It wasn’t because I was unhappy at home, far from it. It was because I was eager to get to the next thing. I needed to work to pay my way through school. I was on my own at age 18, and happy to be so. It never occurred to me to go to my parents with any problem I may have been having. It wasn’t that I decided not to. It just never crossed my mind.
So. How has all that worked out for me in my marriage? Oh, there have been days, believe me, when I resented having to set that independence aside and accept Terry’s leadership. It was a choice I made the day we said, “I do.” It’s been 52 years now, and we’re still in love, doing just fine. Have I always, every single time, sweetly submitted to Terry’s leadership? Don’t be silly. Of course not. It’s been a process, and what I have learned is that submitting to his leadership is a place of privilege, not punishment. I am privileged and protected, just as God planned it to be, by a man who has never been afraid to accept his responsibilities.
We haven’t aways agreed. Terry has always listened to my opinions and shown me respect for my thinking, my ideas, my needs. I can think of two times when he decided against my advice, and once the decision was made, I chose to accept it and make it work. I could have been resentful, and made his life miserable. What we fail to realize is that when we do that, our own lives are also miserable. Nobody wins.
More on this topic tomorrow, when we look at the next verse: Husbands, love your wives.
My dad. My husband. Two of my sons. Maybe the third son, one of these days. My son-in-law. My pastor, who has four sons. Countless friends down through the years whose children were, appropriately, third: God first, wife second, then children.
(This is the best picture I have of my dad. I think he was younger than I am now, somewhere in his early 60’s)
That’s the right order, you know. I feel sorry for couples who lose sight of that when the first baby arrives and suddenly the spotlight gets shifted to that bundle of energy and never quite gets shifted back to where it belongs. When the children come second, or even first, the marriage is going to be in trouble.
I frequently remind the couples who come to my office that when the kids are all gone, they’re going to be left with each other. Sometimes they…