A work in progress

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. Colossians 3:23,24.

Steven J. Pagels

I have never met the man, but even though I don’t know his name I feel like we have a connection. I pass his house every day on my short commute to and from church, and when I drive by he usually is working outside. Trimming trees. Pulling weeds. Moving dirt. Mowing grass. His yard is the kind of yard you would expect to see in a landscaping magazine.

As much as I enjoy looking at his perfectly pruned trees and manicured lawn, I have to confess that sometimes I experience a very different emotion when I see my friend at work: guilt. I feel guilty because all the work he does reminds me of the many chores I have left undone. On more than one occasion he has given me the nudge I needed to get out into my own yard.

The reasons people work

This real-life example poses a larger question. Why do people work? Why are some willing to work long hours and late nights and maybe even weekends? What motivates them to do what they do? Some people genuinely love their jobs, and the time just seems to fly by. For many others, however, the clock ticks more slowly. Other factors compel them to stay on the job: I need to provide for my family, I want to advance my career, I have to have enough money to support my lifestyle, or I would like to retire early.

How about you? Why do you go to work? Why do you do chores around the house? Why do you volunteer at church?

You could come up with your own list of reasons, but as Christians we have one reason. Followers of Christ are always serving Christ, no matter what they do.

The master Christians serve

Paul wanted the Christian slaves in Colosse to remember that. He warned them not to work only when other people were watching or only to get in their masters’ good graces. We are not slaves, yet we need the reminder that we serve Christ always.

If our primary goal in life is to make ourselves successful or to make our lives comfortable or to make other people see us as respectable, then all of our labor will be in vain. Even worse, if we think that if we work hard enough God will reward us, then we will lose out on our eternal reward. That reward is an inheritance, not a wage for service rendered. We can’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. Eternal life is a gift, earned for us by the sweat, tears, suffering, and death of our Savior. Jesus’ work on earth destroyed the devil’s work. His work, not ours, brings us forgiveness, life, and salvation. His effort alone brings salvation.

And even though our motives may not always be pure, even though on this side of heaven we will remain works in progress, God’s grace inspires us to pour our hearts and souls into everything we do. We will serve with joy, with gratitude, and with purpose because at all times and in every task we are serving the Lord.

Contributing editor Steven Pagels is pastor at St. Matthew’s, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

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Author: Steven J. Pagels
Volume 103, Number 9
Issue: September 2016

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