“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
What does ‘working for the Lord’ encompass? My view of this has evolved over the years. I would like to offer the three parts of ‘working’, as I see it.
1. The actual work or labor.
(Table design/creation/assembly, a computer repaired, time given serving homeless.)
2.The product or result itself.
(The finished table, the computer working correctly, the homeless served.)
3. The profit.
(The money made from selling the table, the wages earned for computer repair, the praise received
because of good works.)
Upon first read and application of these verses I think we naturally apply them to the labor part of the job or task. The act of working is what we strive to do as if Christ were visible and standing there over our shoulder watching us work. Now, we know he is with us always(Matt. 28:20), but since we cannot see Him, the human notion of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ may even kick in. So we struggle at times to focus our full effort on the job at hand, whether through procrastination, laziness, wanted distraction, or the like. As a mere first step, this is by no means easy.
Jesus goes on to tell us that while the laboring part of the task should be done as for the Lord, so should the end product or result as I believe we see with the parable of the talents. The servant who was given the five talents invested them as for the Lord, and the product of the additional five talents was also given to the master as for the Lord. First, we are working hard to get the job done the right way, and second, making sure the end result or product itself has been finished to the best of our ability to bring God glory.
The third part, the profit or wages, we may often neglect either knowingly or unknowingly. Thus far we are not only laboring for His glory, producing an end result for His glory, but now we also read in Scripture that the profit, wages, or praise from that job should be redirected for His glory as well and not withheld for ourselves.
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers
want. (Prov. 11:24)
Our earnings are a gift from God, which come from our good works that are only possible by His grace, as everything we have is due to His grace(John 3:27).
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:”
(1 Pet. 4:10)
I think it is easy to see the work itself and the final product as the endgame of ‘working as for the Lord’. We present the final result to Christ, and because we think the process complete, the profit then never triggers the glory-to-God requirement. “That is mine to keep. I earned it.” Jesus speaks of not being able to serve two masters, God and money(Matt. 6:24). When the final wages or profits come in for the product and we do not turn that over completely to God for His glory as well, then have we cancelled out any reasoning that the rest of the process was, in fact, done for His glory in the first place?
So I propose whether it is monetary profit from a physical product made, wages received for a job done under employment, or even simply praise garnered for service done at no cost at all, whatever the situation looks like, the whole process is to be submitted to and should point back to God entirely for His glory.