Honouring The Lord At Home And At Work

Colossians 3:18-4:1

Rev. Bryn MacPhail

In this passage, Paul addresses 3 types of relationships: the relationship between husbands and wives, the relationship between children and parents, and the relationship between slaves and masters. Paul's intention is not to give exhaustive instruction on any one area, but to explain in greater detail what he stated in verse 17: "whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus".

What do you mean Paul? Paul's main point is this: Whatever role we are in, whether we are at home or at work, Paul wants us to honour the name of our Lord Jesus Christ .

What is controversial, however, is not that Paul wants us to honour the Lord at home and at work--that is a sermon title for gutless preachers--what is controversial is how Paul wants us to honour the Lord at home and at work.

Are you ready for the dreaded verse yet? "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord "(v.18). It would be wrong to stop at verse 18, because Paul balances his instruction to wives with instruction to the husbands in verse 19, "Husbands, love your wives, and do not be embittered against them "(v.19).

What does Paul mean by all of this? Thankfully, Paul gives us a more detailed explanation of household relations in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 5, verses 22 to 33. If any of you are still squirming, I implore you, hang on until I put all the pieces of the puzzle together.

To the Ephesians Paul writes, "Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church "(Eph. 5:22, 23). I can assure you, ladies, that the news just got better not worse. Paul says that "the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church ". At this point we must pause and ask the question, 'How is Christ the head of the church?'. The word translated, 'head', means also means 'leader'. Paul says that men are to be leaders in the home, but they are to be leaders in the home in the same way that Jesus is the leader of the church .

I'd like you to turn with me in your Bibles to Mark, chapter 10, verse 45--here we have Jesus explaining to His disciples His understanding of leadership: "the Son of Man came not to be served " . . . "the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many ". Do you see what is happening here?

Let me point you to another passage. Let's have a look at John, chapter 13, verses 3 to 5: "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given Him all things "--sounds like Jesus is the leader here--"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given Him all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God, rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded ".

Now let's return to what Paul said to the Ephesians, "the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church ". Why is the issue of male headship in the home so controversial? Because, for the most part, husbands have failed to lead their wives the way Christ leads the church. Paul is not giving husbands permission to be domineering. Paul is not giving husbands permission to plop themselves in front of the TV, and to order their wives around. Paul is not writing husbands an exemption from household chores. Paul is insisting that husbands lead their homes in the same way Christ leads the church.

Leading the way Christ leads means washing feet, but more than that, it means husbands are responsible for spiritually nurturing your wives . Where do I get that from? Paul says, in Ephesians, that Christ died that He might "cleanse " the church and that "He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle "(Eph. 5:26, 27). As the head of the church, Jesus died to spiritually cleanse the church. If husbands are to lead as Christ leads, we must take seriously the spiritual health of those in our household. Husbands should be diligent to initiate prayer, diligent to initiate discussions on faith, and should be exemplary in their church attendance.

Perhaps you still have some unresolved questions. Is not Paul advocating here an outdated chauvinism that believes that men are more important to women? No he is not. He writes in Galatians 3:28 that in Christ "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female ". Paul was ahead of his time--he regarded, before society ever did, that men and women are equal--equal in the eyes of God. To say that men and women are equal, of course, is not to say that we are identical. Secular biologists can even tell you that. We are equal, but not identical.

What is Paul getting at, with his instruction to wives to "be subject to your husbands "? What Paul is getting at, I hope, is much clearer now that we understand the husband as the servant leader of the home. When I go to a clothing store to buy a pair of pants, what inevitably happens is that the person serving me makes this potential purchase out to be the most important decision I could ever make. I might even be tempted to think that I am more important than the person serving me--that's why they keep calling me 'Sir', isn't it?.

Serving others--in almost every age--has been regarded as a sign of weakness. By contrast, Jesus insists servanthood is the key to effective leadership . Paul, by asking wives to "be subject ", is warning wives of servant leaders not to exploit them as if the service of the husband was a sign of their weakness. When husbands lovingly serve their wives they are honouring the role God intended for them.

Then we have Paul's exhortations to husbands, "love your wives, and do not be embittered against them "(v.19). Jesus asks the apostle Peter, 3 times, "Do you love me? "(Jn. 21:15-17). Peter says yes each time--and what is Jesus' response? "Tend My sheep "(Jn. 21:17).

When Paul admonishes husbands to love their wives he is commanding far more than roses, chocolates, and a kiss good night--he is calling husbands to loving service. In this context, the warning against not becoming "embittered " against our wives makes sense. If we serve merely out of duty, as opposed to out of love, we will grow bitter towards the one we are serving. Paul calls husbands to serve their wives out of loving concern for their spiritual well-being . This is the way Christ loves the church. Christ did not serve us because the Father made Him serve us. The Son of Man came to serve us because He had a loving interest in the condition of our souls(Mk. 10:45).

When we understand our need to model the behaviour of Christ as a husband and as a wife, it becomes clear how we are to conduct ourselves in the other areas of our life. Paul's admonition to children in verse 20 is clear and straightforward, "Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord ". The clear implication here is that if your child, or your teenager, runs your household, something is wrong. I've see countless situations where households more closely resemble union negotiations--the child promises to do chores A and B only if the parent provides rewards C and D. Paul says that children are to "obey " their parents, not to earn that new video game, but because it is "well-pleasing to the Lord ".

Paul must be keenly aware, however, that some parents take the "you must obey" approach too far. Thankfully, Paul balances his statement to children with some instruction for the parents. Paul says, "Parents, do not exasperate your children, that they may lose heart "(v.21). Insisting that your child obeys you is not the same thing as insisting on straight A's. Insisting that your child obeys you is not the same thing as insisting that your child score in every soccer or hockey game. There is a balance to be struck between obedience and exasperation. It is up to every set of parents to find and maintain that balance.

Finally, Paul addresses slaves and masters. We must bear in mind, of course, that slavery in the 1st century was quite different than the form of slavery we are familiar with in the modern age. In the first century, you either were self-employed, worked for the government, were a slave or a master. The employee-employer structure that is predominant today simply did not exist 2,000 years ago. So when we read that slaves, "in all things " should "obey (their) masters "(v.22) we should recognize that the instruction Paul gives here applies to all of us who are employees for an individual or for a corporation.

And what is Paul's message to Christian employees? "Do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men . . . It is the Lord whom you serve "(v.23, 24). Christians should be the hardest of workers. Not because we want worldly recognition, not because we want more money, but Christians should be model employees because it honours our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now for all you workaholics out there--this is not your justification to continuously work 12-hour days. You still have a spouse to love and serve. You still have children to raise in the love of Christ. You still have a church that needs your gifts and talents.

Of course, not all of us are employees--some of us own our own business. Some of us are somewhere in between--we have a boss looking over us, but we also have people we are responsible to lead and manage. Paul has a message for you as well, "(Employers), grant to your (employees) justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven "(4:1).

The bottom line is not how much money you make. The bottom line is whether you are doing your work "heartily ", whether you are treating others fairly, and whether you are motivated by your devotion to Jesus Christ.

No matter what your role is--whether you are an employee or an employer, a child or a parent, a husband or a wife, I pray that you will not lose site of the main point of this passage: Jesus Christ is to be honoured in all things .

Jesus Christ must not be compartmentalized into Sunday service. Jesus is not simply the head of this church, He ultimately should govern the affairs of your home and your habits at work. If you only worship Christ within these walls you blaspheme the name of Christ. You blaspheme the name of Christ by suggesting in practice that He is not Lord of all things.

Be encouraged friends--our Lord is not a tyrant. His own words testify to this fact: "the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve "(Mk. 10:45). May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ serve you at home and at work. Amen.