Principle three is that we work to display excellence. Colossians chapter 3 is set in the context of the new life in Christ. What does this new life look like in marriage, in family life, in the workplace, etc? Regarding work, Paul writes, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col 3:23-24).
Following the Protestant Reformation, churches began to see more clearly the value of work in the context of Scripture. The Protestant Work Ethic initially encouraged us to carry out our work in a chosen occupation with an attitude of service to God, and secondly, viewed work as a calling and avoided placing a greater spiritual dignity on one job over another. The calling of a CEO is no greater than the calling of a janitor. The calling of a minister is no greater than the calling of a retail worker. Our focus is on excellence in whatever work God has called us to do, not on the type of position.
The world’s value system measures our significance by the type of work we do and our position in the company. We are so tempted to boast in our wisdom, power, or riches as it relates to our job. One of the things I enjoyed about my former job is the lack of titles at the company I worked for. When I started there, I asked my boss what to put on my business card. He said that since I was the only geophysicist at the company at the time, I could call myself whatever I wanted. He said I could be “chief geophysicist”, “principal geophysicist”, “senior geophysicist”, or “grand pooh-bah” if I wanted. I settled on just “geophysicist” since that is what I do. When I gave my order to our office manager, she said, “You are going to do well at this company if you don’t need a big title.”
In Jeremiah 9:23-24 we read, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast if his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.”
Contrast our natural desire to boast in our riches or position with the apostle Paul’s boast. “But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal 6:14). When we are secure in our significance in Christ, we are free from the chains of finding our significance in our position. The world and its glory have been put to death. Our boast now is in the cross of Christ and living lives of gratefulness for the price He paid on the cross to rescue us.
And we are free to pursue our work with excellence, not to acquire wealth and position, but to please the Lord in all that we do.