Colossians 3:23-24 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.
This passage is fairly well known, being used to encourage all sorts of people, so it is actually rather shocking to realize it is addressed to slaves. This in no way justifies the practice of slavery, but slavery has in fact been endemic throughout human history. What I get from this passage, all the way through 4:1, that addresses people who own slaves, is that no human excuse can stand before God. We are experts at blaming this, that, or the other in our circumstances for how we act, but a correct reading of the Bible blows all that away. Even if we are considered the physical property of another human being, as much of an abomination as that is, we belong first to God, and we are accountable to Him. Accordingly, our lives are to be lived to and for Him, just as Paul says here. Paul uses a slavery analogy extensively in talking about sin and righteousness in Romans 6. It was an image that his readers at the time could understand very well, and it had nothing to do with race, because people of every race at that time were enslaved, quite often by people of their own race. His point there is, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey–whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16) That ties in perfectly with what he says here. When our focus is on Christ and serving Him, then whatever we are called on to do is rewarded by Him, and all excuses evaporate.
I’ve never been in a position of physical slavery, thankfully, but I have known many people who felt trapped in their jobs, slaves in all but name. Perhaps the closest I came was when I was in the Army, when disobedience had swift consequences. At that point I wasn’t walking with the Lord, so I missed many of the benefits I could have gotten, but really, once I was out of training it wasn’t bad. Thankfully I was never sent to a war zone. Still, the idea of absolute obedience is a concept I have in my brain but don’t always live out from my heart. Honestly, I don’t always do everything as unto the Lord, even though I know that is the way of greatest blessing. I complain and grumble about all sorts of things, at least internally, when if Jesus were to appear and tell me to do something I would fall all over myself trying to get it done. I need to remember the truth of what Paul says here all the time, and walk in gratitude that I am given the opportunity to serve my Lord.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Grumbling never improves anything! You have been more than gracious toward me. Help me maintain gratitude at all times, whatever the task at hand, because that is the way of greatest blessing for me and those around me, and glory for You. Thank You. Praise God!