Yesterday I shared a short article about working well—about doing our work in a way that pleases God. We looked at some verses from the book of Ephesians but didn’t quite get through them, so today I want to carry on. Paul began by saying that Christians are to work and followed that by saying Christians are to ensure that they always complete their work with a view to pleasing God.
But even that isn’t enough. Paul says that you are to complete your work (“render your service”) with a good will. That is quite the command because it indicates that not only does God expect you to do good work, but he expects you to have to have a good attitude while you do it. And remember that in this letter he is not writing to executives in corner offices but slaves who draw no salary and receive no benefits!
What does it mean to work with a good will? It means that if you are working for a business, you should want that business to succeed and do everything you can to make that happen. You should even want your manager or your boss to succeed and do your utmost to help them forward. Wanting the company to succeed means you want the people around you to succeed, even if they achieve greater levels of success than you do. This may be the most unusual and godly character trait in the work-a-day world—a person who genuinely wants his peers to succeed. But what a mark of a person who has been transformed by the gospel! This is dying to self, this is working as unto the Lord instead of working unto men. Can you rejoice with those who rejoice, even if the person rejoicing is the one who got the promotion you wanted and maybe the promotion you deserved?
No matter who you are or what you do, you’ve got something to learn here. Your work, every bit of it, is to be done as unto the Lord. You don’t work ultimately to please men but to please God. God is your ultimate boss and he wants your work to be a reflection of your relationship with him. How will you work for him? Will you do shoddy work? Will you do just enough? Will you cut corners and see how much you can get away with? Or will your gratitude for all he has done compel you to joyfully give your best work every day?
At this point Paul has told you to do your work and to do your work in such a way that you please God. He has one thing left to say: Wait for payday.
Wait for payday!
As he so often does, Paul tells Christians to lower their expectations of adequate reward today and tells them to look for extravagant reward in the future. He tells you to work hard, to work as a God-pleaser and not a man-pleaser, to work with a good attitude that rejoices in the success of others, and then he says this: “Knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.” Now if this was true of slaves, how much more is it true of us who are fully free?
Now that you are working to please the Lord instead of working to please men, now that you are free from man-pleasing, you no longer have to obsess with getting recognition for every good thing you do. You can be the manager who cleans up the mess even when no one sees you doing such menial labor. You can be the guy who quietly helps someone else succeed even in a way that will never, ever be noticed. You can work harder than everyone else and never get a raise and still be full of joy and still be completely fulfilled. Why? Because a future payday, a future reward is coming.
There are all sorts of good things you can and should do that other people won’t notice. There are all sorts of good things you’ve done that others have forgotten about. But the Lord sees everything and he knows everything and he remembers everything. He is the one who will reward all the good things you do—those things you do for the good of others and the glory of God. All masters and all slaves, all employers and all employees, all of us, have the opportunity right now to work for the Lord and to look forward to his reward. Do you see the joy and freedom this brings to your work?
Is your job difficult? Does it seem menial? Is it the same thing day-after-day? The Lord tells you to do your work with excellence, to do it with joy, to do it as worship to him. Does your work leave you feeling unfulfilled? That’s okay! You don’t need to find ultimate fulfillment in the here and now, but can do your work well and look forward to a reward to come. And that reward will come. He promises it!
As is so often the case in the Christian life, you just need to extend your vision a little bit and wait a little longer. The truest and deepest fulfillment doesn’t come with the boss’s praise or the fat paycheck or the raise or the promotion. The truest and best fulfillment is in doing the work the Lord has called you to do, in doing it for his glory, in doing it with joy, and in looking forward to the reward that will come.