Colossians 3:22 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Colossians 3:22, NIV: Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.

Colossians 3:22, ESV: Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.

Colossians 3:22, KJV: Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:

Colossians 3:22, NASB: Slaves, obey those who are your human masters in everything, not with eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.

Colossians 3:22, NLT: Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord.

Colossians 3:22, CSB: Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don't work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.

What does Colossians 3:22 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Paul has addressed immediate family members in the prior verses, including specific instructions for husbands, wives, and children. Here, Paul begins a set of instructions for a "bondservant." This is from the Greek term duolos, meaning a person under the command or obligation of another. The word can be fairly translated as "slave," although what modern people think of when they see the term "slave" is not quite how it was practiced in Paul's day.

In this context, bondservants were considered part of a person's household, yet did not enjoy the same level of freedom as their masters. According to Paul, these servants are to show submission and obedience to their masters. Rather than teaching Christian slaves to rebel, Paul instructed them to obey. Paul elsewhere sought freedom for a bondservant named Onesimus, recorded in the book of Philemon. However, Christianity's unique success against slavery would come through changes to society, rather than rebellion.

Paul specifically says that this obedience is not meant to be "for show" only. Nor is it only supposed to meet the bare minimum requirements of the master. The clear point is that the bondservant was supposed to work for God's glory (Colossians 3:17), not just when his or her master was watching. Shallow service, done only when the master is watching, is the kind of work done by a "people-pleaser" rather than a God-pleaser. The Christian bondservant was to serve "with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord."

God sees and knows all, including the heart and its motives. Bondservants were to serve for God's pleasure, not merely that of their earthly master. Though not an exact equivalent, similar principles also apply to those in a modern-day work context, between employer and employee.

It should also be noted that, in Colossians 4:1, Paul will mirror the same basic expectation for masters as he has just given to bondservants. In that verse, Paul will remind masters that they, themselves, are the servants of a Master in heaven, and will be judged accordingly. Those who do wrong will be punished, whether they are free or slaves (Colossians 3:25).