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Colossians 3:23

ESV Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
NIV Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
NASB Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people,
CSB Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people,
NLT Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
KJV And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
NKJV And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,

What does Colossians 3:23 mean?

This verse continues Paul's instructions to Christian "bondservants," or slaves. The concept he presents, however, is phrased in a very general way. The principle applies to all believers, for all those we work for: serve as if serving God Himself. According to the next verse, this is for a good reason. Our ultimate rewards are with God, not the human beings we serve for only a short time.

Paul echoes his teaching from verse 17, that Christian conduct should extend to all aspects of life, not just a small set of rules. As it pertains to servants, this might include cleaning dishes or serving dignitaries. "Whatever" includes any and all contexts. Christians of all kinds are to work "heartily," from the Greek phrase ek psyches, meaning "from the soul." This implies the ideas of enthusiasm and passion. Demonstrating a good work attitude makes a tremendous difference in one's personal life and in our influence on others.

Paul's words remind us that, regardless of our station in life, God is the one ultimately judging all we do, so all of our service is really for Him. From the most mistreated slave to the highest-paid leader, every person is called to work for God's honor. We do not work "for men" or simply earthly goals, but to glorify our heavenly Father and Master. Living for the Lord's honor is relevant in one's personal life, immediate family, and work contexts.

Paul will conclude this line of thought in Colossians 4:1, where he reminds those who rule over slaves that they, too, have a master: a Master in heaven. For this reason, those who control bondservants should remember that God's judgment is impartial: evil will be punished, no matter who does it (Colossians 3:25).
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