What does Colossians 3:23 mean?
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,
Verse Commentary:
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).
Verse Context:
Colossians 3:18—4:1 gives specific instructions from Paul for those living in Christian homes. This passage includes directions for husbands, wives, children, and servants. Paul makes a point of reminding believers not to merely ''get by'' with the bare minimum of what we are obligated to do. Rather, we should serve knowing that Christ is our ultimate judge. Paul also places ''masters'' under the same obligation to kindness and fairness as slaves and servants: both are equal in the eyes of Christ.
Chapter Summary:
In this chapter, Paul gives clear instructions to Christians about living out faith in Christ. Since believers have been saved by Christ, they should not participate in the sins which trap unbelievers. Sexual immorality, jealousy, slander, and revenge are not to be part of the Christian's life. Instead, believers ought to demonstrate compassion, humility, patience, and forgiveness. Above all, followers of Christ should show love. Paul also gives specific instructions for those living in Christian homes, including husbands, wives, children, and servants.
Chapter Context:
Prior chapters in Colossians emphasized the supremacy of Jesus, and the inferiority of worldly teachings. Paul's explanation of Christ as the ultimate authority, and the only source of truth, is key to understanding the difference between godly wisdom and worldly deceptions. In this chapter, Paul will apply those earlier ideas using practical instructions. This application runs through the beginning of chapter 4, which will end with various news about fellow Christian ministers.
Book Summary:
The book of Colossians describes Christ as superior to all other teachers, faiths, and philosophies. In this letter, written from prison, Paul once again tackles false teachings. Among these errors are claims that Christians need to give up all physical enjoyments, that they should worship angels, and that they need to rely on the wisdom of an elite few. These problems are consistent with an ancient heresy known as Gnosticism. In response, Paul explains that Christ is supreme, and sufficient for our salvation.
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