Skip navigation

In earlier posts we explored what it means to be “dressed for life.” Picking up on Paul’s language found in Colossians 3, his description in 3:12-14 became the foundation for thinking about how we relate to one another.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Paul uses “getting dressed” language in these verses. He is describing what character qualities a follower of Jesus is privileged to wear in all of her or his interactions with others because of the new life enjoyed through Jesus. After explaining the general implications of this kind of living, Paul turned his attention to specific relationship in the latter part of Colossians 3. He addresses husbands and wives, parents and children, and then slaves and masters.

We have parallel relationships in our world to the husbands and wives and the parents and children as existed in Paul’s day. However, for those living in the Western world in the twenty-first century, we don’t really have anything exactly like the slave and master relationship Paul touches on. But that doesn’t mean that there are not some appropriate implications for us from what he wrote (as we have already seen in earlier posts on work, rooted in how Paul addresses those who were slaves). So, let’s listen to what he has to say about those who are “masters.”

Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven. (Colossians 4:1)

It would be easy to dismiss this verse as having little, if anything, to say to us because we don’t have slaves. But if we listen for the truth behind the injunction, there is a word that could speak to us.

Masters–those who have others “enslaved” to them–typically provide work for their slaves. Here, Paul enjoins masters to provide their slaves “justice and fairness.” The word his uses for “grant” is one that would have carried the sense of provide for or give to or assign. Because the human master is not really the one in charge (but the Master in heaven is the one in charge), Paul calls earthly masters to provide what is just and to grant what is fair to those who labor for them. And that idea certainly is broad enough to touch on many relationships I step into.

In the workplace, am I more concerned with assigning work to those “under me” than I am about whether they experience what is just and fair in the work environment? In the home, when my children carry out the chores I have assigned them, am I more concerned about whether the work gets done exactly as I insist it be done than about them tasting what is just and fair? When my coffee order is not to my liking, when the checker in the grocery store is too slow, when the teller at the bank has messed up my deposit, when the receptionist at the doctor’s office seems to be oblivious to how long I have been waiting, what will they experience coming through me?

Will I exercise my “right” to boss such people around to ensure they get done what I feel needs to get done the way I want it done in the time frame I think is appropriate? Or will I respond to them in a fair way, a just way, recognizing that all of this is playing out under the gracious guiding hand of the one Master in heaven? What will I wear as I step into my occasions to be “boss” in big ways and little ways?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: