STUDY | Spend the week studying Colossians 3:22-4:1. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | My work is a way to serve and honor God and others.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
IN THE BEGINNING
When God created Adam, he put him in a garden with a job to work and keep the garden. Adam didn’t pass his days in paradise just going on walks or talking to his wife. He was a gardener. He was down in the soil getting his hands dirty. He labored. He sweat. After Adam and Eve fell and sin entered the world, God cursed the ground to make work difficult and painful. Often our job reminds us that we live in a fallen world filled with thorns and thistles and frustration. But that was not the case in the beginning. God created work to be a blessing, not a curse.
This week on our journey through Colossians, Paul gives instructions for relationships between slaves and masters. We will use that relationship as a way to talk about your work. Work is essential to life but it’s not the main purpose of life. Your work is a way to serve and honor God and others.
Q: Do you think most people enjoy their job? Why or why not?
Q: How is work a blessing? When is it burdensome or frustrating?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
CHALLENGED TO SEE THINGS DIFFERENTLY
Paul was well aware that many households had slaves. They made up a large portion of the population in the Roman world. In this passage, Paul does something brave and unheard of in that day. He challenges the Colossians to see the relationship between slaves and masters differently. Rather than seeing slaves as property someone owns, Paul treats them with dignity.
read: Colossians 3:22–4:1. How does the gospel challenge you to see your relationships differently?
Q: What does it mean to treat someone with dignity? Give examples.
A FULL AND SINCERE HEART
Paul addresses slaves directly and tells them, “Obey your masters. Don’t do this by being a people-pleaser. Don’t simply do the bare minimum. Do every task with a full and sincere heart. Work to please God, not just your master. You may not receive an inheritance from your earthly master, but you belong to God now. And He has promised you an inheritance. This is how you serve Christ.” Whether slave or free, every believer should work as a way to serve and honor God.
Then Paul addresses slave masters: “Let me give you some perspective. Remember that you, too, have a Master. Christ is Lord over your life. That means you are to live by His commands. Therefore, treat your slaves with the same respect you desire for yourself from others. Be just and fair with them.” A master should live to treat his slaves or employees in a way that reflects his Master, Christ.
Q: Describe someone who works to please God, not just their boss. What makes them stand out?
Q: How does it affect the way you treat others when you remember that you have a Master in heaven?
Select 2-3 questions from this section to answer.
THE SPIRITUAL SIDE OF WORK
One of the gifts of the Protestant Reformers was their view on work. They saw every job as a calling from God. All work is imbued with dignity because it is a way to reflect back to God who He is. He cares for the needs of His creation, and you do the same through your job. Your work has great purpose in God’s eyes. It adds meaning to your life because it’s one of the primary instruments of serving others.1
God sees all work as spiritual, whether you’re a programmer or a pastor, an electrician or an engineer, a doctor or a dairy farmer, an accountant or an art teacher. Let’s look at three truths about how work is an extension of your spiritual life:
• The workplace is sacred space. Your relationship with Jesus affects every area of your life. The gospel redeems work from being a burden to being a blessing.
• Your work reflects what’s in your heart. What you’re working for shows what has priority in your heart. You work for what or who you love most.
• Work is a matter of obedience. The way you work shows others who your real master is. Is it the need to prove yourself? To live up to others’ expectations? Or is it to please God?
Q: How does it change your view of work to see your job as a calling from God?
Q: What are some ways we try and separate the secular from the sacred in life?
WORK SHAPES AND REVEALS CHARACTER
You will spend on average 90,000 hours at work in your lifetime. Outside of the home, it’s the most significant place where your character is shaped and revealed. Why not take advantage of all that time spent in the workplace? Why not let God use it to be a space for your character formation?
See your nine-to-five as being in God’s workshop. Let Him build and shape you through the tasks and relationships you have at work. There are successes and failures. There are great relationships and challenging ones. There are things you can control and things you can’t. For every minute you’re on the job, God’s Word instructs you to:
Work honest. You have deep integrity. You’re consistent in everything you say and do.
Work hard. You work to honor God with your time and effort. You do every task or project with God-hon-oring excellence.
Work humble. You don’t think you’re better than others. You understand your strengths and limitations. You know when to own up to a mistake or ask for help.
Q: In what ways do you see God shaping your character in the workplace right now?
Q: What does it mean to work with God-honoring excellence?
Select 1 question from this section to ask your group.
OBEDIENCE IN THE ORDINARY
In his book Every Good Endeavor, Timothy Keller writes that “work is one of the ways we make ourselves useful to others, rather than just living a life for ourselves. Also, work is also one of the ways we discover who we are, because it is through work that we come to understand our distinct abilities and gifts, a major component in our identities.”
Colossians is about understanding your new identity in Christ and letting that understanding transform you. The way to transformation is by putting Christ at the center of everything in your life. It means living to obey in the ordinary, everyday things of life in an extraordinary way. It means seeing your work as a way to give to others rather than get from others.
Q: How does your work help you understand your identity? What are the dangers of finding identity in your work?
Q: What’s one way you can serve others at work this week?
Ask God for eyes to see the ordinary, everyday things of life as a way to live out His gospel. Pray for God to transform your character to be one who words honest, hard and humble. Finish by asking God for opportunities to share your love for Jesus in the workplace.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
• Read Romans 6:15–23 and reflect on what it means to be a slave to Christ.
• Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
What God’s Word Says About Work: “In general, the Bible promotes work that gives workers the freedom of conscience and choice, and has conditions that are congruent with God’s character: justice, peace, and integrity (e.g., see regulations for work in Lev. 19:13; Deut. 24:14–15). Employers and employees are expected to show regard to one another in their workplace behaviors, relationships, and decisions, and to conduct themselves morally and justly (e.g., Paul’s teachings for servants and masters in Eph. 6:5–9; Col. 3:22–4:1). Micah 6:8 offers a concise summary of the biblical ethics of work: ‘to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God’ (ESV).”
A Biblical View of Slavery: Marriage and family are two relationships created by God. When Paul speaks to the Colossians, he’s reminding them of God’s design; the way He made those relationships to work well and
be healthy. When Paul addresses slaves and masters, he’s talking about something entirely different. God didn’t create slavery. Slavery was created by sinful humans who didn’t want to follow God’s design. Slavery is a reminder of humanity’s capacity for evil and cruelty. Nowhere in the Bible is the institution of slavery ever condoned.
A Servant Like Christ: “Dependability and service should characterize all Christians (Mark 10:44; Luke 17:7–10). They should serve Christ and serve others as Christ did, who Himself took the form of a servant (Mark 10:45; Phil. 2:7).”
1. Timothy J. Keller, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (New York: Penguin Books, 2014), 20-21.
2. Ibid., 38.
3. Max Anders, Galatians-Colossians, vol. 8, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 334.
4. Sunhee Kim with Timothy Lim T. N., “Work,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
5. Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2299.
6. Douglas J. Moo, “The Letters and Revelation,” in NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 2434.