A Study of Colossians 3:25–4:1
But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. (Colossians 3:25–4:1)
We started this look at labor relations as a practical outworking of reckoning ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord as it affects “servants”. Now we will look at how it affects “masters”.
Masters have a master. The word used for masters here is κύριος—kyrios, or lord. Jesus Christ our Lord is the Lord of lords, and they are responsible to him. In this case, the master’s responsibility to the Lord is proper treatment of those serving him. In Colossians 3:24, servants were told that they serve the Lord Christ. Masters also serve the Lord Christ, and there is no respect of persons.
So how is an “earthly lord” to properly serve his heavenly Lord? Here we see stated in this one sentence: give unto your servants that which is just and equal. Proper treatment of the servant (or employee) as a human being is already considered in 3:8–14 and especially as a fellow member with no distinction in the Body of Christ. This is already a “given” in this passage. As we move on from there, we look at how the master/employer/boss is to treat the servants as such. While the servant/employee is told to work and be profitable to the employer, the employer is told that the servant’s work and time given to the employer is also valuable and it should be rewarded justly. It should be rewarded without respect of persons. The employer owes those that work for him at least that much. Payment for good work is a debt paid. That is a common-knowledge assertion that Paul made in Romans when beginning to speak on justification by grace through faith in Romans 4:
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. (Romans 4:4)
That is a principle reason why justification must be “not of works”. It is of “faith that it might be by grace” (Romans 4:16). Remember that we are “justified freely by His grace” (Romans 3:24) and it is not of ourselves, because God owes us nothing.
But the employer does owe those who work for him. There is no way any employer, especially one that is called by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, i.e., a Christian, should fall into the category shown here:
Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. (James 5:4)
The law spelled out very clearly the speed at which servants were to be paid:
Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates: At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the LORD, and it be sin unto thee. (Deuteronomy 24:14–15)
That which the law required is not too much to expect from employers/masters that are saved by grace. While today we are not under the law, remember that being not under the law is a reason that we do not let sin rule over us.
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:14)
All these things being said, what Paul said in Colossians 4:1 says it all: “give to your servants that which is just and equal”. There is very little that could be said against that from scripture, and any arguments, again, are not with me, and not with Paul, but with God Himself. We know that it is not always possible to pay high wages so that all employees are rich, but they should be paid fairly and rightly. It should never be said of a Christian employer that he cheats those who work for him.
Though not mentioned specifically, here is another classification in the “labor relations” spectrum. This is the “manager”, or “foreman”. This is an interesting and sometimes difficult place to be in, and to apply this Scripture to the manager position, both the command to servants and the command to masters apply. In relation to the “servant”, the manager is in the position of the “master”. In relation to the “master”, the manager is in the position of the “servant”. When in that position in all things, the manager will do well to remember that he serves the Lord Christ in all things.
The Lord Jesus had something to say about the person in the position of manager. The word manager is not used. When the Scriptures speak of a manager, the word “steward” is usually used.
And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:42–48)
Now keep in mind here, that the Lord is talking about something specific in this parable. His steward is the Nation of Israel in general, and its leaders specifically. Remember that these verses apply to the Jews to whom were committed the “oracles of God” (Romans 3:2), and the warning of being appointed a portion with the unbelievers is not about a believer in the Body of Christ losing his salvation, but about the nation that then was (Israel) and its leaders being counted as unfaithful and the position as steward, or manager, being given to others.
But we can learn something here about what THE Lord expects from those who have “rule” over something that is not their own. Faithfulness to the one who placed them as a manger, and kindness and proper treatment of those working under him. This is exactly what is said in Colossians.
Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:2)
The study of this term “steward”, and “stewardship” in scripture is a very profitable one. The Greek term generally for steward is οἰκονόμος — oikonomos, and for stewardship is οἰκονομία — oikonomia. This study of stewardship will help us with a framework to understand scripture. As Israel was committed the “oracles of God” and had a stewardship, so now, it is the Apostle Paul that was committed the oikonomia of the grace of God (Ephesians 3:2), and to be faithful to the Lord in heaven, as servants to Him, we would do well to listen to His steward to whom He committed the dispensation of the grace of God.
Now it is important to know, that before we can serve the Lord in heaven, we must be saved from our sins to be counted among those that are His. Service to Him does not gain us favor with Him to be counted as His, but we must have a righteous standing before Him first. We must have “the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:22–26).
Believing that Christ died for your sins and rose again from the dead is that which is of first importance, and it is how the sinner, any sinner, is saved (1 Corinthians 15:1–4). God wants to save you, and He has stated His simple terms. What do you say to this?