In Colossians 3 Paul shares Biblical insights on relationships. In a previous blog (check that out here) he addressed the relationship of husband and wife. In many aspects, his thoughts are very forward-thinking in respect to the cultural norms of his day. But first, he continues by addressing the family dynamic.
Paul says, “Children, obey your parents in everything.” The word “everything” translates from the Greek word “pas,” which means all-encompassing. Everything does not include things that would compromise faith, morals, or character.
“Obey your parents,” also comes with an important caveat which frames our understanding, “do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”
The word discouraged is the Greek word “athumeo” and means without heart or spirit. To be despondent.
The danger with a command like “obey,” is that you can push a person so hard that they are driven to resist and rebel. Discouragement lacks and positive affirmation and encouragement we all need.
As parents, be sure to affirm and compliment your child for a task completed, even if it’s not 100% the way you want it to be. Use that time to teach them.
Give credit and show appreciation, not only dictate commands. Your encouragement shows appreciation and teaches them how to appreciate and will also foster obedience.
Paul then moves to another relationship common in Bible times, slaves and masters.
Estimates vary, but some scholars state during this time period that one-third of the people in cities such as Colossae would have been slaves. Slavery was not racially motivated but a matter of war.
Slaves served in various capacities from working in salt mines to trusted and respected household servants who helped run businesses and raise children.
As we know from today, slavery would not come to an end anytime soon in Paul’s day, yet that did not stop him from fracturing this ill-fated institution.
His calls Christians to view and treat slaves as equals. Not as property to be used. Or inferior human beings. His statements informing masters to treat them fairly was unheard of.
Paul’s comment on the treatment of slaves was a step towards disassembling this inhumane establishment. Paul does not endorse the institution of slavery but rather focuses on godly behavior.
Paul encourages slaves to be obedient and to be good workers, not just when they are being watched. Again, there is a caveat that they are to “work as unto the LORD.”
Although they are under the direct supervision of a master, they are to work as if God was their master, knowing that He will reward them. He reminds them that God will repay those who do evil.
This was a warning to them but also to masters who did not treat them well. God shows no favoritism because of wealth or position. This warning is emphasized as Paul gives his final word of instruction for masters. He instructs masters to treat their servants justly and fairly.
- Justly means to treat them righteously in a manner that God would approve.
- Fairly means to treat as equal or proportionately, equitably.
Paul’s behavioral instructions can apply to us as employees and employers. Take these statements and apply them to your work life. God will honor you and your faithfulness, even if no one notices.
Our actions, not only our words, speaks volumes of the faith we profess. Your relationship with God is meant to positively affect every other relationship you have. In the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach Christ, use words if necessary.”