A Theology of Work

Doing everything for the glory of God is the aim of the Christian life, according to Paul in Corinthians. It was also the statement of the Reformation. As Michael Reeves and Tim Chester put it in their book, Why the Reformation Still Matters,

No one can say, ‘I’ve received eternal life because of my good life or religious devotion or my clever reasoning.’ All the glory is God’s.”[1]

Working is included in this vast array of categories. Paul writes in Ephesians 6:5:

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ.”

These relationships are still based within the home. Paul does not go outside of the home for such admonitions. Slaves were often part of the family, per se. However, what we see is the same message that has been in the apostle’s writing since 5:22 – submission. Paul says that slaves are to be obedient to their masters. This word “obedient” is the same word Paul uses to urge children to obey their parents. The same way children are to obey their parents in the Lord, slaves are to be obedient to their masters, as to Christ.

The submission is not a submission of authority, but rather a submission because everything we do is to be done in glory to God! If we are working, we work for the glory of God. If we are parenting, we parent for the glory of God. If we are enjoying a day at the beach, we enjoy it for the glory of God. If we are worshipping with our local gathering of believers at church, we worship for the glory of God. If we are evangelizing, we evangelize for the glory of God. If we are dating, we date for the glory of God. If we are relaxing, we relax for the glory of God.

This idea is an all-encompassing aspect of our lives. It is not limited to spiritual things – it encompasses every area of our lives.

He continues to exhort slaves to work with our submission to Christ in mind in verse 6. He uses the phrase “not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers.” What Paul means here is that our work is not only to be done in submission to Christ, but our work ethic is to be glorifying to Christ also. The phrase eyeservice literally means only working when your master is present. This is a crucially important aspect for us to learn. Our work ethic does not glorify God if we only work hard when our bosses are present!

Ths is especially difficult for me because I’m alone during the week at the office. However, we must always remember that our Boss (that would be, the Holy Spirit) is always present with us and is constantly pushing us toward holiness.

Paul also lists the phrase as men-pleasers. This phrase essentially means what it says: that we aim to satisfy the desires of men. In short, we are not working to please our bosses, although it helps keep our jobs. When we work, we do hard work – going the extra mile – not for our bosses, but for the glory of God. And God will reward such attitudes and actions! When we work hard and go the extra mile, we are not only rewarded physically with promotions and bonuses, but we are pleasing the Lord with our work!

This is exactly what Paul communicates in verse 8 – when we work hard for God’s glory, we will reap rewards from God himself!

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do all for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31

[1]Michael Reeves and Tim Chester. Why the Reformation Still Matters (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), 181.