22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
The above verses are incredibly similar to Ephesians 6:5-8 which was commented on January 14 and January 15. Also many commentaries on the verses today simply refer back to what they said about Ephesians 6:5-8. So how close are the verses? Let’s look and see
5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
Clearly similar, but some important differences. Ellicott’s Commentary notes about the Colossians passage
the strong emphasis laid on “the reward of the inheritance.” “The reward” is in the original, a perfect recompense or requital. The “inheritance” is exactly that which no slave could receive; only a son could be an heir (Galatians 4:7). Hence the slave on earth is recognised as a son in heaven. He “serves the Lord,” but his service is the perfect freedom of sonship.
Once again, to be clear Paul is addressing slaves, people who are ‘owned’ as if they were nothing more than a tool without any rights as a human being. Recall slaves made up 50 percent or more of the Roman Empire and many had become Christians. Paul makes sure whoever reads this letter knows he sees those who are slaves as human and if they are believers in the promise of Grace they will receive an inheritance from the Lord. He further states It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
Now that had to be shocking both to the slaves and their masters. The Christian slaves were not serving their human masters, instead it is Jesus they are serving! And for the masters it got even worse, there is no favoritism. The masters would be on the same level footing as their slaves when they stand before God. What a shock to those who thought they could treat their slaves anyway they chose to treat them. Now, if they paid any attention at all to what Paul wrote – and many did as they became Christians – they knew Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs. And that Anyone included them without a doubt. Radical, almost revolutionary, thought within the Roman Empire.
Often times today we feel like we will live forever or at least into our seventies or eighties or later, but in the Roman Empire it was not so. Death was rampant, children from birth until their second birthday 60% died. If a child made it to age five they could be expected to live only another 35 to 40 years (source). The point being death was much more of a daily experience then than it is for us. So many were concerned about life after death and for those who believed in Christ Jesus, there was much comfort in knowing it was the Lord Christ they were serving and an inheritance in heaven awaited them.
We too will die someday. Are we prepared to meet our Creator or are we living as if we will live forever?