Whatever you do…

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Man!  I wish they would just do the dishes without grumbling or complaining!!!

You would think that by now I’d have this down.  Thirty years I’ve been a parent and still my kids argue about cleaning up the kitchen.  “It’s not my turn.”  “You didn’t finish your job so now you have to do my job.”  “You didn’t finish on time so now you have extra duty.”  Over and over again I hear, in one form or another, “I’m not taking that responsibility – it’s yours!”

Argh!

“Guys!”  I say, “this is not how we do things here.  Who’s responsibility is it?”  (Lots of lowered eyes and finger-pointing at this point…)

To the apparent offender – “Did you really take care of your responsibility?”

And to the obvious finger-pointers – “Did you try to encourage him to fulfill his responsibility?  Are you walking along side?”

Of course the answer to all of the above is, “Um, no.”

I’ve told my kids (and myself!) this at least a thousand times, “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord…”

What I want them to do is in all things, give it their best efforts.  I want them to have a good work ethic – to think in terms of literally doing even the smallest of chores as if Jesus were coming to our home.  I want that ethic to carry over into their school work and jobs and families and parenting.  I want them to learn to be self-motivated in these things.  We feel better about ourselves when we do the right thing, right?

But it occurs to me that I have been missing an important message in that admonition from Scripture – the important message.  I’ve been focusing in the “heartily” part, but what does it mean to do things “as unto the Lord”?

And, now that I’m thinking about it… what is the broader context of that passage???

That verse is Colossians 3:23, but here’s some framework:  Paul is instructing the Colossian church that they are to live as new creatures – changed completely through the saving work of Jesus…for a reason.

– since you used to be dead in sin, but now are alive in Christ, seek the things that are above, not             below

– put to death all the wickedness that is within you, put on the righteousness of Christ

– don’t let sin rule in you anymore, Jesus is now your head – your authority – he is your ruler

And how  do we do these things?

– be thankful (for Christ’s work in you)

– let the Word dwell in you (read it, memorize it, think deeply on it)

– teach and admonish one another in all wisdom (from that Word)

But the most important question to answer is not “how?” but, “Why?”

Why should we work heartily as unto the Lord?

Why should we put sin to death?

Why should we be thankful?

Why?

The answer is simple, but oh, so easy to miss.

Verse 17 mirrors verse 23:  Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

“Giving thanks to God the Father through him” is glorifying God.  We do what we do to glorify God.

We have a good work ethic – because it upholds God’s reputation and reflects God’s character well.  It glorifies God.

We put on the righteous nature of Jesus and shake off our own wickedness – because it speaks loudly about the power of God to change lives – it reflects God’s character well.  It glorifies God.

We have a cheerful attitude – because it reveals how thoroughly our hearts have been transformed – it reflects God’s character well.  It shows that Christ is in charge of our otherwise wicked hearts – and it glorifies God.

Perhaps what I have actually been teaching my kids has been, “Do the dishes because it makes mom happy.”  Or, “put the food away because it makes mom less crabby.”

I never want my kids to think that making me happy is their highest calling, but I could at least make an argument that teaching them to please their parents is the first step in learning that obedience brings joy.  I could then teach them that learning to obey God in all things glorifies him and he’s kind enough to  make it so that the very same things that bring us the most joy are also the things that glorify him.

But God forbid that I teach my kids that achieving my goals or even their own goals – even admirable goals – is their highest calling.

Rod Dreher explains this eloquently when he writes, “… excellence and knowledge are fine things, but they do not justify themselves. The pursuit of excellence and knowledge must be bounded by moral and communal obligations that rein in the ego and hamstring hubris. Today we live in an age when science often refuses limits, claiming the pursuit of knowledge as a holy crusade. The world praises as daring and creative the transgression of nearly all boundaries—in art, in media, in social forms, and so forth—… these goals can be understood as good only if they are subordinated to right reason, to virtue, and, ultimately, to the will of God.”  (He’s talking about the lessons he learned from reading Dante – be sure to check out the full article!)

So.  What’s the point of all of this?

We need to be reminded (again) that we are utterly prone to wander away from what God wants the most.  Even in my instruction to my kids to learn to take care of their responsibilities (a good thing) I have erred in failing to point them to the best thing.  It is not about making them (or me) feel good about themselves by doing the right thing.  That is a perversion of what God has asked of us.  Great feelings are a beautiful reward that we enjoy from a loving God who wants us to love Him rightly.

But…Whatever you do…?  Remember that the ultimate goal is always, and only to glorify God.  All the other details will clearly fall into place when that is at the center of whatever we do.

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