Monday—Masters, supply your slaves with what is right and fair, since you know that you also have a Master in heaven (v 1)
“Why do you tip so much when we go out to eat?” Evan asked. Geoff smiled. “Before I was a doctor, I was a waiter.”
“You let that kid get away with shoddy service,” Mel snorted. Trey grinned. “Yeah, I was that kid once. He’ll catch on.”
The most patient customers are those who see themselves in the people who serve them. They remember those nervous first days, the fumbles, the mistakes. Now it’s their turn to be the kind of customer they would have loved to serve. That’s the parallel Paul is drawing for his Colossian readers. He’s saying, “Treat your servers the way God treats you when you serve Him. Jesus gave you a model, so imitate it.” What kind of a Master is God? Does He criticize when we’re trying please Him? Does He fault-find while ignoring all we did right? Is he harsh? Short-tempered? Does He compare us to other Christians? Of course not. That’s the Master we need to imitate when employees are slow to catch on. When the checker, the waitress, the mechanic, or the babysitter aren’t living up to our expectations. Christians should be the best customers, the best bosses, and the best supervisors. We should treat those who serve us with honesty and fairness because we have a Master in heaven.
Final Thought: Do you treat those who serve you the way your Master in heaven treats you?
Prayer: Father, this is convicting as I remember the times I’ve been snappy and arrogant with people who didn’t give me good service. But that’s not how you treat me when I mess up, so please forgive me and help me represent you better. Amen.
Tuesday— Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly… (v 2-4).
You slowly awaken and the stench reminds you where you are. You sit up and hear the clank of handcuffs. Shouts, moans, and angry swearing echo through the halls, along with the sound of somebody retching in the next cell. On the metal stand is the paper and the nub of a pencil you were using last night. You had started a letter to your friends on the outside. “Pray for me!” you wrote. Your situation is almost unbearable, despair tries to strangle you. Anyone would understand why you wrote those words, but you may not have meant them the way Paul did. He asked for prayer so that he could proclaim Christ boldly.
Our first response when we’re trapped in a situation we don’t deserve is to fight for our rights. Call my lawyer! Alert the media! Stage a protest! Riot if you have to, but get me out of here! Paul’s response stands in stark contrast. His first priority was not escape or a lawsuit, although that would have been within his rights. His first priority was higher than that and it remains a plumb line for every believer. If we compare our responses to this plumb line and notice they don’t match, we don’t move the plumb line. We adjust our priorities. Living as a disciple of Christ means we make His priorities our own. Paul understood that there was an eternally significant reason for his chains, painful as they were. He didn’t want to miss God’s plan, so he asked for prayer. There are eternally significant reasons for our chains too, and we need prayer so that we don’t miss it.
Final Thought: What’s your response when you’re in an unpleasant situation? Is it the same as Paul’s?
Prayer: Father, that would not be my first priority if I was in Paul’s shoes. Help me to develop such a Christ-love that my only thought is proclaiming Him to everyone I meet. Remind me to see every tough place as an opportunity to glorify you. Amen.
Wednesday— Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity (v 5).
–“Can you believe what Congress just did? I’m so mad I could start a riot!”
–“My neighbor has ticked me off one too many times and he’s gonna get an earful from me!”
–“Oh no, that jerk of a cop is pulling me over again. I can’t stand that guy. I’m on my way to church, too. How dare he!”
Maybe somebody cut you off in traffic, voted for the other guy, won’t mow his lawn, or growls at your kids when they walk the dog. Every day we encounter irritating people and situations. And every one of them is an opportunity.
Every crisis, every disappointment, every frustration is an opportunity we can either waste or redeem. We waste them when we follow self-rule and behave like any barbarian would behave. It doesn’t take class or wisdom to rant about politics, aggravating neighbors, or dirty cops. But it takes a Spirit-empowered Jesus-follower to make the most of those opportunities. It takes spiritual sensitivity to be wise in the way we act toward outsiders. What if we responded like this:
“Congress is making some poor decisions, but I wonder how God’s gonna use it to further His kingdom?”
“My neighbor is really irritating, but telling him off won’t help. I’ll bake him some cookies and invite him to church instead.”
“That cop seems to be abusing his badge. Maybe I should respectfully notify his commanding officer—and stop speeding!”
Final Thought: What would your life look like if you were wise toward outsiders and made the most of every opportunity?
Prayer: Father, I tend to respond selfishly when someone irritates me. I want to change that. Help me see frustrating situations as opportunities to represent you well. I want to see people and events from your viewpoint. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— I am also sending Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, one of your own people (v 9).
We tend to skim over all the greetings Paul gives in his letters. We don’t know any of those people and can barely pronounce their names. But let’s not skip over this one. Onesimus (Oh-nee’-see-mus) is known to us because an entire book in the New Testament is devoted to him. He was a runaway slave from Colossae who belonged to a man named Philemon. Onesimus had met Paul, received the message about Jesus, and become part of the team that took care of Paul while he was in prison. As Onesimus grew in his faith, he and Paul decided together that he should return to his master. Paul wrote a letter on his behalf which is included in the New Testament. We call it the book of Philemon, but it’s really about Onesimus.
Paul’s description of Onesimus is lost on us, but it was earth-shaking in the first century. In a culture where social hierarchy reigned unquestioned, calling a runaway slave “brother” was just not done. Wealth and social standing defined people—until the teachings of Israel’s Messiah began to penetrate paganism. Paul wrote this to the Galatians: “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ…” (3:28). Jesus eliminated bias with a couple of spikes.
Final Thought: If you consider certain groups of people unequal, even in Christ, you’ve missed the whole point.
Prayer: Father, help me be honest with myself. Do I truly consider every human being as my equal? Do I eagerly yearn for their salvation? Will I welcome people I consider beneath me into your family? Shatter my prejudice. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— Let your speech be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone (v 17).
“I love Jesus, but I cuss.” “I love Jesus, but I also love gossip.” “I love Jesus, but I have a temper.” “I love Jesus, but…”
statements are popular in cyberspace and rarely confronted. Popular authors—even so-called Bible teachers—toss statements like these at us and we swallow them whole. But does anything in scripture imply that we can love Jesus but…?
God places a big emphasis on our words. James wrote, “Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this should not be!” (3:10) So what does speech sound like when it’s been seasoned with salt? When we use salt as a seasoning, it takes just a dash. Too much and the food is inedible; too little and it’s bland. When speech is seasoned with salt, it is always truthful. It benefits the hearers. It is laced with godly wisdom. It knows when to be bold and when to stay silent. Seasoned, gracious speech is not always easy to hear. When we have an open wound, we don’t welcome salt. But if salt is the only disinfectant available, it can save our lives. Seasoned speech warns, rebukes, comforts, or encourages as the need arises. Its source is a humble, repentant heart where the Holy Spirit is free to work. Christians are grieved, not defensive about our flaws. “I love Jesus, but my speech is foul” means we’re making excuses, not disciples. Jesus said we will give an account for every word (Matt. 12:36), so it’s time to trade in rude, dirty, or offensive words for gracious ones, seasoned with salt.
Final Thought: If God divided your words into categories on Judgement Day? Which category would have the most?
Prayer: Lord, am I allowing you to be Lord over my speech? I throw out so many careless, offensive words that are not gracious at all. Search my vocabulary and convict me about what doesn’t belong there. In Jesus’ name, amen.