Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as
menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God. (Colossians 3:22, KJV)
Paul warns us in this passage to make sure we serve God in our vocations and not just our employers. When a man first gets a job he usually has a great desire to impress his boss. Of course, this is good. But Paul tells us this is insufficient. What are the dangers of “eyeservice” and “menpleasing?” (By the way, the ESV version says, “people pleasers.” That is lame.) Before we note the dangers let’s be clear on what Paul is saying. He is not saying we should aim to displease our “masters according to the flesh.” All employees should seek to honor their bosses. But Paul is saying that our ultimate allegiance should be to God. Notice that Paul closes this verse by focusing on our hearts. We are to have a singleness of heart, which means a whole-hearted devotion to God. We are to fear God. So we are to obey our masters, but our hearts are to be completely devoted to our Lord. Here are the dangers of man’s approval being our ultimate goal instead of God’s.
First, if we are seeking to please men alone we will be tempted to only do the right thing if our employer is going to notice. There are many tasks in a man’s work day that the boss will never see or know about. There are duties that should be done even if they are done in obscurity. But if we are only seeking man’s approval these good works will be left undone.
Second, we will be tempted to do the wrong thing if it pleases our employer. Often, especially in today’s work environment, employers or managers can require their employees to do things that violate our Christian faith. This could mean doctoring the books. It could mean joining in sexual harassment or making fun of someone at work. It could mean shading the truth over the phone. If our employer approves of some sinful behavior and our eyes are not on the Lord then we could falter in order to please our boss.
Third, we will only work hard enough to please our boss. Some bosses are very demanding. But some are not. You can slouch through your day and still come out ahead in the end. You can do just enough to not get fired. For a Christian, this is unthinkable. Paul follows Colossians 3:22 by saying, “And whatever you do, do your work heartily as to the Lord and not to men.” If our goal is to please the Lord then half-hearted effort will not do. Each day we will seek to do our best. We will strive to improve at our vocations. We will see our daily labor at the office, in the field, or in the hospital as a vital part of sanctification.
Finally, if we are aiming to please only our employer then we will glorify ourselves instead of God. When we are men-pleasers we put ourselves forward. We shine a spotlight on our work so our bosses will see us and reward us. We want to be noticed by men. However, when we remember that God is the one who rewards us (Colossians 3:24) we do not glorify ourselves. We are not constantly climbing the ladder seeking recognition. If our work goes unnoticed we are fine with that. We work hard and trust that God will reward us in his time. If our employers notice our hard labor then we are grateful and give glory to God. If our eyes are on God, who sees all, then self-promotion has no place.