"Whatever you do, work with all your heart." Some days, the labors of life can seem so difficult. We go to work, sometimes to a place where we feel unappreciated or disrespected, then we trudge home, often through an hour or more of traffic. And even then the work doesn’t end. Home and family demands, or even second or third jobs, await.
Yet in his letter to the early church in Colossae, the Apostle Paul urges followers of Christ, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23).
This was to a people facing tougher times than we do today, a people without running water, electricity, air-conditioning, or motorized vehicles. They were a people often persecuted for their faith, arrested, tortured, and executed for believing and proclaiming Jesus as Lord.
They didn’t have the labor laws we have today. Slavery was legal, and workers were commonly whipped or otherwise beaten for disobedience — or merely on a master’s whim. And yet Paul urged them not only to work heartily but as though for God Himself.
Are Paul’s words true? Should we work with all our hearts? And why?
What Does it Mean 'Whatever You Do, Work with All Your Heart'
Paul’s letter was written in Greek, and a look at the original text shows us the words he intended. Paul used the word ergazesthe, from the root word ergon, for “work,” which Strong’s Concordance tells us means labor, employment, or a task we generally are responsible for doing.
For “with all your heart,” or heartily, Paul used the word psuché. Psuché is a deep, powerful word that means soul, a breath of life, spirit, the very essence of who we are. Here, he’s not merely saying “work hard” but rather do your labors or tasks with the entirety of your heart and soul — put everything you are into it.
Further, Paul said, don’t do this as if for anthrópos, ordinary, regular men. Do all you do as if you are working for the kurios — that is, the chief master, the head of all, the Lord Himself.
Quite literally, Paul is telling the early church they should do whatever it is they do to the utmost, holding nothing back, giving every ounce of their being to it as if this is for God Almighty and not some mundane, common task.
'Whatever You Do, Work with All Your Heart' - Why?
God saw work as a gift. When God first created man and woman, He gave them a big job. As we’re told in Genesis 1:28, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground’” (NIV).
This job — care for everything, grow, rule, multiply — this was holy work, a blessing for those He created in His very own image (Genesis 1:27).
God worked hard, and indeed still works hard. His efforts are creative and have purpose and great meaning. He was the first worker, as we’re told in Genesis 2:2-3. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
In the same way, we too must work hard. We are God’s image-bearers.
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God,” Paul writes in Ephesians 5:1-2.
And in 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul reiterates, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Work is a blessing, a sacrifice, an opportunity for worship. Giving our all to a project is a way we show sacrificial love to God.
What Are Some Ways We Can Work with All Our Hearts Today?
First, we can be grateful. When we let our heart flow free with joy and love, and our good works will naturally pour out. As we’re encouraged in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Second, we can do our best to let that gratitude pour onto others through outward expression. A smile and positive attitude can be a tremendous influence on another person. Philippians 2:14 urges us to do everything without grumbling or arguing, and 2 Corinthians 9:7 reminds us that God loves a “cheerful giver.” Indeed, this verse isn’t only about money but giving in all ways —financially or through labor or other efforts.
Third, we can know Jesus is our ultimate boss. As Colossians 1:17-18 proclaims, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”
Fourth, we can check our natural human tendency for ambition, which often translates into worldly success such as money, fame, or accolades, and make sure our hearts are focused on the One who truly matters: God.
Scripture is filled with reminders that we should brush aside desires or motivations to please others and, instead, concern ourselves only with pleasing the Lord.
For example, Galatians 1:10 pointedly asks, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
And 1 Thessalonians 2:4 reminds us, “We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.”
And finally, we can view our work as a personal sacrifice, holy and righteous. Whether it is arguing a case before a high court, cooking cuisine, performing brain surgery, or caring for children, it is an offering of ourselves.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2).
Why Does Working with All Our Hearts Matter?
Whatever you do, work with all your heart. When we do good work and do it with all our being, God is well pleased.
So then, the answer is empathically yes: work with all your heart. Give everything you are over to the Lord, and let that flow out into every area of your life: your work, your relationships, everything.
When God is at the center of our lives, this is the only way.
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Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.