“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
This passage describes the mindset—the attitude—that we as Christians should bring to all our daily activities. The verse tells us that in whatever we do, we should “work at it with all our heart.” It’s unfortunate that most translations use the word “heart” here, because in the Greek text the word is “soul.” Kardia is the Greek word for heart, but that is not the word used in this verse. The Greek word used is psyche, which means “soul.”
Our “soul” is our life, our inner being, the combination of our thoughts, feelings, and will. The Hebrew equivalent is the word nephesh, which is used in Genesis 2.7: “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (nephesh / psyche / soul).”
Since our soul is the life that is “breathed into us” from God, it is very closely tied to God’s image within us.
As a follower of Jesus, I find the Colossians passage incredibly inspiring. The Lord is instructing and encouraging us to bring our “heart, soul, and mind” to what we do every day. He wants us to bring the fulness of our soul to bear on our work, our marriage, our parenting, and our friendships. Everything we do should be done with a focused mind and fully engaged soul because we are serving the God who has breathed his very life into us.
It is important to note that two times in this chapter (v. 17 and v. 23) it says “whatever you do.” We are called to execute our daily responsibilities—no matter how menial—with a fully engaged soul.
What comes to mind is an athletics coach challenging players to give relentless effort on behalf of the team. This is essentially what the word psyche / soul means in this passage. Give yourself fully and selflessly to what you do every day, whether it is your job, your family, or your friendships. Hold nothing back, give everything … and do it for the Lord and for the people you are serving.
The athletics example is appropriate, because in order to give max effort in a game, you must be prepared. Strength development, technique training, film study, nutrition, and recovery/rest are all necessary in order to perform skilfully and with relentless effort on game day. Talent by itself isn’t enough. You can’t just show up on game day and perform. You must practice and prepare.
The process of spiritual growth is literally the development of the soul, that is, the development of the life that God has breathed into us. His presence within us is like “talent.” We have it by virtue of our relationship with him, but it needs to be developed and cultivated. In athletics, talent that doesn’t train fails to reach its potential. In the Christian life, believers who don’t train fail to become all that God has called them to be. Being saved is one thing, being mature in Christ is something else altogether.
Let us then go about our activities with a “fully engaged soul.” Let us meet our daily challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities with humility, relentless effort, and with the fullness of our soul … a soul that we received from God.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3.17)
The Lord is calling.