There are few things more difficult than giving our best labors daily in an environment where we feel unappreciated. You know the feeling, and it’s not a good one. No matter how good our work environment might be, from time to time we have all felt the sting of our contributions taken for granted and our mistakes magnified.
The sad reality is that this condition is almost inevitable in this broken world. So how do we sustain joyful work in such a situation?
For Unappreciated Workers
I am no stranger to the discouragement of feeling unappreciated, but over the years, I have found great help from the apostle Paul’s exhortation in Colossians 3:22–24.
Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 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.
I have no detailed understanding of what working life may have looked like for these first-century Christian bondservants, but I suspect it wasn’t all that pleasant for many of them. Some were subjected to ill treatment, and undoubtedly much of their work was unappreciated.
Strength for Christian Employees
So how does Paul seek to encourage them? He does so in two ways. First, he exhorts them to look past their earthly masters, toward their heavenly master. He urges them to work “as for the Lord,” reminding them that they are “serving the Lord Christ.” Instead of simply being accountable to their earthly masters for the substance of their work, he points them to Christ as their true master and boss.
But Paul’s encouragement presses deeper still. Paul also assures these saints of a future reward as motivation for faithful labor in this present life — “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.”
The Promise of Eternal Reward
Just imagine a Christian slave laboring day in and day out in a work environment where he might not only be unappreciated for his contributions but likely mistreated as well. The workdays were long. The labor was menial with little in terms of compensation. Under such conditions, how does one resist the gravitational pull of mediocrity — to only do what is minimally required? What would motivate such a servant to labor faithfully, earnestly and perhaps even joyfully?
Paul’s answer: the promise of an incomparably rich and eternal reward that is as sure as any present benefit he might receive. You see, Paul’s antidote to the problem of a tough and possibly discouraging work environment isn’t a motivational “rah-rah” speech or summoning the call of duty to persevere. Instead, he sheds light on God’s generous heart to be both the Rewarder and the Reward for all who trust in him.
The True and Ultimate Boss
As it turns out, this isn’t just encouragement for first-century bondservants but also for me as I navigate the waters of the modern work life. When I consider the promise of a future reward in Christ, my present need for appreciation from others is eclipsed by the blazing light of his mercies. I understand that even if no one recognizes my labors, I can entrust myself to Christ who is my true and ultimate boss. He will ensure that no work done faithfully to him will go unrecognized or unrewarded.
Are you feeling discouraged today because no one sees or appreciates what you do at work? These words from the apostle Paul would suggest that you are wrong — Christ your master does see, and from “the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.”