What it means to "set your mind on things above”

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1-2)

Last week, I argued that paradoxically one way to ensure your work doesn’t become an idol is to enjoy your work most fully as a means of better appreciating the “betterness” of Christ.

But how does that advice match up with today’s passage? Isn’t Paul telling us to ignore “earthly things” like work and focus our mind on exclusively heavenly things? 

Not exactly. A few verses later Paul explains what he meant by “earthly things” saying this: "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5-6). 

The word Paul used for “earthly things” in verse 2 is the exact same word we translate “earthly” in verse 5. What’s the point? Paul is condemning our engagement with “earthly things” in a sinful way. He is not condemning “earthly things” in and of themselves. To do that would contradict his command a few verses later to “work…with all your heart” in your earthly job (see Colossians 3:23-24).

So, this passage isn’t telling us to love our work less; but it does offer us an essential principle for ensuring our work doesn’t become an idol. It’s found in the middle of Colossians 3:5 where Paul says that “greed…is idolatry.”

If greed and idolatry are one and the same then combating greed must be a part of our playbook for enjoying our work in a non-idolatrous way. That brings me to our third principle for this series: Principle #3: Offer your talents generously in service of others.

What might this look like practically? Here are three ideas. 

#1: Offer to mentor before you’re asked. I guarantee you that there is someone ten years behind you professionally who would love to be mentored by you but doesn't have the courage to ask. Bless them by making the first move. 

#2: Teach a competitor who needs your help. When my friend was vying for a starting spot on a football team, he took time to help a competitor learn his routes. Why? Because that’s what Jesus would do. And by offering up his talents to serve another, he was keeping idolatry of his vocation in check.  

#3: Volunteer to use your professional skills to serve those who can’t afford them. Your local church, an orphanage, your favorite non-profit—whatever God puts on your heart. 

Those are just three ideas for offering your talents generously to others. Find your own way to do this today as a means of combating greed and ensuring you aren’t turning the good gift of work into an idol.


50% Complete

Join 100,000+ Christians who receive my weekly devotional every Monday morning!