Jesus is everything and, because of that, we lack nothing. This is, essentially, what Colossians is about.
Jesus is everything, the absolute and incomparable Christ who preexisted all (1:17), created all (1:16), is over all (1:15; 2:10), sustains all (1:17), and owns all (1:16). All the fullness of divinity dwells in him (1:19; 2:9), all things are being reconciled to him (1:20), and all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden with him (2:3). Just as 3:11 says, “Christ is all, and in all.” Jesus is everything.
And because he’s everything we, as believers, lack nothing. By virtue of our relationship with Christ we have access to all spiritual understanding (1:9), enjoy all assurance (2:2), can please him in all ways (1:10), are strengthened with all power and all steadfastness (1:11), forgiven of all transgressions (2:13), united to all the body (2:19), and are freed from all that is perishing (2:22). Jesus is all so we have it all.
These lofty realities stretch our minds and lift our minds to things above. But do they ever come back down? These truths are beautiful but, honestly, so what? How does this Sunday talk change our Monday walk. Where does this theology meet practicality?
Well, Paul shows us at the end of Colossians 3 where he shifts from the extraordinary to the ultra-ordinary, from the heavens to the home. Jesus is everything and, because of that, we lack nothing, including what’s needed to build god-honouring, member-blessing families.
It’s Not About You
To feel the force of this text, it’s important we don’t treat it independent of context, as though Paul suddenly thought, “I should say something about the family.” No, this section cascades out of what came before it, Christians being called to keep seeking the things above (3:1). Believers are to fill their minds with the beautiful, hopeful, and powerful realities of Jesus and, saturated with such truth, put off the old, evil self and put on the new, christlike self. It’s an apostolic admonition to seek holiness (3:17). And, as you do, it’ll change your home.
How could it not? Paul’s telling the Colossians, and us, “Whatever your role in the family, as you become more like God’s Son you’ll learn and accept that it’s not about you, and it’ll change your home.”
And I can’t speak for the first-century, but in the twenty-first we need this divine reminder. We are inundated with the opposite message: “It is all about you—your dreams and happiness, your needs and feelings, your reputation and rights, your voice and violations, your opinions and identity, your safety and growth, and your fulfillment and satisfaction. It’s all about you. Stand up for yourself. Make something of yourself. Express yourself. Be true to yourself. Love yourself. Improve yourself. Define yourself. Vindicate yourself.” That’s our world.
And if we don’t think that type of self-worship handicaps, handcuffs, and harms the family—including the Christian family—we’re tragically fooled. The remedy is a home permeated with selflessness. The solution is Christians who understand that it’s not about them.
Wives, it’s not about you (3:18a). This verb is a middle present imperative, meaning it’s a command for wives to voluntarily submit themselves to their husbands. Biblical submission isn’t something husbands demand but something wives offer. It’s something given not taken. Wives are called to thoughtfully and selflessly lay down their autonomy to the one with whom they’ve become one flesh.
And before they get too drunk with power, Paul turns to the men (3:19). Husbands, you’re not the master of your wife, demanding obedience and service. No, you’re to be characterized by agape love, a love that is, by its nature, self-sacrificially concerned for the needs of others, seeking to understand and care. Husbands, it’s not about you.
This is what biblical marriage is supposed to look like: a man and a woman, both filled with Christ and pursuing godliness, honouring one another. The husband striving to care for her physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being above his own, sacrificing himself so as to, one day, as Paul says in Ephesians 5, “present her holy and blameless” to God. And wives are to submit to their husbands, knowing that the husband will one day give an account for the family God entrusted to him.
The goal of a spouse is to help the other be and do what God has called them to be and do. Wives, it’s not about you. Husbands, it’s not about you.
By the way, kids, it’s not about you either (3:20a). Where as submission is the voluntary laying down of agency, obedience is the recognition that you have none. Paul is calling for children to recognize the dual authority God has placed over them in the home—mom and dad—and obey them in all things. No exceptions, kids! You’re not the boss. It’s not about you.
But not so fast, fathers (3:21). Paul specifically calls out dads here with a negative command. Just as the men had to be reminded to not grow embittered against their wives (3:19), so they have to be reminded not exasperate their children. Men in the first century must have been moody, huh? (Maybe in the twenty-first as well.)
Exasperation occurs when expectations are heaped upon children beyond their capacity to carry them. They’re derided and criticized by a father who is often unsatisfiable. Paul says what happens: kids lose heart, become discouraged, defeated, and despondent.
To say this positively, fathers are to wield their God-given authority in such a way that children can successfully fulfill their duty to obey their parents. They’re to help their kids be and do what God has called them to be and do. Fathers, it’s not about you.
It seems this relationship is just as confused today as marriage is. We see children running the home, calling the shots, demanding to be appeased. We see parents being harsh, negligent, or disinterested. We see fathers living vicariously through their kids, pushing their kids—all “in the name of love”—but toward exasperation and not success in obedience.
Lastly, Paul addresses slaves and masters. This is a relationship that, obviously, we don’t have today in the home like in the first century, but the posture Paul commands is familiar at this point. Slaves, it’s not about you (3:22).
Like children with parents, slaves are to obey those with authority over them. And they’re to do it with sincerity of heart, not just externals. Paul is calling for slaves, who are now free in Christ, to serve their masters with diligence and joy because it’s not about them.
But it’s not about the masters either (4:1a). Masters, you don’t get to treat your servants anyway you want, like the rest of the world does. No, as Christians, you are to be fiercely just and fair with those in your employ. Be thoughtful and considerate. It’s not about you, masters.
Few things put more strain, stunt more growth, and stifle more joy in a home than self-centred family members—those in it for themselves, what they can get, what they want, what they need. Wives won’t submit because it’s degrading. Husbands won’t love because they’re immature. Children won’t obey because “authority is evil.” Parents exasperate because it’s easier than thoughtful child-rearing. This is what it looks like when a home listens to the world and buys in to the maxim, “it’s all about me.”
It’s All About Christ
But, speaking to Christians, Paul says, if you want to start moving toward a God-honouring and member-blessing family, then, whatever your role in the home—wife or husband, child or parent, slave or master, aunt or uncle, grandparent or gardener, cousin or congregant—you need to understand that it’s not about you. In actuality, it’s not even about your family. Primarily, it’s all about Christ. That’s the not-so-secret ingredient in this recipe. It’s all about Jesus Christ.
Not only is this obvious coming out of 3:1–17, but Christ is heavily sprinkled throughout our passage as well.
According to 3:18, wives are to submit to their husbands not because their husbands deserve it (they don’t!), but because it’s an appropriate posture for those who belong to Christ. In fact, in their submission, wives are like Christ (see Matt 26:39). The Son isn’t inferior to the Father in worth or authority. They have the same “godness.” Yet, he submitted himself to the Father. Not only that, but see Philippians 2:5–8! It’s all about Christ.
Husbands are to love with a love that characterizes Christ. Paul is very clear on this in Ephesians 5:25. This is not a love that is contingent upon reciprocation. Praise God that’s not the type of love with which he loves us. Praise God he doesn’t become embittered against us. No, he loves us with a self-sacrificial, unconditional love (see Rom 5:8). It’s all about him.
Children are to obey, “for this is well-pleasing to the Lord” (3:29). Again, not because parents are infallible, but because God is. And as children obey their imperfect parents, they’re behaving like Christ (Luke 2:51).
When we come to fathers (3:21), I think one reason they are particularly highlighted, instead of “parents” in general, is a call to action. This is the fifth of five uses “father” in Colossians (see 1:2b, 3, 12; 3:17b). Essentially, I think Paul is saying, “fathers, treat your children the way your Heavenly Father treats you.” Does God exasperate us? Does God want us to lose heart? No. But he does want us to mature.
Slaves are to obey in a certain way (see 3:22b–25). When people give themselves to service, knowing it’s not about them, but that God in heaven will reward them for such humility, they couldn’t be more like Christ (e.g., Heb 12:2; John 13:2–5). It’s all about Christ.
Masters are to treat their slaves well (4:1b). Like fathers who are to be fathers like their heavenly Father so masters are to be masters like their heavenly Master.
Across the board, it’s all about Christ. Every member of the home is to show deference to the others out of reverence for Christ, to please Christ, to honour Christ, to serve Christ, out of humility before Christ. It’s not about us, it’s about him. And the sooner and deeper we understand and live that truth, by God’s power, the stronger and more God-honouring our families will become. And our world needs strong families.
Whatever type of family you represent here today—full family, newlyweds, single-parent family, empty-nest family, or even simply your church family—I’m confident your desire is that your home, whatever it looks like, would grow to become more honouring to God and more of a blessing to each member. I want that too.
Bless the Lord to Bless the Family
It starts with us as individuals. Each of us must bless the Lord to bless the family. It’s not about us, it’s about Christ. Revere him, love him, serve him. And then, with that posture, turn to those people the Lord has given you. If you want to bless your family, bless the Lord. Jesus is everything and, because of that, we lack nothing, including what’s needed to build god-honouring, member-blessing families.