a master in the sky
Colossians 3:18-4:1 (JDV)
Colossians 3:18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is suitable in the Lord.
Colossians 3:19 Husbands, care about your wives and don’t be bitter toward them.
Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they won’t become discouraged.
Colossians 3:22 Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.
Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for humans,
Colossians 3:24 knowing that you will get back  the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.
Colossians 3:25 You see, the wrongdoer will be paid back for whatever wrong he has done, and there is no favoritism.
Colossians 4:1 Masters, deal with your slaves justly and fairly, since you know that you too have a master in the sky.
a master in the sky
We are told that this passage identifies a God-given hierarchy, and that this hierarchy should be followed carefully because it is how God governs the world.
Paul was not adding to the gospel here. He was not setting up a separate set of laws that Christians are obligated to follow, and he was definitely not advocating slavery, or encouraging children to follow their ungodly parents into sin, or commanding wives to allow themselves to be abused by hateful husbands.
The key to unlocking the meaning of this passage is the previous verse, where Paul says we are to “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” We have one master in the sky: it is not our employer, or our parents, or the “man of the family.” Everything we do should be as a direct response to the commands of our master in the sky: Jesus.
Every act of submission is to be more than an act. It is to be “from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for humans.” Every leadership choice is to be done with consideration, justice and fairness, because everyone in authority has to answer to a higher authority: the master in the sky who is coming back, and will hold us all accountable.
Lord, we want to live for you, to lead by following your example, and to follow those who lead us as is suitable to you.
 ἀπολαμβάνω = get back.