Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Good slavery

Shawn and I recently visited Biltmore, the Smokey Mountain summer retreat of the Vanderbilt family.  It is an Appalachian acropolis.

Whilst touring the palace (yes, it is a palace), I was struck by how well their servants lived.

Mr. Vanderbilt had an enormous bedroom with walls covered in gold-encrusted burlap.  Mrs. Vanderbilt's bedroom was slightly smaller, oval and feminine, but still bigger than my living room and dining room put together, and crowned by a much higher ceiling.  However, the servants' bedrooms, in the basement, were nice rooms, cozy, comfortably proportioned, equipped with beds, nightstands, wardrobes, chests of drawers and sometimes even a chair.  It was cool and comfortable down there, and even the lowest rooms seemed to have nice windows, high in their walls.  They were near to the kitchen, and the stoves, so it would have smelled good and felt warm in winter.

I have thought, on more than one occasion, that it would be nice to be a servant for rich people.  I would like to be a servant with basically one job, working on a team with other servants whose jobs supported mine as mine supported theirs, a community working together to accomplish big things.

Maybe it's bad, but I don't have much yen to be the boss.

However, it would be important that the boss be a good boss.

A boss, or master, or king or lord (or whatever you call the one at the top) needs to be good.

What makes a boss good?

Well, a good boss has a good attitude.  He cares about the people who work for him.  His profits become their profits.  His aim is to work things out so that their work is productive and the results are bountiful.  When the results pour in, he gives back, generously, to thank and benefit those who have worked for him.

A good boss is also smart and perceptive.  He knows his workers and treats them with kindness and respect.  Not only does he recognize their faces and learn their names, he even knows their likes and dislikes, and how they are particularly gifted.  A good boss can get good results because he is skilled at assigning the right task to the right person.  He understands how to make the most of each individual's talents, which increases quality and productivity while also keeping morale high and temperaments happy.  A good boss also remembers to give credit where credit is due, to say thank you, and to commend and reward exceptional work.

A good boss honestly cares about his workers.  He doesn't just pretend to care.  He visits them in the hospital, sends gifts on birthdays, offers a break when he senses that someone is burning out.  In doing so, he builds intense loyalty.

If you work for such a boss, you love your job, because he has worked you into a job that is individually suited to you.  You have no desire to leave.  You take pride in what you do, and feel an appropriate dignity in your position.

In the Bible, Romans 6 talks about slavery to sin as opposed to slavery to righteousness.  Sometimes Romans 6 calls slavery to righteousness "slavery to God."  Being a slave to God is a wonderful position to have, because God is the most kind and loving master one could ever have, and also the most mighty, abundantly wealthy, indescribably generous.  He lets us choose to follow Him; He never forces or coerces us.  God gives us everything we need for life and godliness.  He lavishes so much love on us that we are not called His slaves, but His children.  He promises us His Spirit, His transforming power, His holiness, and even eternal life.

Conversely, slavery to sin is based on traps and deception.  Once trapped and deceived, slaves to sin become stuck in a hopeless cycle of hatred, discord, rebellion and strife.  Misery now, death later.  That's what it is to be a slave to sin.  No relief from guilt and shame, except the fake relief that comes from "escaping" into more sin, which always leads to more guilt and shame, and death.

People think it's bad to have a boss, but the fact of the matter is, everyone has a boss.  Life is a boss, hunger, need, the bank, the credit card company.  A small child proclaims, "I want to be the boss of myself," but he does not realize that nobody is truly ever the boss of himself.

You'll have a boss.

If you're blessed, you'll get to pick your boss.

If you're wise, you'll choose Jesus.

1 comment:

Shawn Carpenter said...

Well said.

Not to get too hung up on the marketing and business world, but I read somewhere ("Good to Great"?) that great leaders (CEOs) cast positive vision that everyone throughout an organization can access and share, and great managers know how to position their people where they are most effective--usually doing things for which they are particularly gifted. The book I read said that it is extremely rare that great leaders are also great managers. Praise God for his most excellent example in both.

I almost hate writing that, because I don't like the idea of fitting God into some kind of earthly analogy or model--He is so much more than that, and cannot be contained within our ability to illustrate or "analogize" (is that a word?).