Monday, June 08, 2009
Current Study: First Peter
Today’s Topic: Be A Respectful Employee
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 2:18-20 Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.
Shortly after I turned sixteen, I got a job at a local grocery store on the east side of St. Paul, Minnesota. I was hired originally as a bag boy. I worked hard, and went out of my way to do more than what was expected of me. I earned the respect of the storeowner, and before long, I had been promoted to stock boy. Shortly after that, I was put in charge of my own aisle. I was completely responsible for ordering and stocking breakfast cereal.
Then came another move up the grocery ladder. I was transferred to the dairy department and made responsible for all the milk and cheese. By the time I was seventeen I was again promoted, this time to the meat department. I started out just cleaning up all the equipment, but before long, the meat manager recognized my desire to learn and the positive work ethic implanted in me by my parents, and he began teaching me how to cut up beef, pork, and chickens. Later that year we moved out of the city, but when I returned for college, I was immediately given my old job back.
But everything about this job wasn’t always perfect. While I was in the dairy department, something happened that scared me a little, and made me mature a lot. I had gone down to the basement of the store where the cheese cooler was. I was doing inventory and ordering. I shut the door of the cooler behind me, not knowing that the latch had broken and there was no way to open the door from the inside. I was trapped inside a small walk-in cooler in the corner of the basement. It was 38 degrees and I had no jacket on. The cooler was very well insulated, which also made it soundproof. I was in that cooler for over an hour before someone finally came looking for me.
When they found me, I was taken to the boss’s office. Even though the owner of the store had already promoted me three times for my proven work ethic, I was accused of sloughing off and finding ways to avoid work. I was docked two hours pay and given a written warning that went into my file. I did not fight. I did not defend myself. I submitted to the authority of my employer. I know I could have stood up for myself, but in all honesty, I wanted to honor God more than defend myself. Sounds a little weird for a teenager, but it’s true.
Later that day I was called back into the boss’s office. I sat in front of his desk, and heard these words – “John, I’m sorry. I acted rashly. I went down to the basement and checked the door. It is broken. I was wrong to discipline you. Please forgive me. And thank you for the respect you have shown me as your boss.” The disciplinary letter was removed from my file, and my pay was restored.
Two days later, I was honored with a new nickname around the store. The story of what had happened spread quickly. One of the men in the meat department shouted it out the first time as I walked past the meat counter. “Hi Preach!” I looked around to see if he might have been talking to someone else. There was no one else around. Soon everyone in the store was calling me Preach. I know I had spoken to some of them in the past about my faith. I know they all knew my dad was a pastor. But it wasn’t until my life modeled the humility of Christ that they said I was preaching.
I’m sure that some of you are struggling with your employers right now. Some of your bosses are probably not very nice. But rather than whine, complain, and let a bitter attitude invade your spirit, why not consider how your life can be commendable to God. Keep serving faithfully. Let your life preach the truth of God’s grace as modeled by the submissive spirit of Christ. Your boss is watching. Let him see Jesus in you.
I had a similar experience in college on a work-study job at the U of Minnesota. I was an office assistant in the School of Architecture, with 3 bosses. Their language could get a little heavy at times, but they always toned it way down when I was around the office! They knew what I stood for and didn’t want to offend me (until I forgot to put the cap on the ink reservoir of the mimeograph machine and ended up getting ink all over the office)!