Undercover ruler

November 14, 2011

For more commentary on this week's readings, see the Reflections on the Lectionary page, which
includes Chakoian's current Living by the Word column as well as past magazine
and blog content. For full-text access to all articles, subscribe to the
Century.

Rarely do I compare biblical passages with television, let
alone reality TV. But in preparing this week's Century lectionary column, somehow I started thinking about the
show Undercover Boss, in which a
high-level executive joins his or her own company's working ranks incognito. I
couldn't let it go.

I remember especially the episode in which Chicago Cubs CEO
Todd Ricketts went into the stands as a beer vendor. Ricketts was impressed
with the good humor and strong work ethic with which his staff faced daunting
challenges, demanding fans and discouraging games. It may be scandalous to
compare Christ with a beer vendor--especially for the perpetually losing
Cubs--but I'm encouraged to think that our celestial "boss" might actually be
happy with the work we're doing. "Well done, good and faithful servant" may
really be achievable--if we pay attention to what is expected of us.

But it's hard to hang on to that focus. I have a thousand
other matrices for success: how many people are in the pews, how the budget is
holding up, how many baptisms I've performed and so on. It's much harder to
measure intangibles like whether people are growing in faith, whether their
priorities are being transformed, whether they know and love Jesus any better
because of any efforts of mine.

I need constant reminders of what counts and what doesn't.
Thank God for my friends who are more faithful than I am. These co-workers keep
me honest about the work we're up to--and the nature of real success in the
business we're in.

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