When my five year old daughter recently tested my authority, I suggested that perhaps we should all start wearing nametags. “My nametag will say ‘ THE MOMMY,'” I quipped. “What do you think yours will say?” Expecting her to simply answer, “Grace,” I was shocked when she responded with, “NOT the Mommy?” Her answer transported me back a couple of thousand years, where I imagined Jesus, frustrated by his disciples and possibly even inventing the very first nametags.
DISCIPLE 1: John the Baptist wants to know if you’re the Messiah or if we should be expecting someone else.
JESUS: Okay, that’s it. We’re going to start wearing nametags around here.
DISCIPLE 2: What’s a nametag?
JESUS: (writing furiously) Maybe this will help. (Holds up sign)…
Now, what do you think your nametag should read?
DISCIPLE 1: “Hello, my name is NOT the Lord”?
Even when the disciples finally got the “Lord” part right, Jesus had to review the organizational chart with them. He asked them a bone-chilling question that is relevant to us all even today: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). We all need to keep our Lord’s position of authority clear in our hearts and lives.
What exactly does it mean to call Jesus our “Lord”? He expects obedience and respect in the same way that I do from my children. Fortunately for us, a voice doesn’t come down from heaven saying, “I’m going to give you ’til the count of three” or “Don’t even make me come down there.” What he asks us to do is clearly delineated in the Bible, in some cases conveniently stated in red letters. We do not have the luxury of picking our favorite verses and forgetting about the less favorable ones. When we call him “Lord,” we need to surrender our lives to the Master and allow him to lead us.
Shortly after our son Luke turned four, he was playing in a large laundry basket. He was pretending to be driving in his “car,” and I used the opportunity to reprove him for his earlier mischievous behavior. He leaned over the side of the basket, pushed an imaginary button, and made a squeaking noise. “What was that?” I asked. “I just put up my car window,” he answered. Had he been older, I could have reminded him that he was riding in a “convertible,” but even at such a tender age, he just wanted to shut out the hierarchy. He may call me “Mommy,” but he doesn’t always want to think about what that title means. I could suddenly understand why Jesus doesn’t want us to roll up the window when he has something to say.
The organizational chart of a company shows the structure of relationships between employees. While there are many different types of “org. charts,” one fact remains true: no one likes to be at the bottom. Sure, the chart seems impressive if you’re on the top, looking like the superior giant head supported by more lines than an interstate road map. But what if you’re the guy on the bottom? What if you’re the speck at the bottom of the page that looks more like the unfortunate stain of a squished flea?
The Apostle Paul had a healthy attitude toward his place in the world. He recognized his position at the bottom of the chart, describing himself and the other apostles as “the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world” (1 Cor. 4:13b). Wow, they must have been lining up for that job! “No experience required; must resemble gunk on bottom of shoe.” Even with such an ignoble job description, Paul was able to set the standard for Christian behavior at the workplace.
1 Corinthians 4:11-13a
(11) To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.
(12) We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;
(13) when we are slandered, we answer kindly…
Throughout my career in the work force, I have been at both ends of the spectrum, from temp to executive and in between. Now that I am a stay-at-home mom, I realize that none of those positions affected my relationship with my Lord and my Father. What really matters is the real hierarchy that God set forth in His word:
1 Corinthians 15:27 and 28
(27) For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ.
(28) When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
The chart form of this statement is rather humbling:
One great example of why we do not try to tamper with this chart is contained in the gospel of Mark. James and John came to Jesus and tried to swing a sweetheart deal for their positions in the Kingdom. They started with, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask” (John 10:35b). Now, if my kids ever said this to me, I would suffer whiplash from my head snapping back with incredulous laughter so loud it would startle the Tang out of the astronauts at the space station. But Jesus gave a loving and patient response:
(36) “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.
(37) They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
(38) “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
(39) “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with,
(40) but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”
This was Jesus’ polite way of informing them that no, they cannot alter the org. chart. The other disciples were upset at this unbelievable attempt to ascend the corporate Kingdom ladder behind their backs.
(41) When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.
(42) Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.
(43) Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
(44) and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
(45) For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
If anyone deserved the right to flaunt his position, it was our Lord. He didn’t wear a nametag that read:
Instead, Jesus gave the greatest example of how to be a servant-leader. He even washed his disciples’ feet to demonstrate how to serve one another out of love (John 13:1-17). Today’s culture promotes selfishness and pride, even if it means having to hurt other people to “succeed.” When we study the teachings of Jesus, we see that he condemned such arrogance and narcissism. The Apostle Paul gave us specific instructions for emulating our Lord:
(3) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
(4) Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
(5) Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
(6) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
(7) but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
(8) And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!
(9) Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
(10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
(11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We need to submit to our Master and do what he commanded. There should be no contradiction in our lives between whom we serve and what we do. Also, Jesus shouldn’t have to wear a nametag at the Kingdom. Practically speaking, we won’t even be able to see it if we are on our knees bowing in reverence to him. Oh, and let’s not make him take out the org. chart…let’s just wear it on our hearts.