At the age of seventeen, I found myself working for a moderately sized retail outlet that employed one manager and five assistant managers. While each manager had their own department, they all had equal authority over all of the staff and this loose structure led to a number of humorous, experiences, one of which particularly stands out in my mind.
It all began one warm afternoon when, while sorting through pallets of new shipments, we stumbled across several boxes of garden clogs. (You know, those clunky rubber shoes designed to protect your feet while allowing dirt and water to get between your toes for the complete gardening experience?) My manager took one look at the shipment and told me to take it to the clothing department where all of the footwear was neatly on display.
Obediently, I picked up the armload of cardboard containers and trekked across the store to the disused returns counter that marked the edge of what I had come to view as enemy territory. I was just about to set the boxes down when the clothing manager spotted me informed me that “garden” clogs belonged in the “garden” department and immediately ordered me to return them to their proper location.
Politely, I readjusted the boxes and wandered across one of the center aisles, returning the shipment to my own department. I hadn’t even managed to set them down when my manager appeared and voiced her concern that I hadn’t followed through on her orders. I readily explained that the clothing manager didn’t feel that they belonged in her department and patiently awaited the impending directive. “Take them back to the clothing department. Now.”
So off I went. When the clothing manager saw me, she curtly repeated her edict that the boxes were not to be deposited anywhere within her realm. I had turned on my heels before she even finished her sentence and was off and running towards my own, safe section of the store. But upon returning to my own department, I was informed once more that the footwear was to be left in the clothing department. For the next hour, I wandered back and forth between the two departments toting the boxes and relaying the increasingly more warlike messages which the two managers wished for me to deliver.
While at first I was irritated by the waste of time, it did serve to illustrate a valuable Biblical principle which is important to us even before we hop into our cars, onto our bicycles, or head down the sidewalk to our place of employment each day: “No one can serve two masters.” (Matthew 6:24a) I’m not talking about showing up at Walmart when your paycheck is coming from the Home Depot, but rather the danger involved in attempting to split your service between God and well, everyone and everything else that is vying for your attention… including your boss.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be examining what it means to serve God in the workplace. We’ll take a look at some helpful Biblical advice on striking the balance necessary to retain our relationship with the Master while successfully satisfying our boss’ demands. And we’ll explore some of our options for those times when it isn’t possible to do both. Stay tuned and, as always, feel free to share your own thoughts in the comment box below!