How do you treat the people beneath you on the totem pole of life? You know–those whose destinies you have the power to affect to a certain extent in some way, shape, or form, whether your employees, tenants, volunteers, or someone else. If you are like most people, you probably don’t spend too much time thinking about them, yet those of us who claim to obey Christ must make sure that we are not causing anyone unnecessary grief.
“And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.” (Ephesians 6:9)
It is a sad reality of life that it is difficult for us to put ourselves into another person’s shoes–to really understand what he goes through. Inevitably we tend to judge him by where we’re at. If we have had a good start in life and are standing on our own two feet, we may have difficulty sympathizing with someone who has become homeless or lives from paycheck to paycheck. Our assumption invariably tends to be, “I made it; it’s their own fault if they haven’t been able to,” not unlike Marie Antoinette’s infamous and unsympathetic declaration, “Let them eat cake!” in response to being told that the people have no bread.
Jesus understood this unfortunate human inclination and taught His followers not to judge others. While this particular admonition has been incorrectly applied to a completely different issue in modern culture–to say we must never condemn any particular behavior as wrong–what Jesus was really doing was warning us against prideful arrogance. I cannot step into another person’s combination of gene pool and life experiences; thus, I must guard against feelings of superiority that I could never make the same mistakes.
We must always keep in mind that the primary reason we are who we are today and have what we have is because of the goodness of God; it is He who determined the families we were born into and gave us the experiences that have shaped us into who we are. Certainly we have made wise or foolish choices; still, so much of what we accomplish is because of His grace.
When we look at ourselves in this light, it becomes easier to be less judgmental toward others who seem not to measure up. This, in turn, helps us sympathize with their plight more and softens our hearts to treat them as fellow human beings worthy of dignity and respect, and in many cases, fellow-heirs of Christ’s kingdom. So, how ought we to treat those whose lives we have the power to affect? Proverbs 3:27-34 tells us:
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it, ‘ when you have it with you. Do not devise evil against your neighbor, for he dwells by you for safety’s sake. Do not strive with a man without cause, if he has done you no harm. Do not envy the oppressor, and choose none of his ways; for the perverse person is an abomination to the Lord, but His secret counsel is with the upright. The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the just. Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble.” (Proverbs 3:27-34)
We are to act justly and mercifully with those whose lives depend upon our actions–the way we would want them to treat us were our roles reversed! If we owe them something (like a paycheck or a refund of a security deposit), we should give it to them promptly, not make them wait unnecessarily. We should not take advantage of our position, knowing that our “own Master also is in heaven,” and He sees what we are doing. Ultimately, we are to remain humble while God allows us this responsibility, acknowledging with Job, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord…[takes] away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)
Help me always to remember that You, my Master in heaven, have no favorites, and always to treat everyone as I myself would like to be treated were I in their shoes. Help me to honor You with my life! Amen.