Titles and Servants
“Mom! Dad! I got the job!” Our son proudly announced his first summer employment position. Because of his love for golf, he had decided to see what might be available at the nearby golf course. Of course we were thrilled for him and asked what his job would be. “Cart Relocation Technician!” was his reply. Now it didn’t take me too many seconds to realize this was a glorified title for “cart boy.” But if it made him feel important, I wasn’t going to step on his youthful pride. He was looking forward to moving those golf carts around for the next few weeks.
Sometimes it’s important to give someone a title to go along with the job he or she has been given. Just saying they are “in charge of” some task or responsibility isn’t enough to show how important their work is. A title can add that little bit of pride to an otherwise mundane position.
I’ve noticed there are a lot more “doctors” and “engineers” than there used to be, despite the fact that there are no degrees accompanying their titles. I even saw a billboard advertising a “metal surgeon” that turned out to be a welder.
Not long ago I was asked to hold for the “patient access specialist” when I called my doctor. Now I’ve had that job before, and I quickly recognized I was waiting to speak to the appointment scheduler.
All of this inflated nomenclature reminds me of Shakespeare’s comment in Romeo and Juliet that “A rose by any other name” would still be that same sweet smelling flower.
There are those who crave titles and don’t feel they or the job they are doing is worth anything unless there is a proper designation attached to their job description. Sometimes the title isn’t significant or important sounding enough. At times, though, the title is obviously inflated and rendered almost meaningless. Anyone who observes what a person actually does realizes just how closely the title and the job truly match up.
Job titles are important for the efficient running of a company or church or organization. We need to know who to go to in order to get something done. What a waste of time to hear “That’s not my job” or “Ask someone who knows about that.” It’s much easier to have a reliable reference to competent people.
Unfortunately titles can create a hierarchy that stands in the way of actually getting work done. I’ve heard several people use the excuse for not extending themselves with the phrase, “Let someone who’s paid the big bucks do that.” It’s as if they are hiding behind the minimal requirements of their job titles.
Coming from the other direction, when something needs to be done and it doesn’t take an expert to accomplish it, anyone close at hand can pitch in. I’m thinking of something as simple as wiping up spilled water in a busy hallway or closing a blind to block out the bright sun in someone’s eyes.
There is a wonderful anecdote from the American Revolutionary War about just such a person who hid behind his title to avoid serving. When the Continental Army was building the defenses during the siege of Boston, General Israel Putnam asked a soldier to pick up a large rock in the path of his horse and throw it up on the wall. The young man indignantly replied, “Sir, I am a corporal!” The general profusely begged his pardon and then proceeded to get down from his horse and throw the rock himself. Those around enjoyed the obvious put down to the self-important corporal.
When Jesus walked this earth, He was constantly asked about His identity. Oh, everyone knew He was from Nazareth and was the son of Mary and Joseph. What they were really asking was, “What’s your title? Are you a king, Messiah, Son of God, God himself?" His answer sometimes affirmed His title. “Yes, I am” (Luke 22:70 NASB). But other times His answer was to watch what He was doing (Matt. 11:2-5).
This second answer was confusing. Because when the Pharisees tried to reconcile His Kingship, His Messiah title, they saw a servant, a humble servant not hiding behind a title. And not expecting others to do what they couldn’t do for themselves… save their own souls.
I’ve had various titles over the years, and I don’t really have one these days since I’m now retired. That’s okay. I know my worth in God’s eyes. And I hope I am continuing to view my job title as “Servant” no matter what life brings to me.
But when people see what I say and do, I hope they have a worthy title on the tip of their tongue. I pray I am living up to the title that my Lord Jesus granted me: Child of God.
Leaving my guilt at the cross,
* First published at Lead Like Jesus March 2018