Majoring in Life
Dealing with the scary attitude of wanting to be God. And understanding biblical submission.
Scripture passages in this lesson are linked to this page for easy access.
Lesson 22: The Temptation to be “Large and In Charge”
(A positive take on submission)
Text written and copyrighted © 2002 by Manfred Koehler. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)
Keith gazed aimlessly into the job fair's mass of buzzing humanity. What a waste of time this was. Self-important management types with designer suits and overstuffed briefcases being fawned over by dressed-to-impress students. And for what? A chance at a $40,000 basement job that demanded another decade of fawning so a guy could earn maybe $60,000. Forget it.
Keith was too smart for that.
The thought made him want to tear the name tag off his shirt: Keith Lonergan: Engineering (3.9). Whose lame idea was it to put every student's grade point average on his or her chest like some tattoo?
A little guy in blue coveralls was looking at Keith's tag. What on earth was he doing here? Now the man stared straight at Keith, beady eyes like lasers.
"Keith. I got a son named Keith. He likes to fish."
"Does he?" Keith tried to smile politely.
"Yeah, caught himself an eight-pound largemouth last Friday. Boy, was he happy. What do you like to do?" The little man had a machine-gun mouth with a thick New England accent. It would be interesting just to listen to him.
"Oh, I don't know. Surf the Web. Think big thoughts."
"Oh, yeah? I just got me one of them EZ WebSurfers. Now I can write these little e-notes to my nephew Dominic in New Jersey, and it don't even cost me nuthin'. He writes me back all the time."
The little man's head bobbed with impish excitement, lost in his own world. Then he twisted his head around like a bird and squinted at Keith. "What kind of big thoughts you been having?"
Keith licked his lips, trying to hide his amusement. "Oh, sometimes I think about starting my own business."
"Start your own business? Whadaya wanna do that for? Any idea the headaches?"
"Can't be near the headaches a guy would have working for someone else."
The beady eyes glittered. "What makes you say that?"
"Well, you know. Having to take commands from some old grump with a cheap hairpiece and a cheesy tie who only cares about skinning sixty-eight hours a week out of you so the wannabe company he runs doesn't sink like an Italian battle-ship. Forget it. Not for me."
The little man's cackling laughter filled the air. Keith smiled nervously, wondering too late if the man came from Sicily or Venice. The features were right.
"Hey, they ain't all of them that bad, son. Take it from me." Grabbing a pen and small pad from his coverall pocket, the little man slashed a quick line across the page. Then he walked away.
Keith stared after him, head shaking. Suddenly a nametag cut off his view: Benton Hurley: Engineering (3.7).
"Were you just talking to that guy?"
"Yeah," Keith replied. "Weird little twerp."
"Did he have a son named Keith who likes to fish?"
Keith stared in amazement. "Yes."
"Well, he's got a son named Benton, too, who just caught himself an eight-pound bass last Friday."
Keith licked his lips, afraid to breathe. "What are you saying?"
“That ‘little twerp’ is the CEO of Dominic Enterprises. Anyone who gets a job with him starts at $85,000! And he wants to see me again! I still can't believe it." Benton wandered off in a daze.
Gazing over the crowd, heart racing, Keith caught one last glance of the little man in blue coveralls. He was standing by the open door of a long, gray limousine. For an instant the beady eyes beamed Keith's way.
The little man waved good-bye and stepped inside. The door closed behind him.
Wanting What's Not Ours to Have
Ever hear the story about the twenty-two-year-old guy who started up an Internet business and then sold it for $200,000,000? Yeah, well, so has everyone else. And if we were honest, we'd have to confess a mild-to-major twitch of envy. Ever dream of being Bill Gates? Neither have I. But it sure would be nice if he'd put my name on his list of needy charities.
There's something inside of us that craves to be so rich that we'd never have to do what anyone else says again. Ever. Deep down, we long to be large and in charge.
That's a scary attitude to have. Why? Well, if you boil it down to its basic elements, you end up with something 100 percent demonic: I want to be God.
Think about it. God is the only being who is truly "large and in charge." He's the only one in the entire universe who, if he wanted to, could completely ignore what everyone else says. No one can boss him around. God does what he wants. It's his right.
And no one else has that right. Only God is God.
But all kinds of beings claim his throne, nevertheless. Lucifer did, thinking himself equal to God (Isaiah 14:14). In allowing his heart to become so twisted, he became the devil. Then he tempted Eve with the same thing: "You will be like God" (Genesis 3:5). Eve took the bait. She wanted to be God. So did Adam. Silly people.
We've all wanted to be God ever since (Romans 5:12).
So you don't like the idea of having to work for anyone? You need to wonder where that's coming from.
There is one attitude that is absolute death to the ugly thing inside you that screams to be God. Understand and accept submission, and that little voice is gone. Reject submission, and you play the devil's game.
Jesus once met a soldier who understood submission, way down deep. While asking Jesus to heal one of his servants, this Roman centurion said,
"Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me."
Jesus was so astonished at this man's words, he said,
"I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith" (Matthew 8:10b).
The Submissive Soul
Read the whole story of Jesus and the centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), and then chew on the following ideas. They should help you understand submission.
Submission knows that Jesus is in charge. Check out the first word from the centurion's mouth: Lord. The centurion saw in Jesus the right to rule, even over his servant's sickness. He accepted that. A submissive soul is to recognize who is in command in any given situation. Moreover, such a soul continuously sees Christ as supreme and acts accordingly.
Submission is humble. The centurion did not demand Jesus' help. He humbly yet boldly stepped up and asked for it: "I do not deserve, ... but just say the word." Submission does not mean being too fearful to suggest a good idea to your boss. If you can think of something that will get the job done better, ask for it with quiet confidence. But a lack of submission will have you throwing your weight around, demanding your way. That'll make you zero friends and all kinds of enemies.
Submission recognizes a chain of command. No matter how high up the ladder you climb, there's always someone with greater authority. The centurion had no trouble accepting the fact that he wasn't the ultimate big cheese: "I myself am a man under authority." Great attitude. There are people out there who have the God-given right to tell you what to do. The sooner you accept that, the fewer bumps you'll suffer along the way.
Here are some examples of God-ordained chains of command:
- Christ as head of the Church (Ephesians 1:22-23)
- elders over congregation (Hebrews 13:17)
- husband over wife (Ephesians 5:22-23)
- parents over children (Ephesians 6:1-4)
- government over citizens (Romans 13:1-7)
- employer over employee (Ephesians 6:5)
Submission serves those under authority. The centurion didn't fly around on some power trip. He had compassion for those under his care. He was concerned about his servant. When submission is truly understood by all, there is no fear of anyone being over anyone because true leadership tenderly serves those being led (John 13:13-15).
Submission is a faith thing. The Roman soldier placed himself under Christ's authority, willing to do whatever Jesus directed in order to see his servant healed. Somewhere in that act of submission was the element of faith that so impressed Jesus.
Many people do what they're told because they're afraid of the big stick. That's not submission, that's subservience. It's outward obedience mixed with inward rebellion. True submission is not forced but willing something done because you believe in the principle of submission. It's motivated by a love for God, not the fear of man. In the mind, it works something like this: God wants me to submit. In so doing I honor him. I will submit because submission is God's idea (Ephesians 5:21). That's faith, and it greatly pleases your Father (Hebrews 11:6).
Where Things Get Complicated
Submission is fine and wonderful when those in authority ask you to do something you wanted to do anyway. Hey, no skin off my knees. This submission thing is great! But what happens when authority asks you to do something that doesn't make sense? Or what if they're just being mean? What happens to submission then?
You've got four options, after which you'd be wise to default to the fifth.
Ask whoever is in charge for an explanation. What you're balking at may look better after a little dialogue. You may have to sell certain people in authority on their need to explain—not everyone understands true, caring leadership—but don't demand it.
Samuel, when faced with the potentially fatal mission of anointing David as the next king, humbly questioned God's command. God did not slap Samuel's wrists for asking the question. His explanation freed Samuel to obey in spite of the risks (1 Samuel 16:1-4).
Approach authority with another plan. Assuming you understand what is being asked and why, you have the right to humbly offer a different idea or an alternative suggestion.
Daniel gives us a great example of this in action (Daniel 1). But offer the alternative with an open hand, not an iron fist. Submission does not force or manipulate things into place.
Appeal to higher authority. If you don't feel like you're getting a fair hearing, you may decide to go higher up the chain of command. Paul did this while in prison to keep from getting handed over to the Jews who would unjustly kill him (Acts 25:9-11).
Realize you may alienate the person whose authority you're skirting. Extend courtesy by advising him of your plan of action: "Sir, I'm afraid I'm going to have to take this up with your superior."
Plead your case as one of submitting to God rather than to men. This is the road you take when authority has asked you to do something in direct opposition to God's Word. But prepare to face the consequences. Peter and his companions did this with great courage when they were forbidden to speak of Jesus Christ (Acts 5:28-29).
You'd better be super-sure the situation warrants this approach. Some people are too quick and brazen in claiming God as their only boss.
Submit to what authority says. Failing all of the above, this is your only choice. Accept the hard road, trusting God to overrule if he sees fit.
Jesus is the ultimate example of this. Part of him did not want to go to the cross. He took his case to the highest Authority, realized his Father would not overrule the plan as it stood, and then accepted the hard road that led to Calvary (Matthew 26:36-46).
God highly honors humble submission in tough situations (Philippians 2:8-9) . And you can be very thankful Jesus understood submission. Your salvation depended on it.
Put It on Your Resume
God isn't against an entrepreneurial spirit. But with great power he will resist a proud, unsubmissive heart (James 4:6-7). That's a hard road you don't want to travel.
Learn the secret blessings of submission. You'll make an employee any smart boss would pay a good price to have around.