Who’s the Boss? was one of the 80s’ most popular sitcoms. The plot offered several themes that were still relatively uncommon at the time, including a woman as the primary breadwinner. The title of the show itself highlights the novelty of a show where the main male character is at home cooking and cleaning, while the main female character is pursuing a career and making the money.
As Christians, we would do well to ask ourselves the question “who’s the boss?” from time to time. The reality is that we all work for a boss. We are all serving of some priority, agenda, or goal in our life. The tragic and catastrophic failure of Adam and Eve in the garden was to think that there was a possibility of becoming their own masters. While their attention was fixed on the dream of becoming like God, the serpent was slapping the shackles of slavery on them—slavery to sin, death, and the forces of Satan.
After reconciling ourselves to the fact that we cannot be spiritually “self-employed,” that we cannot be our own boss, we must address the question of who our boss is going to be. Paul works through this issue in his epistle to the Romans. He has already addressed why sinning to produce grace—despite grace being a good thing—is wrong. Now he has pivoted to address why an abundance of grace is not a justification for continually sinning. The question is not simply one of status—whether we are righteous or unrighteous—it is a matter of lifestyle.
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Rom 6:16-18 ESV)
Our freedom is found not in being without a master, but in the identity of our master. Because there will always be a boss, it very much matters who that boss will be. There are good bosses in the world—bosses who treat their employees fairly, who mentor those under them, and who genuinely care for the wellbeing of the people who work for them. Sin is not that kind of boss. Paul will go on to say that the only wages you receive when sin is your boss is death.
As ministers of the gospel, we face two challenges. First, we must be about the task of opening the world’s eyes, so that it can see how it is enslaved to sin. Too often we let the world get away with thinking that only the “religious” are servants of a god, when the truth is that everyone is serving a god, whether it’s money, fame, a career, a relationship, or Jesus Christ. When people can be brought around to the reality that they are serving something, then the question becomes whether what we are serving is worthy of that devotion. We must continually remind ourselves that, in the words of Bob Dylan,
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
What will be the end result of a life lived in service to sin? What about a life lived as a slave to righteousness, shackled to the will of God?
The second task is to help those who have been set free from sin recognize how they, how we, too often live as if we are still enslaved to sin. Paul J. Achtemeier tells the story of moving his fish from a small glass bowl, to a larger aquarium. Interestingly, when he moved them into the larger aquarium they continued to swim in a circle in the middle, tracing the outline of their former habitat. The habit of conforming our lives to previous circumstances can be a difficult one to break. How many of us are still swimming in circles spiritually? God give us the courage and strength as Christian leaders to continually model what it means to renounce our old allegiance to sin, while whole-heartedly offering ourselves as obedient servants of the righteousness of God.
Justin Simmons has served as minister for the Glenmora Church of Christ in central Louisiana since 2011. Previously he studied at the University of South Carolina (BA, MA), and the Candler School of Theology at Emory University (MDiv). He is blessed to call Melissa his wife, and has three wonderful step-children. He enjoys reading about history and practical theology, listening to Gregorian chants, and passionately following Braves baseball and Gamecock sports.