Many curry favor with a ruler,
and everyone is the friend of one who gives gifts.
- Proverbs 19:6
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
- Colossians 3:22-25
Yesterday, my evening post was on the “paper” epithet where you are told that you are only something due to a paper trail, you do not deserve the honor. I discussed a variety of motivations for using this type of slur, jealousy and a cover-up for the person saying the slur to avoid doing their part to help.
But often, when people are about to stab you in the back, have you ever noticed how they praise you? The truth is, in many cases, they curry your favor in order to get close enough. If they are close enough, the blade goes all the way in when they stab you in the back.
Yesterday, I mentioned that when the local boy scout troop “fired” me as their scoutmaster, it was because I was too much of a hero, too far set apart that the boys could never come close to achieving what I had achieved in life.
I laughed at that. While they removed me as scoutmaster, not even having a volunteer to take my place, I was working hard at my job to barely hold on. I feared unemployment. I truly believed that the only reason that I was not let go was that too much of the department’s work came through me. But several managers were asking for me to be removed. They wanted any number of graduates from the Navy nuclear program to take my place. I was doing an excellent job, but I was a “home grown” product. The Navy Nuke boys had some kind of cache. They added credibility with their credentials. But I had taught a few of them in class. The Navy Nuke guys that I taught failed to listen. They were there to redesign the nuclear reactors to work like the reactors that they were familiar with working. Only problem was that the two types of reactors did two totally different things. They could never be the same. So, while politically they added credibility, in fact they were either lost, confused, or loose cannons about to screw things up. But I was the one that they wanted gone. I obliged a year later, getting a job at a NASA project in Mississippi.
What the boy scout troop parents focused on were past accomplishments. I was, and am, an Eagle Scout. I was trying to get every boy in that troop encouragement that the goal of Eagle was achievable to anyone who wanted to put in the effort, regardless of economic status and those without normal capabilities, it could still be done with approved concessions. This goal was unachievable in the parent’s eyes, because the parents were low achievers, and they had no hope that their children would do any better than they did. This mock praise of my achievement was a giant white flag, saying that they gave up before they ever got started, and they predestined their children to follow in their footsteps.
The other praise that I was praised for by the parents was that I was a Captain in the US Army reserve. This might limit some of those boys. Some may not have been college material. Some may not have had the finances to go to college or the grades capable of earning a scholarship. But I never talked about my time in the Army when I was with the boys. Again, it was the parents selling their children short. And I think all of the boys could have been a sergeant, like the ones that I looked up to.
Do not get me wrong. I was horribly overworked during those years and I rejoiced that I had one less full-time job, especially one of the unpaid jobs. And they pulled the plug right before summer camp which allowed me to have a vacation with my family rather than with someone else’s children. That alone should garner great praise for all the scoutmasters out there.
Of course, most of my bosses praised me around the time of the annual review. That meant that when I was shown what raise I was about to get in pay, it was going to be lower than I expected. Words are cheap. Yet, I had one boss who refused to ever praise me, thinking that if he ever praised me, I would quit working hard. He really had no clue how to read people.
But the praise that I get at church scares me. To most who talk to me, I am a “Biblical Scholar.” My wife told one of her friends, “Oh, please!! Biblical Scholar?!?! He just digs into the Bible every day. That doesn’t mean he KNOWS anything!!!”
But just like the epithets from yesterday, we must look at their reason for saying that I am a Biblical Scholar. Here are two based on knowing who was giving me praise.
There is the person who had lost their Bible years ago. It used to be on the night stand next to the bed. As the dust formed on top of it, the Bible disappeared. I quote a common verse in the Bible like John 3:16, and these people think that since I know a verse or two, I should become a pastor, and they tell me so. To these people, you would have to pay them to read the Bible and then they might try to fake reading it. So, if you have read the Bible and actually remembered something from what you read, why are you not getting paid?!?!?
Another group are those who are content with you teaching the Sunday school class. They fear that if you get bored and move on to some other activity, they might have to prepare for the class more. They would never consider themselves Biblical Scholars, so they could never match my “knowledge.” Like the parents of the boys above, they sell themselves short. It really does not take a lot of research to be prepared to teach a Sunday school class. Okay, now that I said that, I have had a tough time on rare occasions – when the class was filled with true Biblical Scholars that were simply too lazy to volunteer to teach the class. But, oh, how they could second guess everything that I said!!!!
The two Scriptures use the term “curry favor.” The Oxford dictionary says that means “ingratiate oneself with someone through obsequious behavior.”
So, if you feel someone ingratiating themselves with you and maybe even using obsequious behavior, you may need to try to figure out why they are doing it. If they shake your hand, you may want to count your fingers when you get your hand back from them.
But then the Apostle Paul tells the slaves of Colossae that they should go beyond the minimum to curry favor with their masters. He is saying that they should, as Jesus said, to go the extra mile, not for a bigger tip, but to show God’s love toward their master. Paul said nothing about vain flattery and false praise. Those only puff people up, and only then when they believe it. But currying favor by going the extra mile helps the master. They may or may not take note of the additional service. But that is not the goal. The goal is to worship and praise God in service to an earthly master.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.