God is Not Your Boss

I don’t remember where I first heard the phrase, “make Jesus the boss of your life.”  I do know that I have never been entirely comfortable with it.   Even so, I have used it myself from time to time. Whoever first coined the phrase meant well, I’m sure.  It is an attempt to translate the concept of “Lord” into contemporary language.  Since we no longer live in an age of feudalism and those of us in the United States have little exposure to or understanding of royalty, the term “lord” can sound a bit archaic.  So, someone came up with the idea of expressing the concept of lordship as, “God is our boss.”  In other words, he is in charge.  He calls the shots and we answer to him.  On the face of it, this makes sense.  However, it has increasingly seemed to me that rather than being a helpful translation, it takes a powerful reality and makes it a puny shadow of its former self.  

If God is my boss, then when I work hard, he owes me something.
— Mark Vance (The Salt Co.)

This past September I attended the Kansas/Nebraska Collegiate Fall Conference.  Mark Vance, who is the director of the SALT Company in Ames Iowa, spoke on the theme, “Sons and Daughters.”  Along the way he exposed some inaccurate concepts of God.  At one point he said, “If God is my boss, then when I work hard, he owes me something.”   Like a lightning bolt it occurred to me in that moment that “boss” is much worse than a puny translation.  The term “boss” actually injects faulty theology into a person’s heart, often right at the beginning of their walk with Christ.  

There are many Biblical ways to think of God and each one sheds light on him and his character and our relationship with him from a different perspective.  He is creator, savior, judge, friend, etc.  But Vance said that “Father” is the New Testament name for God.  The most important concept God wants us to have is that of a Father to his children.  We have repeated the Lord’s prayer so many times that it is less than startling to us that it begins with the words “our Father.”  Vance suggested that to those first century Jews it must have sounded utterly explosive.  Surely their jaws dropped all the way to the ground to hear someone address God – and suggest that they too address God - as “our Father.”  This was brand new language to them.  I wholeheartedly agree that the primary relationship we have with God, the one we see unfold in the gospel, is that of a father and child. 

Of course, Jesus is also our Lord and this is an important aspect of our relationship with him.  But let’s not call him “boss.”  We are not working to earn anything from him.  He has already freely given us his forgiveness, his love and acceptance.  We are spiritually rich, not because of our hard work but because of his grace.  The truth is (to introduce another Biblical description of our relationship) we are his bond-slaves (or servants) and he is our master.  (Colossians 4:12)  He owes us nothing.  We owe him everything.   I realize that to our modern ears “bond-slave” is perhaps a farther stretch than “lord.”  It is uncomfortable language.  And it is much more accurate than “boss.”  

I think we must try to better communicate what these rich terms mean rather than merely replace them.  God is my father and I gladly declare that he is also my master.  But he is not my boss.    

God is my father and I gladly declare that he is also my master. But he is not my boss.