Many years ago B.B. King recorded a song that would become a blues classic with its recurring refrain, “As long as I’m paying the bills, I’m paying the cost to be the boss.” Perhaps more accurately than any other song, “Paying the Cost” expresses a widely held sentiment in our society that by “paying the bills” one earns the right to be the boss.
It’s not difficult to comprehend the logic behind such a declaration, nor to be persuaded by it, for in many areas of our lives this is a very tangible reality. Moreover, many of us have experienced times when no clear decision-making structure was in place and an entire organization suffered because of a power struggle. Given the necessity of strong, decisive leadership and the ease of organizing along the lines of ability to “pay the bills,” many of us have grown quite comfortable with this approach to life.
Sometimes outcomes resulting from this approach to leadership are ideal. Unfortunately, however, we don’t have to look far to recognize the difficulties of such a philosophy. All too easily this organizational principle can become a fortress behind which abusive behavior is protected. A working spouse can oppress a stay-at-home spouse because he or she doesn’t work hard to pay the bills. A parent can manipulate children into all kinds of unhealthy or even inappropriate behavior by pointing to his or her bill-paying ability. A boss can coerce employees into compromising actions because as boss he or she is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the company, not the lowly employee. A member of an organization can even try to force that organization’s leadership to submit to his or her agenda by threatening to withhold funds necessary for the organization’s financial stability.
Sadly these abuses are all too common among people who claim to follow Jesus. May God have mercy on us and forgive us for all the times we’ve tried to seize power. May we look to Christ to lead us into lives of service. And may the Holy Spirit teach us and shape us along the way.