Have you ever seen the television show Undercover Boss? Since we don’t get TV broadcasts and have to access shows via Netflix, I was late to the party on this one. But I’ve taken the time to watch a few episodes, and each one hit me hard. For anyone unfamiliar, the premise of the show is that the chief executive or owner of a large company goes “undercover,” posing as a regular employee or as someone applying for a menial job in the lower echelons of the business. In this way s/he is able to observe the employees with their guard down, whether its those doing grunt work for an hourly wage or supervisors and those in middle management. After a week or so of doing this, the executive reveals his or her true identity to everyone and has one-on-one conversations with those s/he got to know best during the experience. At this point the show climaxes, as we see how the executive’s attitude has changed toward the employees and perhaps the company as a whole. We also see how the bad employees receive their come-uppance for poor work, whether because of negligence or mean-spiritedness toward fellow employees. But most satisfying of all is the way the faithful employees are rewarded for their dedication and commitment, as they receive raises, promotions, special bonuses or all of the above. The show is very compelling viewing, much more so than other reality TV shows. I think the main reason for this is the fact that it always culminates with a just outcome and enlightenment for all involved. The vicious workers get disciplined, the virtuous workers are rewarded, and the executive gains sympathy and understanding.
Recently, it struck me how the show’s basic narrative structure illustrates some biblical ideas. For one thing, it displays a central moral theme in Scripture, and that is the notion that the proud will be humbled and the humble will be exalted (cf. 1 Sam. 2:7, Ps. 18:27, Ps. 147:6, Pr. 3:34, Luke 14:11, James 4:10, 1 Pet. 5:6, etc.). Undercover Boss consistently provides powerful images of this idea. Of course, as compelling as its stories are, they are but mere hints of the final doling out of rewards and punishments that awaits us on Judgment Day (cf. Eccl. 12:13, 2 Cor. 5:10). Second, and more profoundly, it occurred to me that Jesus Christ is the ultimate Undercover Boss. In taking on human flesh and dwelling among us, his divine identity was effectively masked. In doing so, you might say, he demonstrated an existential acquaintance with the human condition, in all its absurd and painful reality. But, of course, our Cosmic Executive was not, nor could He ever be, restricted in his understanding and sympathy for our plight. Rather, he is completely aware of each of our lives. And he fully empathizes with us and perfectly understands our struggles (Heb. 4:15).
With these images in mind, I’m more inspired than ever to be a “good and faithful servant” for the Company. Because the Boss really loves me, and he’s always watching.