Daily Proverbial, 15 February 2012

Do not slander a servant to his master, or he will curse you, and you will pay for it. Proverbs 30, verse 10.

Be nice to folks who work: that’s the first lesson I read from this. Face it: if you work, you serve, and if you serve, logic follows that you are a servant. Your master is your manager, or your task, or your obligation. It’s always a good thing to remember that. Everyone works for someone. I’ll paraphrase a John Wayne quote (from McClintock): “I work for every man who goes into a restaurant to get a steak.” Even if you work for yourself, or if your job is working around the house, you work for someone. That being the case, be nice. We should each try to do our best to be kind to each other, to be patient and listen. That’s not only good for the workplace, but it’s a Godly thing to do. It’s very ‘Golden Rule.’

Because of that, we shouldn’t slander our co-workers. There are very few people in my entire career with whom I wouldn’t work again. Sure, there are many with whom I didn’t work well, and there are some who I never want to see again because they did me wrong either in or out of work. But I think there are only two or three people who I would be angry enough to slander. I am ashamed to admit that, in my field, there is one person who I would gladly blacklist from working for any of my clients; his work was despicable and his demeanor even worse. That shame is a good thing, you know. Anger over what was done in the past may be justifiable, but retribution in slander wouldn’t be.

We especially shouldn’t slander people who work for others. Whether they are hired help, employees or peers, we shouldn’t slander them with bad talk or gossip. That’s another lesson I learn from this verse. We shouldn’t spread the gossip. It’s easy to ignore gossip when you work from home, which I do half of the time. In an office setting, as a consultant, it’s also easy because you generally don’t build up enough relationships to hear the intimate details on which gossip thrives. Still, when I hear gossip, I try to put in my ear buds and turn up the radio. Gossip is hurtful and destructive, and it’s counterproductive to working. More than that, it’s ungodly. The verse today offers a different and still practical reason for not slandering other workers: retribution. The worker may take revenge; certainly, our actions will come back to bite us somehow.

Now, does that mean you shouldn’t ever send an undercooked steak back to the kitchen? Of course not. But should you be surprised if you wonder whether or not the waiter or cook spit on it after you did so rudely? Criticism can be delivered constructively, and feedback can be given pleasantly but firmly. That’s Christ’s example and shouldn’t it be ours as well? Picking on others isn’t right.

Finally, the last thing I see from this verse is about cursing. Is the verse talking about profanity, or is it talking about an actual curse? Does it really matter? You probably don’t want someone swearing at you any more than I want someone swearing at me. It sounds bad enough coming from me; I don’t need to hear it from others. But are there still supernatural curses in the world? Our post-modern world seems to rationalize many things, trying to explain away past specters as primitive, ignorant, or even psychological.

Forgive me, then, if I cling to being primitive, ignorant, and maybe psychologically defective in the eyes of the world. I’ve often wondered if some of what we explain away as mental illness (excuse me, disability) isn’t actually demonic in nature. If that’s true, doesn’t that open the door to other matters of the supernatural, namely things like curses? Scripture is replete with instruction on how living through faith empowers individuals with supernatural ability to overcome, to use power, or to forgive or bar. That being the case, if I gripe to my friend about one of his or her servants or workers, perhaps that servant is a believer who might just be able to call down help to use against me. There’s something sure about that, and something to rightfully hold in dread.

That’s quite a lot to learn from just a few words, and they’re good reasons to be kind to the help. Every job is important; it’s important that we remember so.

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