Climbing the corporate ladder, a round trip
While reflecting on the coming Holy Week, I remembered one of my favorite stories. It is a mythical tale written by author, professor, Harley-Davidson rider, and pastor, Robert R. Kopp. As Pastor Robert tells it, a young man named Walter went to work for the largest corporation in the world. The personnel director told Walter he must start at the bottom and work his way up, for that is the way one succeeds.
So Walter, not afraid of a little hard work, began his corporate career in the mailroom, in the basement of the building. Walter liked his job, but he often daydreamed about what it would be like to be a person of power, an executive, or maybe even the president of the company.
One day as Walter was dividing and sorting the mail, he saw a cockroach in the corner of the room. Disgusted, he walked over to step on it, but a tiny voice cried up to him, "Don't kill me Walter! I'm Milton the cockroach, and if you spare me I will grant you all your wishes."
Well, what was Walter to do? It's not every day you come across a talking cockroach, so to test the ability of his new found friend, Walter wished to leave the mailroom and become vice president of the company. "Do that for me," Walter said, "I will let you live."
When Walter came to work the next day he found himself greeted as "Mr. Vice-President." He had a security clearance, a secretary, a support staff, and a corner office in one of the highest floors of the building. It was exactly as Milton had promised.
This began a meteoric rise for Walter as Milton granted one wish after another until Walter was President and CEO of the largest corporation in the world. Walter often said to himself, "I am Walter, and I am on top of the world. No one is bigger or more important than me."
Then one day Walter heard footsteps, strangely, on the roof of his penthouse office. He went outside and found a small boy on his knees praying. "Are you praying to me?" Walter asked. The little boy answered, "Of course not! I don't even know who you are. I am praying to God." Walter was deeply disturbed by this. He had thought he was at the very top of everything. How could someone -- even God -- be higher than him?
So after a fitful, sleepless night, Walter demanded that Milton the magical, talking cockroach be brought before him once again. Milton quickly appeared, as always. "I have one last wish Milton," Walter said, "and upon granting this wish I set you free for there will be nothing left to ask. I wish to be like God." Milton said, "As you wish." The next day when Walter came to work he was back in the mailroom.
The New Testament teaches us that Jesus slid down from the infinity of heaven, to the lowest rung of the social ladder; the mailroom of the universe. He became a near untouchable; poverty-stricken, always just a step ahead of starvation; born in a barn with a bastard's reputation; hated, condemned unjustly, and crucified as a criminal.
He didn't remain in a faraway heaven, worshipped by angels, insulated from pain and trouble. He didn't remain in a place of holy bliss, not knowing how it hurt to be a human being. At least, he could have come to earth as a king, a president, or as someone of importance and stayed in all the nicest hotels with a wait staff and the finest accommodations.
But no; Jesus emptied himself of all things and "made himself of no reputation," the old English translations of the Bible say, to show the length to which God's love will go, and to show us how to love others. He considered becoming human, loving and serving humanity, to be more important than his comfort and prestige. He chose the mailroom over the penthouse, and to be like God, so must we.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. Learn more at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.