One of the more popular reality TV series of late is CBS’s Undercover Boss. This engaging program originated in Great Britain but has now found its way into the nightly lineup of many nations, including our own.
This show features typical workplace environments with actual lower level employees performing their daily duties. Unbeknownst to them, a company executive or supervisor disguises him or herself and arrives on the job as an entry level worker. To explain all the cameras and crew, the ruse involves an excuse about a supposed documentary being filmed in their job field.
Obvious drama develops as the uninformed employees talk openly about upper management, steal from the company, or slouch on the job. In other instances, some defend company policies and leadership, and are caught on camera going above and beyond expectations. While this expose is very entertaining to viewers, it is even more insightful for the bosses who learn much about their workers and the labor they perform.
The climax arrives when the unsuspecting employees are called into the office and discover they were working beside their bosses all week. Some are rewarded for their integrity and dependability, while others are reprimanded or given additional training to help them perform well. Imagine the relief of those who acted honorably. Imagine also the regret of those who didn’t. If only they had known who this “new employee” was, they would have acted much differently. Perhaps.
This sixty minute distraction can be a powerful reminder to us of our own realities. Although we may never encounter camera crews or be broadcast nationwide, we should all be aware of our Undercover Master. In Matthew 25, Jesus describes a scene from our approaching judgment day when all humanity will be separated into two groups. The one, which He calls sheep, will enjoy everlasting glory while the others, called goats, will be sentenced to eternal suffering.
We may cringe at such a scenario for it disrupts our comfortable lives, but Jesus shared it very forthrightly as a warning to all that He does and will appear from time to time in disguise. He indicated that He would occasionally show up as a hungry, thirsty, naked stranger or as a sick prisoner, and that those who helped Him would be honored while those who didn’t would be punished. Elsewhere the Bible tells us that camouflage angels sometimes appear in our midst as well.
Jesus tells His story in the future tense as though it will definitely happen and not as a parable. He emphasizes that, like the workers in the television show, neither the sheep nor the goats had a clue that they were actually helping or ignoring God in the flesh. Imagine the horrible regret of realizing too late that we neglected to care for the One who controls our eternal destiny.
Certainly when Jesus first came, many failed to recognize His true identity which explains why they banished His pregnant mother to a stable, tried to push Him off a cliff, and eventually nailed His innocent body on a cross. Sadly, they missed the hour of God’s visitation in their midst.
Even today, you may encounter the Living God in the form of some needy person. They will look very different than the paintings of Jesus and they may smell much worse than He did when He was anointed with perfume. They may actually offend you with their language, their tattoos or their immodest dress, but look beyond their disguises to see Jesus. See them as human beings who need love, compassion, and care. And do for them what you will wish one day you had done for Him.
Many churches, Christians, and organizations are caring for Jesus in disguise by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, healing the sick, and visiting the incarcerated. It is God’s will that every one of us be engaged in this work somehow. If you’re not already, find a ministry and start helping.
Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 25 must be understood in the context of His ministry. Sheep act like sheep because they’re sheep. If we’re going to do sheep deeds, we need to leave our goat-hood behind and become sheep by receiving the heart-changing salvation of the Good Shepherd. But if we’ve done that, then we each have the opportunity and the responsibility to live as He did and to help those around us who are struggling. After all, one of them may be our Undercover Boss.