Minding Your Own Business

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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I was recently having lunch at a fast-food restaurant and happened to watch the busboy clearing and wiping tables. Suddenly he stopped and stared at a glass door across the room. Taking a fresh rag out of his pocket, he walked over and rubbed hard at a nearly invisible smudge on the glass. Then he went back to wiping tables.

I was impressed.

I figured this guy had the lowliest job in the place, but he practically owned the restaurant. That is, he was treating the restaurant as if it were his own, as if he were responsible for every detail looking good and working well. It won’t be long before he’s a manager, I thought. Perhaps he’ll really own the place someday.

By imagining the restaurant his own—what we might call minding his own business—he revealed his personal initiative and drive to those around and above him. He turned a possibly boring, menial job into one with some excitement.

We're all familiar with business owners or CEOs who hurry—to do any small task, no matter how humble, needed by the business. Their minds are occupied with the whole operation, intent upon it—hardly bored.

The busboy reminded me of the young manager of a local restaurant where I occasionally order take-out. This man—no older than five or six others also working the counter and the large, open kitchen—picked up my name from the order slip and greeted me by it the second time I came in. It's no surprise to me that he is manager: this small personal courtesy keeps me returning there. It makes personal an otherwise impersonal transaction, and makes the already excellent sandwiches taste even better.

Jesus said to his disciples, "He who is greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matt. 23:11, RSV). He later demonstrated what he meant by washing their feet, a job usually reserved for servants. Both the busboy and the young manager are servants: serving the customer, serving their fellow workers by their example, serving the owners, and serving themselves as well. Their personal drive and leadership in serving the business will advance their careers.

They will become "great" through serving.

Taking ownership and leadership in what we do should involve taking an even longer view. In our work, we are serving others and ourselves, but ultimately we are serving God and God's plan for the whole creation. If we do everything as for him, the New Testament tells us, we make noble and splendid the most humble task. As George Herbert wrote several hundred years ago in "The Elixir":

"Teach me, my God and King,
In all things thee to see,
And what I do in any thing,
To do it as for thee . . ."
Serving God in our daily work, Herbert continues,
"Makes drudgerie divine:
Who sweeps a room as for thy laws
Makes that and the action fine."