A few weeks ago my dad told me about a television show he had seen one Friday night called “Undercover Boss”. The episode he watched had the CEO of Popeye’s Chicken (and Biscuits—we dare not forget the biscuits; those wonderful, buttery, flaky, tasty, heavenly, glorious…biscuits!) disguising herself as a common unemployed laborer searching for work so that she could get an objective, first hand view of how her company was doing on the front lines. She discovered that some stores had outstanding employees, while other franchises stood out for all the wrong reasons. When she returned to her CEO position she rewarded those who had done well and, quite literally, cleaned house in the not so bright spots. Dad’s description piqued my interest and I determined to try and catch a future program. Week after week passed and I would remember long about Sunday night that I was supposed to have looked for the show two days ago. (Please say “Amen!” right now if you’ve ever done something like that…I think I heard you and now feel much better that I’m not alone in my forgetfulness!”) Finally, last Friday night, I was firing on all synapses and tuned in at the right time to catch the latest edition of Undercover Boss.
The show opened by speaking of the company whose CEO would be featured that evening. Much to my dismay, it was The Yankee Candle Company. No offense ladies but smelly (okay—perfumed), colored wax isn’t near as appealing to me as battered, crunchy, juicy, fried chicken! (and biscuits…don’t forget the biscuits!) I felt cheated, but decided to keep watching anyway. The bio of the company revealed that Yankee Candle took in over 700 million dollars a year. Who knew there was that much money in flickering lights? The CEO said that part of the reason he was going undercover on the tv show was so that he could learn more of what it would take to get his company to become the billion dollar producer he knew it could be. After a short profile of his family, the middle aged CEO was turned into a late twenties-early thirty something through the disguise of a curly haired wig and soul patch facial hair. Next, off to the field posing as a recently unemployed chef looking for work in a brand new vocation.
His first stop was Yankee’s flagship store in Massachusetts. Not only did the facility sell the trademark candles, but it had a virtual amusement park like feel replete with displays showing how the candles were made and even allowing children to participate in the process on a small level. The undercover CEO was placed under the tutelage of a young man who helped to run these customer service/entertainment oriented displays. The “trainer” showed the CEO how to operate the machinery and the order of the candle making routine procedures. He then confessed, in language that required a few beeps from television editors, to his “understudy” that he hated his meaningless job, that he sometimes felt like punching unruly eight year olds, and that the only reason he stayed on was that “it was a paycheck.” Having sufficiently ridiculed his job and initiating the fresh meat, the “trainer” unleashed the “trainee” to perform the tasks himself. To the young man’s surprise, this “out of work chef” performed the tasks remarkably well and with an even more remarkably positive attitude for customer service. Rather than rejoice at the success of the newbie, the trainer became upset that someone so green could do so well at the lowly job for which he had such disdain…Over 2,000 years ago the greatest “undercover boss” situation of them all occurred. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as that of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Still, even though He only went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, we esteemed Him not (Acts 10:38; Isaiah 53:2-3). Rather than rejoice in His excellency, we became upset that Someone could live a perfect life. Rather than come to Him for forgiveness of our sinfulness, we held to our unrighteousness and cried out for the only Righteous One who ever lived to be delivered over to crucifixion.
Next stop was a processing plant in the Northeast. The CEO was now going to try his hand at packing the candles into boxes to be shipped all over the country. The trainer for this position was nobler than the first. He had a great concern for quality control and sought to instill this in his “out of work” understudy. The CEO was much happier with the work ethic he found here but was far less successful in performing the more manual labor based duties than he was in the customer service oriented position he was presented with at the first location. The trainer had to step in multiple times to bail out the CEO from his mounting mistakes and lack of speed in packaging candles. Finally, break time came. The cameras kept rolling as the two men talked during their rest bit. During the course of conversation, the trainer revealed to the undercover boss that he came from a very rough upbringing. His mom and dad were both addicts. One of the most poignant memories of his life came at age 12 when gun carrying authorities broke through the front and back doors of his parent’s house, arresting both of them for being drug dealers and thrusting him into a series of foster homes…The third venue found the CEO in Georgia at a store struggling to turn the desired profit margin. The manager at this location was quite industrious and had some great ideas about how to spruce up the store and build up business. She was very proficient and positive as she trained her “out of work” protégé. Break time came again and, as at the last stop, the two began to share personally. It was soon revealed that the manager had a sickness that required expensive and recurring treatments. The hard times she had been through and the sacrifices she and her family had made were enormous…The final assignment for the undercover CEO found him under the leadership of a young assistant manager who taught him how to set up a display at a local store from the direction sheets that came down from corporate. This young man, though a bit quirky, had a pleasant attitude and heart for service that made customers feel comfortable and welcomed. Eventually, break time came and, yet again, the two men began to share from the heart. Come to find out, the young man’s father had passed away a couple of years ago. Times were tough for his mother who was trying to provide for herself and her three younger children. Feeling the weight of being the eldest, he dropped out of college and took the job at Yankee Candle to help take care of his mom and siblings.
Now, I don’t know about your thoughts as you read this, but my thoughts as I watched the program were “where do they get these people from?” Some producer must have set up the CEO to meet these specific individuals to draw ratings by pulling the heartstrings of America. I mean, what is the likelihood that out of all the employees who must work for this huge company that there would be three in a row with such hard luck stories? Where are all the “normal” people?…But then again, what’s “normal”? Go to the local Walmart, McDonald’s, Publix, school house, workplace, or yes, even church, and pick out the first ten people you meet. I could almost guarantee that if you were able to spend some time with them and talk to them on a meaningful level that you would discover some quite remarkable, tear jerking, hair raising biographies. They’ve likely experienced pains, scars, and betrayals from the hands of others that you would find hard to believe and that would make you feel great pity. And, truth be told, they’ve probably dished out their fair share of pain, scars, and betrayals to others that you would find hard to forgive and that would make you feel great disgust for them…I don’t know if the encounters of the CEO were random or staged, but what I do know is that the incarnation of Christ (His taking on the form of man and of a servant—Philippians 2:5-11), all of the ministry encounters with the broken He would have while being in flesh, and all of the life changing miracles done for the unworthy in the present day, are all by divine appointment. Our Lord was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). He knows all about the wounds that have been perpetrated against us as well as those that have been perpetrated by us. He is willing to come to us and listen to us, providing His healing balm and the cleansing of forgiveness.
The show ended by the CEO calling all the employees he had met during his time undercover into his office. He revealed to them his true identity. The first employee who had done less than admirable was confronted and told that he needed to change or look for another line of work. The other three Yankee Candle associates were rewarded for their labors and dedication to the company. They also received thousands of dollars to assist them with the difficult life challenges that had been revealed during the discourses they had with the undercover CEO…One day, we’re all going to get called into the office. All wrongs will be righted, all inequities set straight, and true justice, so elusive in this earthly temporal realm, will be meted out in fullness and holiness. Those who have denied the existence of God though given the evidences of creation and conscience, those who have suppressed the truth of the salvation that’s found in Christ alone due to their own unrighteousness (aka self-righteousness), will stand before the great white judgment throne (Romans 1:18-32; Revelation 20:11-15). They will be judged by the sins they’ve committed, nothing being hidden from the watchful eye of the Almighty. All the gory details of countless transgressions against the law of God, meticulously recorded in heaven’s books, will lead to the only possible conclusion, guilt and eternal judgment. Those who have repented of their sins and trusted in Jesus as Savior, resting only upon God’s grace and mercy toward sinners for their redemption, will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to receive rewards, the greatest of course being the simple fact that they will spend all of eternity beholding and celebrating the person of Christ and the glory of God (Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15)!