(This is the second part in a series of posts that share how living in Delhi has helped me understand different principles in the Kingdom of God. You can read the first post here: How living in Delhi has made the Kingdom real for me: House Help and Servants, Part I.)
In my other post, I talked mostly about our boundaries (laws) with our staff and it’s relationship to Kingdom truths Jesus talked about in the New Testament. Here are some other ways having domestic help has made the Word and Kingdom come to life for me.
1. Being financially generous with your staff.
During the Diwali it’s customary to give your staff a bonus that’s the equivalent of a month’s salary. But you can give more or less depending on your situation or your staff’s performance. When Michael and I were thinking about how much to give, we decided that for most of our staff we would double their salaries for both Diwali and Christmas.
But when it came to our trash lady, I felt like giving her more than just double her regular month’s salary. She only gets paid a hundred rupees a month (that’s two US dollars every month to come upstairs everyday and haul away our garbage). I felt like it wouldn’t exactly be hurting our pocket books to give her more than just a doubled salary bonus.
But Michael brought up the point that if our driver or chowkidars (guards) found out that we gave the trash lady an amount that was proportionally more than theirs, they might get offended (which was a legitimate concern because they probably would found out about it one way or another). So we had to consider if it was ok to still give our trash lady a little more, even if that meant offending our higher-paid staff.
In the end we agreed that it was worth the risk, and in the process realized we were walking out a real-life version of an example Jesus gives in Matthew:
“For the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of an estate who went out in the morning along with the dawn to hire workmen for his vineyard.
After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour (nine o’clock), he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; And he said to them, You go also into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will pay you. And they went. He went out again about the sixth hour (noon), and the ninth hour (three o’clock) he did the same. And about the eleventh hour (five o’clock) he went out and found still others standing around, and said to them, Why do you stand here idle all day? They answered him, Because nobody has hired us. He told them, You go out into the vineyard also and you will get whatever is just and fair.
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, Call the workmen and pay them their wages, beginning with the last and ending with the first. And those who had been hired at the eleventh hour (five o’clock) came and received a denarius each. Now when the first came, they supposed they would get more, but each of them also received a denarius. And when they received it, they grumbled at the owner of the estate, Saying, These [men] who came last worked no more than an hour, and yet you have made them rank with us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.
But he answered one of them, Friend, I am doing you no injustice. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this man hired last the same as I give to you. Am I not permitted to do what I choose with what is mine? [Or do you begrudge my being generous?] Is your eye evil because I am good? So those who [now] are last will be first [then], and those who [now] are first will be last [then]. For many are called, but few chosen.” (Mt. 20:1-16)
In many ways our driver would be considered first in our lives for all the long hours he works for us. He’s there first thing in the morning and works into the evening until we’re finally done for the day.
Meanwhile, we hardly ever interact with our trash lady and the amount of labor she does for us is very little. She comes by in the morning, picks up the trash and goes. But in many ways she’s worthy of a greater paycheck when you consider what she’s doing for a living and how unsanitary it could be if she never collected the garbage.
“And those [parts] of the body which we consider rather ignoble are [the very parts] which we invest with additional honor, and our unseemly parts and those unsuitable for exposure are treated with seemliness (modesty and decorum) which our more presentable parts do not require.” (1 Cor. 12:23-24)
2. Working only by way of eye-service.
“Servants (slaves), be obedient to those who are your physical masters, having respect for them and eager concern to please them, in singleness of motive and with all your heart, as [service] to Christ [Himself]— Not in the way of eye-service [as if they were watching you] and only to please men, but as servants (slaves) of Christ, doing the will of God heartily and with your whole soul; Rendering service readily with goodwill, as to the Lord and not to men, Knowing that for whatever good anyone does, he will receive his reward from the Lord, whether he is slave or free.” (Eph 6:5-8)
Most of the time when we come home late, we find our chowkidar inside his booth, legs propped up, head laid back on a pillow and snoring. Technically we could have him fired for sleeping on the job, but there isn’t a night-watch in the city who doesn’t fall asleep as soon as he knows his employer won’t be there to catch him.
By contrast, my maid is an incredibly hard worker — regardless if I’m there supervising her or not. Before I hired her, I asked our cultural trainer how many hours a maid usually works. She said a maid should work around eight hours a day, six days a week. When I asked her if she really thought it would take her eight hours everyday to clean our apartment, her response was, “She will find ways to fill the time.” Meaning, she’ll clean a little here and there but mostly piddle around as long as I’m not giving her things to do.
So when I finally hired my maid, I didn’t set specific hours. I simply told her what I expected her to do, and if it took four hours, well then it’s four hours of honest labor and not an eight hour day with four hours of wasting time. She doesn’t just “fill the time.” In fact, much of the time, she goes above and beyond what I ask her to do.
Recently I decided to cut back on how many days she was coming out because it really wasn’t necessary to have her out everyday. I still wanted to pay her the same amount, so when I talked to her about keeping her salary the same even though she would be working less, she started to cry. It reminded me of Paul describing a good servant as one who has an “eager concern to please [their master], in singleness of motive and with all [their] heart.”
For my maid, it’s not just about fooling me into thinking she’s a hard worker. She takes pride in her work and works hard because that is the right thing to do, not just just when I’m looking to impress me.
I wonder though… how often do I maintain the same posture of working earnestly and out of love for Lord, rather than only when I think someone’s watching?
3. Wicked Servants and Forgiveness.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a human king who wished to settle accounts with his attendants. When he began the accounting, one was brought to him who owed him 10,000 talents [probably about $10,000,000], And because he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and his children and everything that he possessed, and payment to be made.So the attendant fell on his knees, begging him, Have patience with me and I will pay you everything. And his master’s heart was moved with compassion, and he released him and forgave him [cancelling] the debt.
But that same attendant, as he went out, found one of his fellow attendants who owed him a hundred denarii [about twenty dollars]; and he caught him by the throat and said, Pay what you owe! So his fellow attendant fell down and begged him earnestly, Give me time, and I will pay you all! But he was unwilling, and he went out and had him put in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow attendants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and told everything that had taken place to their master.
Then his master called him and said to him, You contemptible and wicked attendant! I forgave and cancelled all that [great] debt of yours because you begged me to. And should you not have had pity and mercy on your fellow attendant, as I had pity and mercy on you. And in wrath his master turned him over to the torturers (the jailers), till he should pay all that he owed. So also My heavenly Father will deal with every one of you if you do not freely forgive your brother from your heart his offenses.” (Mt. 18:23-35)
We had a situation with some of our staff once that required our involvement. One morning the chowkidar, U.D., came up and rang the doorbell. I speak very little Hindi and he speaks even less English, so in order for us to communicate I needed my maid to translate. But even with her there, there was still a lot that was either confused or lost in translation.
At the time, this is what I understood: Basically U.D. was concerned that a new driver driver downstairs was going to have him fired for not loaning him money to go buy liquor. He told me that this driver was known for getting other people fired and would try to lie about U.D. to us or the neighbors.
I assumed he was talking about some new driver of our neighbor’s, so I was pretty angry when I heard that that he was not only drinking on the job, but that he was a threatening one of our guards over beer money. Another reason it made me so angry was because, without contacting us or our permission, those same neighbors fired one of our other guards 6 months earlier because he wouldn’t carry their luggage for them upstairs. So I was already not happy with them about that, but the fact that their new driver was harassing another one of our guards set me over the edge.
U.D. continued and said that this new driver would get “shouty” and belligerent towards everyone downstairs in the evenings. And this morning, after supposedly having another one of our chowkidars fired, he brought over a friend of his to replace the other chowkidar.
At the end of this conversation, my heart was torn. I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure this man did not loose his job. It was so upsetting that even my maid was in tears.
So, you can imagine how I felt when I found out he was lying about 90% of the whole thing.
First of all, he wasn’t talking about the neighbor’s driver. He was talking about OUR driver. Secondly, our driver doesn’t drink on the job. Period. He admitted that he does drink at home, but what do I care about that? He’s off work, he can do whatever he wants. Thirdly, he wasn’t even around when the most recent chowkidar was removed from his post, so how could he have lied about him and had him fired? And lastly, the most recent chowkidar was removed from his post because he didn’t show up to work for a month! He abandoned his job — he wasn’t fired! Heck, I wish I could have fired him!
And to top it all off, this same chowkidar who stopped showing up for work FOR A MONTH, also just so happened to be a distant relative of U.D.. So now it’s not about poor defenseless U.D. trying to protect himself from our belligerent and scheming driver — no, it’s much more petty than that! It’s about U.D. wanting to get revenge because he doesn’t like the fact that his distant relative is being replaced. Are we being waited on by a bunch of teenagers or what? Grow up guys!
I was so mad that by the end of all of it, that I seriously debated whether or not to just go ahead and fire U.D. He unnecessarily put our driver’s livelihood and reputation in danger to protect his own interests. If he had simply come to us in honesty, we would have addressed his concerns and the issue could have been resolved right there on the spot.
I’m not saying I experienced a “righteous anger” towards U.D. when I found out he had lied about our driver, but I can still imagine the ferocious anger of the Lord when He’s forgiven us of all the debt we owed Him and we don’t do the same for our fellow man when the debt we are owed is almost inconsequential by comparison.
So we didn’t end up firing U.D. (or throwing him in jail to be beaten, as the parable goes). We forgave him and kept him in our employment. Which meant that he had to sort things out with our driver – and that eventually brought reconciliation between the two of them. Reconciliation can only happen after there’s forgiveness, but it’s one of the most beautiful things a human heart can experience.
We all report to (S)omeone, and we’re all held accountable to that higher authority. In the end, the offense U.D. made was worthy of the same amount of forgiveness as what God showed me — even when the debt I owed God was beyond what I could ever hope to pay. And more than that, this “wicked servant” was able to experience reconciliation with his fellow man and us. “
“But all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself [received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself] and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation [that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him]. It was God [personally present] in Christ, reconciling and restoring the world to favor with Himself, not counting up and holding against [men] their trespasses [but cancelling them], and committing to us the message of reconciliation (of the restoration to favor). So we are Christ’s ambassadors, God making His appeal as it were through us.” (2 Cor 5:18-20)