Aretha Franklin sang about it: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me.” In some cultures it is shown in how you greet a person by words or by gestures. We have our own ways of showing respect, or even asking for respect.
According to Joe Flacco, quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens and Super Bowl MVP, respect means signing the richest contract in NFL history. (See the article here – http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9015523/joe-flacco-baltimore-ravens-says-feels-respected-new-deal). Flacco could have signed a contract in the previous season which would have paid him well, but much less guaranteed money. Some say that timing is everything. All I can say is, good for him.
I am a free market guy, and I really never begrudge people getting paid what they can get, even if sometimes we might question the worth. For example, everyone complains when corporate CEOs make large salaries and bonuses while the average worker struggles along. But there is some hypocrisy here: first off, I can choose to improve myself and seek a better job paying more money; secondly, my favorite artist or athlete pulls in the big bucks and I am OK with that as long as he or she performs and my team wins. Isn’t it the same in Business? When the government set lower-than-market wages for the businesses it bailed out during the financial crisis (capping CEO pay at a measly $500,000), those positions went unfilled because people knew that they could make more money in the free market. Is that wrong? If it is available to us to improve our status in life, this capitalist system allows us to do that. It is not up to a small group of elites to determine who gets the rewards. But does money or status equate with worth, and respect?
Does being paid lots of money really earn respect? Joe Flacco said this: “"It wasn’t necessarily about the money. It was, at that point, about earning that respect and feeling like I was respected around here.” (cited from the same article noted above). Really? I wasn’t respected by my own organization – is that the message? Does a huge contract mean that the guys in the locker room will now respect me more? I think this is a slippery slope. After all, once the playing days are over, or you are hurt and finished with sports, and you choose to pursue other things in life, will the money again be the means of earning respect? What will the measure of “earning respect” be then? What will his reward be then?
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me.” Well now we know what it means for Joe Flacco. What about you? Here is another one of those “fans vs. followers” dilemmas. So I might say, “Wow, I am a boss, or I work at a prestigious organization.” Is that how I earn respect? Believe me that will never be enough. Someone will always make more money, publish more books, lead more people, seemingly accomplish more in this life than I may ever achieve. It is hard to even acknowledge that I lived like this at one time. “Look at what I have accomplished; look at who I know; look at me.” Ugh! I run into folks all the time who are enamored with the fact that I am a degreed doctor, and certainly a title can mean achievement worthy of respect. But fortunately I have a wife and I have a mirror, and I know who that person is that I see every morning. I have to earn respect in serving others each and every day, because I am responsible to Christ Jesus my Lord to live a life of obedience by faith in Him every day, not simply to fill a role at my job (John 14:15).
The Bible says that our reward will be based on our obedience following Christ (Luke 11:28 NLT). And yet there are still times when in serving Christ I may think that I have suffered greatly for Him, and that will earn me some credit or some honor before His throne. Yet look at Jesus’s comments in Luke 17 about obedience. The servants in this story reply this way: “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done” (Luke 17:10b NASB). When we have done as we are commanded to do, when we have served to our full measure of ability, we are still unworthy of the grace and mercy that we have received.
This is a truly humbling thought about earning respect for work accomplished. But that is the servant’s role in this life. Until this moment, when we close our eyes here on earth and stand in the presence of Jesus: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21 NASB). Wow! To have the Son of God acknowledge that I have met His expectations! If the meaning of the word “Respect” is, “the quality or state of being esteemed” (retrieved today from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/respect); then these words from the lips of my Savior count as greater than anything else I may have tried to accomplish. I have earned the very respect of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20 NASB). Yes, Joe Flacco, timing is everything; and even with that terrific contract you still have time to earn this type of respect.