Are you one of the 19 million people who tune in each week to the CBS reality series Undercover Boss? If you’re unfamiliar with it, Undercover Boss follows corporate executives who work undercover in entry-level jobs within their organizations. Their goal is to experience first-hand what’s it’s like to walk in their employees’ shoes. At the end of their week-long mission, the executives reveal their true identities, reward their diligent co-workers and provide better working conditions—or sometimes training—to those who need it most.
Undercover Boss has featured executives from Waste Management, United Van Lines, Roto-Rooter and even 1-800-Flowers. They’ve all left their comfortable corporate offices to literally get their hands dirty on the front lines of the working world. And their experiences are often humbling—but they’re also enlightening. 7-Eleven CEO Jo DePinto spent much of his undercover time mopping floors and fouling up the pastry assembly line as a supposed new hire named Danny. Waste Management President Larry O’Donnell picked up truckloads of trash and vacuumed portable toilets. And Michael Rubin, founder and CEO of GSI Commerce, had a quota of boxes to pack every hour.
“I was literally watching [a fellow employee] in front of me and then watching myself, and it was pretty demoralizing,” he reported. “I called my mom after that first day and said, ‘I don’t think I’ll be able to do this tomorrow.’”
A ratings success in the United States, there are also versions of Undercover Boss in Great Britain, Australia, Norway and Germany. It’s entertaining television at its finest. But the show’s premise isn’t particularly new. In fact, the idea is literally as old as the hills.
The Bible tells us that Earth was once a paradise. It had everything and more that Adam and Eve (the first man and woman) could ever want or need. But after they chose to disobey God, they were driven out of the Garden to live existences marked by hardship, disease, pain, disappointment and physical death—the exact opposite of God’s original vision. And ever since, the human experience has been anything but heavenly. Every one of us continues to fall short of God’s high standards in word, thought and deed. It’s a seemingly hopeless situation. And it would be…except that there IS hope.
From the beginning of time, God had a plan to save us from ourselves. Since we could never live the perfect life He demands, He had to do it himself. He became like those Undercover Boss executives who left their comfortable offices to work anonymously with their lowly entry-level employees. Indeed, God left Heaven 2,000 years ago to live with mankind in an obscure outpost of the Roman Empire. And He arrived through the most humble of circumstances—a birth in a filthy stable among common farm animals. This Undercover Boss—our long-awaited Savior—was here. And His name was Jesus: God’s Word in the flesh. And like those unsuspecting employees at 7-Eleven and Waste Management, few recognized Him.
The Apostle John described it this way:
The Word was in the world, and though God made the world through him, yet the world did not recognize him. He came to his own country, but his own people did not receive him. Some, however, did receive him and believed in him; so he gave them the right to become God’s children. They did not become God’s children by natural means, that is, by being born as children of a human father; God himself was their father.
The saying goes that one should never judge another unless they’ve walked a mile in their shoes. As Christ-followers, we worship a loving God Who did just that. He came to earth to live out the human experience with all its pains, joys and everything in between. And He did it perfectly…because we never could.