What does the word control mean to you? If you are in finance it
probably means checks and balances and budgeting controls. If
you are a teacher it may mean keeping peace in the classroom.
Managers are often encouraged to think about taking control of
themselves and their careers.
Whatever field of work you are in, you will have come up against
this idea of control. But how much do we control and how much
should we try to be in control? Psychologists talk of a concept
called locus of control. Some people see the world as controlling
them and are described as having an external locus of control.
Others have a sense that they can control their own destiny and
are described as having an internal locus of control. Those with
an internal locus of control are said to be healthier, less stressed
and better at their work.
But are we designed to be in control? Christianity is full of
paradoxes. One of them is this: that real freedom is found in
slavery. The paradox is found in two great Christian statements.
“If the Son shall set you free,” says Jesus, “you shall be free indeed.”
Jesus quite clearly came to bring freedom on a level that no one
had thought possible. Yet the most common description of him
in the early church (and the second statement) was ‘The Lord’.
He brings freedom by taking control of our lives. Nobody likes to
work with a ‘control freak’; they leave you feeling manipulated,
used or cheated. But somehow when Jesus takes control, there is
a perfect freedom. An obsession with taking control – which
characterises so many working practices – misses one vital truth:
that human beings are designed to be servants – servants of God.
When we see ourselves as servants we discover that service
brings freedom. Christ within us gives us an internal locus of
We become like him who himself became a Servant. We also
discover the suffering and high rewards of servant-hood. We
understand the meaning of being a king and being a servant at the
When you see your work as service and yourself as a servant,
you will lose the desire to be a control freak. Ironically you will
find your work becomes your worship and you feel more in
control than ever you did before. Try to save your life and you
will lose it; lay it down and you gain it. There are those
1If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any
comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and
compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the
same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish
ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than
yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also
to the interests of others.
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death–
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
34Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.
35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it
forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
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