The instruction given by idols is no better than wood! They are the work of the artisan and of the hands of the goldsmith; their clothing is blue and purple; they are all the product of skilled workers. But the Lord is the true God. – Jeremiah 10:8-10 excerpts (NRSV)
“I’m sorry. That’s against our policy.”
These were the magic words I learned on the first day of a customer service job. Whatever the problem was, I could invoke company policy, and the argument was basically over.
“My hands are tied. There’s nothing I can do. It’s policy.”
Of course, the truth was that I could solve most problems in just a few keystrokes. And if a customer asked for the manager, she would listen understandingly to their story and send them back to me to do just that.
But in the meantime, I knew my line. No matter how reasonable their request. No matter how unjust my refusal. it was policy.
Policies are something we create and then pretend they have power over us. There’s a Bible word for that: idolatry.
Jeremiah points up the distinction. Idols “are all the product of skilled workers. But the Lord is the true God.” Idols are the gods we make, but the God who makes us is the one with real power.
Bad news for my customer service career.
If policies were the true God, I could follow them blindly and not have to ask the thornier questions of right and wrong. But God is the true God. So when policies conflict with, say, love or justice, I’ve got a choice to make.
Who will I serve?
True God, instruct me in your policies, that I might do my work today with integrity.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.