Whenever you’re in a corporation or organization, you have to submit to people higher in rank. You have no choice. Subordination or submissiveness is the only way a system of hierarchy will work. In fact, it’s the only way any organization can work. And hierarchy is how a lot of things work in this world—even if you’re less busy in life.
Even in heaven, there’s a hint of some sort of hierarchy as seen in what Christ said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave,” [Matthew 20.26]
The context clearly is hierarchy. First and last, least and great. In heaven, there are those who are least and those who are great. But definitely, it’s hierarchy or ranking that involves zero servility or slavery. In heaven, you can be greater than others and yet not be better or superior. Greater and yet equal with everyone. Can church be like that? I hope so. God wants his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The bible urges us to submit to the governing authorities, and that’s not just the government. Governing authorities include even the least among your supervisors, and of course, the managers, directors all the way up to the CEO.
And listen to this—you have to be submissive to them even if you feel they’re doing unfair practices and imposing unfair policies—as long as it all goes along company policies and management systems. Yup, a lot of legit company policies are unfair.
But what if they tell you to be dishonest? That’s where you differentiate submissiveness from being servile. The two are not synonymous. I see them more as opposites. Submissiveness pertains to obedience to people above you in rank within the context of legit corporate policies. You obey because you’re part of the company.
Servility is serving the personal wishes of certain individuals for their selfish ends. It is “excessive willingness to serve or please others,” says Google. For instance, if your boss tells you to come to his home on a Sunday to wash his car. That’s unfair and wrong. Your boss can tell you to do things only in a corporate setting. With things personal, he has to “ask” you and you may freely refuse.
I have no problem washing my boss’ car on a weekend. But he has to “ask” me and it should be agreeable with my free time.
You should be a slave to no one. That’s why Christ gives us a hint—be the least so you will be great in God’s eyes and be slave to no one. That’s the whole point.
You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. [1 Corinthians 7.23]
And even in a corporate setting, if your boss tells you to do something dishonest, you should freely refuse. In fact, genuine submissiveness may mean reporting the dishonesty to the higher-ups, even if it means your immediate supervisor’s head is going to roll. That’s submissiveness to the company. If it’s between an individual and the company, submissiveness means you side with the company. Servility means you side with the individual.
If individuals of rank clash at the office and you have to take sides, submissiveness tells you to always side with the company. But servility says you involve yourself in office politics.
The same in church. Your loyalty belongs to Christ and his glorious universal church alone, not to any denomination. Church denominations are just inventions of some smart alecks whose ambition is to set up their own names and empires.
If in any way you refuse to submit and can no longer abide by the rules, policies and system, then you have no business being there. Get out of the company—or the church—and look for another.