Respecting a Bad Boss – A Biblical Perspective


He [David] said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” (1 Samuel 24:6)(NIV)

It’s the rare person who has not had to deal with a bad boss.  I believe it’s rarer still to not struggle with respecting a bad boss.  We would rather vilify the bad boss, seeing him or her as less than human.  To paraphrase the big bad wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, seeing the boss through these eyes makes it, “easier to hate you with, my dear.”  Vilifying the boss takes you off of the hook for your own performance which may be a contributing factor if you feel as if you’re being picked on.   

But what does the Bible have to say on the topic? As it turns out, plenty.  The Bible does not place a boss in the context that we think of today, but it has a lot to say about the relationship between those in authority and those under authority.  Biblical characters including David have not been immune from bad bosses.  King Saul “employed” David to play the harp for him and David was not in a position to refuse his offer.  We might feel like we’re trapped in a bad employment situation, but we have the choice to leave.  King Saul’s offer to David was really a command.  While your boss may have used harsh language to you I’m betting he or she never threw a spear at you with the intent to kill you!  (1 Samuel 18:10-11)

As a teenager Samuel anointed David become Israel’s next king (1 Samuel 16:1-13).  David’s fame and notoriety grew after his military victories making Saul jealous. (1 Samuel 18:5-8).   David could have seen his anointing and growing influence as a “mandate” wrest the kingdom away from Saul.

Yet David always respected Saul’s God ordained authority even when Saul hunted him down for years as a fugitive.  On one occasion David came upon Saul when he was relieving himself in a cave.  Saul was “exposed” in more ways than one.  David could have easily killed Saul and in fact, David’s men encouraged him to do so. (1 Samuel 24:1-4).  While David did not kill Saul he did cut off the corner of his robe.  Even that act caused David to be conscience-stricken.  Listen to what David tells his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” (1 Samuel 24:6b)(NIV).  Romans 13:1 states all authority comes from God.  Since all authority comes from God, to disrespect your boss is in essence to disrespect God.  David clearly understood this.

David’s respect for Saul extended beyond Saul’s life.  As the king succeeding Saul, David could have discredited predecessor.  Like so many of the modern day politicians, David could have torn Saul down in order to build himself up.  Instead, David sought to preserve Saul legacy by penning a lament to him   and his son Jonathan, David’s best friend.  (2 Samuel 1:17-27).

Why did David treat Saul in this manner?  I believe it was because in part that David understood his destiny.  He knew assuredly that he would be Israel’s next king, and Saul’s ill treatment could do nothing to change that.  While a boss may have authority over you, that authority is not sovereign over you.  That type of authority is God’s alone to wield.

I am not suggesting you intentionally stay in a toxic work environment.  Even during Biblical times when vocational options were limited, the Apostle Paul encouraged slaves who were able to purchase their freedom to do so. (1 Cor. 7:21).   However also know that when it comes to destiny current location has little to do with final destination.  From Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers to Jesus being crucified, a loving God can use even ill-treatment at the hands of others usher in his best for you personally and his people corporately.

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1 comment

  1. Amen. I see this so often. On days where I think I’m being kicked to the bottom, with God as my support, at the end if the day, I seem to rise. Great blog!