“Can I help you find something?” These are often the words uttered in your direction almost as soon as you walk into a retail store anywhere in America. While they may seem considerate on the surface, there is often a motivation behind them that is unspoken, which drives them out of the clerk’s mouth, with less consideration as would be expected when their eyes land upon the casual shopper.
This motivation is called commission! That’s right; many retail stores pay their employees based on commission or at least some form of compensation package that includes a component of commission.
Having been employed in the retail industry during my college years, I understand what it is like working on commission. When approached correctly it can be quite lucrative for the employee. However, there are far too many who do not understand the true concept of commission and, at least in the retail realm, have caused it to become a dirty word. In addition, many shoppers have learned that the clerk’s pay is associated with what the shopper purchases and in turn, they have encountered countless over zealous clerks, that they fear the afore mentioned greeting. In fact, they are so disturbed by it that most would prefer to sneak into the store unnoticed, if possible, to do their shopping.
I could now turn the tables on the topic here and refer to the Christian promotion of the Gospel and probably not miss a beat. You see, as Christians, we too work on commission. Jesus has instructed us to: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20 KJV)
Many refer to this and the similar statements made at the end of each of the four Gospels by Jesus as the Great Commission. These statements encourage believers to go share the good news with others, which is a tremendous privilege. However, some have misunderstood this working on commission, as some misunderstand it in the retail world. Therefore, I think we need some clarification about what it means to be working on commission.
The term commission is intricately tied to the idea of providing service. For sales people, they earn a commission when they have provided a valuable service to the customer. Usually, this would be in the form of offering proper recommendations, suggestions, or advice, after they have asked the proper questions upfront or throughout the process.
In fact, most good sales representatives will often meet a need the customer didn’t even realize they had until they have the conversation with the sales rep. In other words, a good sales rep will be able to extract the information they need in such a way that the exchange between the customer and the sales rep is pleasant and enjoyable, not fearful and to be avoided at all costs. This is why the phrase “Can I help you find something?” or something similar is disastrous. If the customer already knows what they are searching for more than likely, they can find it on their own. On the other hand, when the customer doesn’t know what their looking for, then how can the clerk help them find it? What they really need is assistance in determining what is the right thing to be searching for in the first place.
Hence, those who know they have need of God usually don’t need our help to find him since scripture tells us plainly: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you…” (James 4:8 KJV)
Rather, it is our job as Christians to provide a valuable service to those who don’t even recognize yet that they have a need for God. This service isn’t provided by beating someone over the head with a stated proclamation but it comes naturally, as a result of asking the right questions upfront or through the process of developing a relationship, in which we can then offer the proper recommendations, suggestions or advice to meet their specific needs. In most cases, it’s modeling the right attitudes and behaviors first.
Haven’t you ever noticed how well the sales reps in higher end clothing stores are dressed? They most likely are well groomed and dressed to reflect the image of the store and the products they are representing. Why is this? Because, when the customer comes in and sees the well-dressed sales rep, in the back of their minds, they think something sort of like this; “I want to look like that” or “I want what they have.” Consequently, their very appearance can help boost sales without the sales rep ever saying a word.
Therefore, I would like to encourage you as a fellow Christian to acknowledge that yes we are working on commission, simply meaning that we work for God because of our love for Him and thus we offer the best service possible of living the proper life in front of others. However, if you have been approaching working for God as though you were simply trying to ‘ring another one up,’ then I would encourage you to find out more about what serving really entails by reading John Chapter 13. I trust that if love is our true motivator then service becomes a natural outflow rather than a task to be completed.