Jul 22, 2022
The power of leadership is a privilege intended by God for good, however, it has led many family, spiritual, and political leaders into corruption, infamy, and disgrace. A perspective of stewardship, rather than ownership helps one better navigate the inherent dangers of power.
The home, church, and state are not man’s inventions. They are, instead, divine institutions with divine missions to pursue and achieve. The home is for procreation and the instilling of such virtues as faith, fairness, and an appreciation for the principle of reward through effort. In the following quote, God expresses confidence in Abraham’s commitment to his leadership objective as a father. “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just…” (Gen. 18:19 NIV). The church too, exists with a mandate to proclaim God’s truth. It must show no fear or favoritism in its denunciation of unrighteousness wherever it may reside. In the second letter to the Evangelist Timothy, a leader in the church at Ephesus, Paul spoke eloquently of his divine mission and mindset in the following words: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2 NIV). Also, Paul hinted at God’s purpose for civil government when he urged the church in Ephesus to pray for those in authority. Notice the aim of those prayers for political leaders in the following citation. “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:1, 2 NIV). Political leaders are to so promote equity and justice, that peace and godliness are byproducts of their rule.
The preceding passages, though not exhaustive, nonetheless highlight God’s purposes for leadership in the home, church, and government. They paint a picture of leadership as stewardship - not ownership. The false prism of ownership distorts one’s vision of his role; it leads to arrogance and a lack of transparency, the perfect conditions for corruption and misconduct. A good steward knows that the power he holds is a deposit from God, the only real owner of power. He also knows that this deposit is temporary and granted to him to pursue the real owner’s interest. As such, he is not interested in holding on to power beyond the divine tenure. If one’s leadership is authentic, he feels no need to resort to dishonesty, victimization, or bullying to keep himself in authority, when God’s time for him in that role has expired. Hence, a good steward strives to make faithfulness the major principle of his leadership, knowing that eventually he must give an account of his stewardship (Luke 16:2). Leaders who ignore these principles deceive themselves into thinking they will escape judgement, and are poor students of history and the Holy Scriptures.
Scripture is replete with descriptive and prescriptive material from which those who have received the privilege of leadership should learn. For example, Eli was prominent as a priest, but he failed in his stewardship as a father, being complicit in the delinquency of his sons. The prophet charged him with the serious error of honoring his sons above God (I Sam. 2:27 - 29). Samuel also, though a prophet, priest, and judge, he repeated the error of Eli, his mentor. A sad epitaph is written of his sons in the following quotation. “But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice” (1 Sam. 8:3 NIV). In the following passage, God’s condemnation of corrupt religious leaders in Jeremiah’s day is hard to miss. "Both prophet and priest are godless; even in my temple I find their wickedness, declares the Lord” (Jer. 23:11 NIV). Near the end of Moses’ ministry as leader of Israel, he offered timeless counsel to future leaders in the following words: “Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous” (Deut. 16:19). In the New Testament also, the principle of transparency in governance is well articulated in Paul’s words to the church at Corinth. “We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men” (2 Cor. 8:20-21 NIV).
No human being is perfect, but it behooves those in leadership to be constantly striving for perfection. Such leaders do not demonize those who hold them to high standards of transparency and accountability, but are grateful for their role in making them better leaders. Thankfully, God is not only a God of justice but also one of mercy. He maintains a posture that welcomes prodigals and receives the penitent. His words to Nebuchadnezzar in ancient times in the following passage, are also words to leaders in the modern era. “Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue" (Dan. 4:27 NIV).