The Bible is filled with examples of great leaders and with lessons on great leadership. And, yet, we still often view and practice leadership in ways that are diametrically opposed to what Scripture teaches.
Blame it on our sin nature. We’re selfish, prideful, and easily attracted to the limelight. So leadership naturally becomes about things like being in charge, getting our way, controlling situations, accomplishing goals, and getting credit.
Jesus had something to say about these types of leaders. In Matthew 23, they are the scribes and the Pharisees who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Jesus looks them squarely in the heart, and here’s what He sees: They want to be noticed and crave seats of honor and respect. They are hypocrites.
After describing these leaders, Jesus makes an interesting statement: “Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:10-12)
When the Bible talks in positive terms about leadership, it describes fathers who take care of their children, women who take care of their families, shepherds who tend to their flock, rulers with gentle hands, strength, courage, faithfulness, humility, love …
It doesn’t describe visionaries who are masters of creating strategy and inspiring the masses to action. It doesn’t describe men or women standing on a stage embracing accolades. It doesn’t describe ruthless kings. Instead, it paints a picture of dependence. It paints a picture, first and foremost, of a follower – someone who has submitted his or her will to God and leads by humbly serving others.
We’re challenged almost daily to become better “leaders” – in our homes, in our jobs, in our churches, in our communities. It’s easy to think the heart of that challenge is to move others to action with our influence. But the real challenge is to take ourselves out of the equation and shepherd others by following the one true leader – Christ. It is His influence, not ours, that really matters.