Human one, prophesy against Israel’s shepherds. Prophesy and say to them, The LORD God proclaims to the shepherds: Doom to Israel’s shepherds who tended themselves! Shouldn’t shepherds tend the flock? You drink the milk, you wear the wool, and you slaughter the fat animals, but you don’t tend the flock. (CEB)
Today's news is full of stories of leaders who care more about themselves than about the people or institutions they lead. They seek their own power, glory, security, and riches rather than the good of those who entrusted them with authority. Often, they seem to make off like bandits even when those they have led suffer or companies they have guided fail.
Stories of such self-serving leaders may make news today, but they are not especially new. More than 2,500 years ago, through the prophet Ezekiel, God rebuked the leaders of Israel for caring about themselves rather than the people they led. Using the imagery of shepherding, the Lord accused the "shepherds" of Israel of tending themselves rather than their "flock" (34:2-3). They took advantage of the people in their charge in order to benefit personally. "You don't strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strays, or seek out the lost," God said. Rather, "you use force to rule them with injustice" (34:4). For this reason, the Lord would soon remove the leaders of Israel, rescuing his people from their self-serving corruption.
Ezekiel 34 challenges those of us who have been granted authority or influence to consider our intentions and practices. Are we truly seeking to serve those whom we lead? Or is our leadership really motivated by self-interest? Do we ever choose that which is best for the organization we lead even if it is not the best for us personally? Or are we always secretly calculating what will benefit us the most?
Perhaps today's reflection will give you the opportunity to make an honest inventory of your own leadership. Ask the Lord to help you see what is true about you, so that you might serve him and others faithfully.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are you ever tempted to use your position or authority primarily for personal gain? What helps you to focus on serving the Lord by serving others?
PRAYER: God of justice and compassion, you have given me opportunities to lead in my workplace, in my family, in my church, and in other settings as well. For this I thank you. Today, I am struck by how tempting it is to seek my own advantage when I am a leader. I don't want to be like the "shepherds" of Israel. I want to honor you by faithfully exercising leadership for the benefit of those I lead as well as for your kingdom.
Help me, I pray, to see myself and my motivations clearly. Keep me from self-deception about my own nobility. Convict me when I am preoccupied with myself and my own good. Use me to improve the lot of those I serve as well as to advance your purposes on earth. Amen.
A Reminder from Mark: If you're looking for an opportunity to grow in your faith this summer, if you'd like to be refreshed in a place of stunning natural beauty, if you'd like to enjoy great food and good friends, let me remind you that several of the Laity Lodge retreats are still open for registration. I'd encourage you to check out the Laity Lodge website. Also, as I've mentioned before, I am pleased to be speaking at Laity Lodge this summer along with Jackie Roese, an outstanding Bible teacher. We'll be focusing on the theme: "Get Found: Moving Out of Hiding into Community." The musician for this retreat will be Sara Groves. This retreat begins in the evening of Thursday, June 28, ending at noon on Sunday, July 1. I'd love to see you at "the Lodge" this summer.