How Not to Lead in the Kingdom of God, Part 2

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.”

Luke 22:25

In yesterday’s reflection, we began to consider how not to lead in the kingdom of God. According to Jesus, we should not “lord it over” those over whom we have authority. Today, we’ll focus on the second part of Jesus’ instructions on how not to be a leader.

He says, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different” (22:25). The phrase “yet they are called ‘friends of the people’ ” might be a bit confusing, because it assumes knowledge of what was common in the culture of Jesus. Gentile rulers sought to increase their honor by offering favors and doing good works. They sought to be known as “benefactors” (a translation of the Greek euergetes, which means “doer of good works”). In fact, the Greek of Luke 22:25 might better be translated as in the NIV: “and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors” (22:25). The verb “to call” can have this self-referential sense as well as the passive “are called.”

What is Jesus’ point here? Gentile rulers not only “lord it over” their subjects, but also they seek personal gain in doing so, especially gain in honor. They want to be lauded by the people for their great works. They do not do their good deeds in secret, but rather point to their accomplishments with pride. They fill public spaces with inscriptions praising their glorious deeds.

Those who lead in the kingdom of God “will be different.” Jesus calls us to live and lead well, not for the sake of our own glory, but for the glory of God and the good of others. This is consistent with what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount about doing good deeds: “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get” (Matt. 6:1-2).

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In your actions as a leader, are you seeking your own glory? Do you want to be praised by people? In your leadership, do you hope to enhance your reputation, or are you seeking to serve God and people for their sake?

If you'd like to learn more about Servant Leadership, read The Organizational Advantages of Servant Leadership by Howard E. Butt, Jr.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you for showing me how not to lead as a citizen of your kingdom. It is so tempting to lead in the way of this world, especially when it comes to my motivation. I’d like to be thought of as a “benefactor” or “friend of the people.” I know this isn’t a bad thing, but when it becomes my primary motivation for my actions, then something has gone seriously wrong.

Forgive me, Lord, for the times when my leadership is more for my glory than for yours. Help me to seek first and foremost your kingdom, to do everything for your glory. Teach me to serve you even and especially when I have been entrusted with authority to lead. Amen.