Leadership: A Biblical Perspective

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A Biblical Perspective

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What does God look for in a leader? Does He expect certain standards and behavior in a person chosen for a role of leadership and service to others?

At a time many Americans are asking themselves what behavior they should expect from their president, and the holder of that office is frequently heard quoting the Bible, perhaps we should examine what God expects of a leader.

The Bible is clear that God expects one put in a position of responsibility to meet certain qualifications. This is first brought out when God began working with the Israelites after their exodus from Egypt. God was working with a nation of former slaves, shaping and molding them into a new nation. Where would He begin?

One problem quickly became apparent. Since the people brought their questions, problems and disputes to Moses, the decision-making process quickly became a bottleneck and ground to a halt. The solution? Share the load by delegating authority to capable leaders.

By what criteria were leaders to be chosen? Moses was advised to "select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness ..." (Exodus 18:21).

With a core leadership of able, God-fearing, truthful, unselfish men, the new nation would build a firm foundation. Moses solved his immediate problem and gave his people a sound start on nationhood.

Through the apostle Paul, God enumerated requirements for positions of leadership and service within His Church. Consider the standards, listed below, that Paul gave to his fellow minister Timothy for choosing such leaders:

"... The presiding elder must have an impeccable character. Husband of one wife, he must be temperate, discreet and courteous, hospitable and a good teacher; not a heavy drinker, nor hot-tempered, but gentle and peaceable, not avaricious, a man who manages his own household well and brings his children up to obey him and be well-behaved: how can any man who does not understand how to manage his own household take care of the Church of God? ... It is also necessary that he be held in good repute by outsiders, so that he never falls into disrepute and into the devil's trap.

"Similarly, deacons must be respectable, not double tongued, moderate in the amount of wine they drink and with no squalid greed for money ... They are first to be examined, and admitted to serve as deacons only if there is nothing against them" (1 Timothy 3:1-10, New Jerusalem Bible).

Titus 1:7-8 adds: "The presiding elder has to be irreproachable since he is God's representative; never arrogant or hot-tempered, nor a heavy drinker or violent, nor avaricious; but hospitable and a lover of goodness; sensible, upright, devout and self-controlled ..." (New Jerusalem Bible).

We should ask ourselves: If these are minimum qualifications for overseers of a small congregation of believers, what should we expect from those who oversee states and nations?

Those who excuse the president's admitted peccadilloes fail to note that any schoolteacher or principal, university professor or supervisor in private business would likely be immediately fired for such conduct. Military officers would be discharged, court-martialed or imprisoned—and many have been—for actions many are willing to tolerate in the nation's commander in chief. Many Americans don't seem to appreciate the irony that they hold the presidency to lower standards than any of these jobs.

Moses and Paul understood that leadership requires moral authority to be credible. If one is to accept advice, decisions and instructions from leaders, one must have confidence in the core values and moral foundation behind their words. GN