He may well be the youngest leader the Bible records. In 2 Kings 11 it tells the amazing story of a queen killing all the royal family to gain control of the throne when her son, the king, died. Only one small infant was secretly saved—Joash. And when he was only 7 years old, he was pronounced king of Judah. Imagine it—leader of a whole nation at the tender age of 7. The Bible tells us he did what was right in God’s eyes while he was young (2 Kings 12:1-2 2 Kings 12:1-2 1 In the seventh year of Jehu Jehoash began to reign; and forty years reigned he in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Zibiah of Beersheba.
2 And Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the LORD all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him.
American King James Version×)—in contrast to many of his ancestors.
Today leaders are everywhere. There are world, national and local government leaders. There are moral leaders, school leaders, classroom leaders, leaders of sports teams and even gang leaders. Who are the leaders you look up to? We hope they’re godly leaders. Who are the leaders in your personal life? Do you think you could ever be like them? What does it take to be a leader? Most positions of government have age requirements, but is there a certain age you have to attain before you can be a godly leader in daily life?
We tend to have some misconceptions about leaders, starting early in life. In school, peers who are leaders in the classroom are often the outspoken, funny, good-looking or charismatic type of people. The leaders on sports teams are usually among the most talented and, again, are often handsome or pretty. If we don’t have those qualities (or don’t think we have them), we tend to believe that we’re not leaders and will probably never be one. Is this accurate?
It is true that in some situations certain talents or other skills are required. Would anyone on a basketball team think of taking direction from someone who has never played the sport and has no skill at all? Life, however, is much more than sports—or any other single aspect of life. And to be a leader in daily life does not require physical skill, beauty, charisma, an exceptional personality or even a set physical age. From God’s perspective, all it requires is the ability to understand His way and the courage to live it.
Notice Jesus Christ’s comment about some of the spiritual leaders in the first century. In Matthew 15:1 Matthew 15:1Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
American King James Version×the scribes and Pharisees asked Him why His disciples didn’t follow the traditions of the day in doing elaborate ceremonial hand washings before eating. Christ pointed out that their traditions sometimes contradicted God’s laws. When the disciples pointed out that His answer angered the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus said, “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matthew 15:14 Matthew 15:14Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
American King James Version×). So from God’s perspective, it’s clear that not everyone who leads is leading in the right direction.
When His followers came to be taught by Him, Christ said they were the light of the world (Matthew 5:14 Matthew 5:14You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
American King James Version×). He went on to say that lights are not covered to hide their light, but put on a stand so the light will be visible (verse 15). Continuing, Jesus said by living the right way of life, we let our light shine—something that should eventually cause people to notice and give glory to God (verse 16). Paul elaborated on that thought in his letter to the church at Philippi, saying we should work to be blameless and harmless in the midst of a crooked world so we will shine as lights (Philippians 2:15 Philippians 2:15That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the middle of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world;
American King James Version×).
There is no age limit in these instructions. In fact, the Bible records a number of examples of young people who lived up to those words and thereby became godly leaders. Timothy was encouraged to continue following the Holy Scriptures which he had known and followed since childhood (2 Timothy 3:14-15 2 Timothy 3:14-15 14 But continue you in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing of whom you have learned them;
15 And that from a child you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×). He became an evangelist who led and taught many Christians in the early New Testament Church.
The Old Testament tells of many individuals who were good leaders from an early age. David was the youngest of eight sons when he was ordained king of Israel. Interestingly, the Hebrew for “youngest” in 1 Samuel 16:11 1 Samuel 16:11And Samuel said to Jesse, Are here all your children? And he said, There remains yet the youngest, and, behold, he keeps the sheep. And Samuel said to Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come here.
American King James Version×can also be translated as “smallest.” So age and size do not matter in God’s eyes. He does not look on size or appearance like we humans do (1 Samuel 16:7 1 Samuel 16:7But the LORD said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.
American King James Version×).
The good king Josiah was only 8 when he began to reign (2 Kings 22) and he restored the right worship of God in the nation—despite the fact that his whole family, including his grandfather and father before him, was steeped in pagan worship and denounced as leading Judah farther into paganism.
I have always been inspired by the story of Daniel and his three friends who were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. They were taken to Babylon along with other young men to be trained for service to the Babylonian king. Daniel 1 tells the story of how they withstood the pressures to just “go along” with the food they were given by the king’s servants.
It was tough and required a lot of courage on their part. As far as they knew, they could have been killed for their request. They were determined, though, not to defile themselves with things they knew God didn’t approve.
Consider that they were not important leaders at the time—they were captive slaves, basically. They did not give any outstanding public oratory in their request, but just tactfully brought it up to those who were over them. Yet they set a powerful example of leadership by doing what was right even when it was not popular or considered advantageous. I have no doubt that their courage and strength of character in doing what was right was a factor in the king’s later decision to place them in high administrative positions of civil leadership.
What conclusions do we draw from these biblical examples? Are they only ancient stories resting forever in the pages of history? If not, what are some important lessons we can learn about being a leader that apply to us today?
Obviously we learn that to be a godly leader, one does not have to be very old. We also learn that positive direction from your family can certainly be helpful, but is not a requirement. A person can be a leader even with no family around to give support. Daniel and his friends were isolated, probably at the palace of the king, away from their family members (if they were still alive).
Sometimes we think of leadership as a vocal position. We might think of powerful, moving speeches that inspire followers and urge them on to new heights. We can erroneously conclude that if a person is not an outgoing, vivacious, engaging speaker, he or she cannot be a strong and influential leader. The story of Daniel and his friends shows that is not true. As we saw earlier in Matthew 5:16 Matthew 5:16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
American King James Version×, Jesus focused on the actions of Christians as the quality that would cause people to notice leaders of the right way of life.
You may not be in a position to become a great political leader, but that doesn’t mean you cannot lead—no matter what your age. And you, like many people, may be terrified of the thought of giving public speeches. Your family may or may not be a good influence on you in steering you toward the right choices in life. All of those factors are not prerequisites for being a leader. All it takes is the courage to do what is right, believing and trusting God to take care of you and ultimately reward you for making the right choices. If you have and use those qualities, you will be a godly leader regardless of your age. YU