KEY SCRIPTURE 1 Kings 12:6-8 And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people? And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever. But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him:
RELEVANCE Most Christians have heard of the servant-leader principle, which promotes the thought that if you want people to follow you, shepherd them, consider them, and love them. Many individuals, businesses, trainers, and preachers have run seminars, camps and organisations based solely on that concept.
Preachers use Jesus Christ to best describe and portray servant leadership. In biblical references to Jesus, He was always the hardest worker, although not appearing to be, even as a twelve-year-old missing from his parents. Jesus was King, but also a voluntary servant, constantly feeding people aspects of His Father's Kingdom through words or power.
But did the principle begin with Jesus?
Our key scripture shows this fundamental leadership guideline embedded in the royal handovers of Israel, from king to king.
King Solomon, Israel's second king after David, appointed his son Rehoboam to replace him upon his death. King Solomon's advisors came with the royal handover package, as old and experienced wisdom is vital in succession planning, particularly for ruling God's nation.
But it was under King Rehoboam that the nation of Israel split into two groups, as the vast percentage of followers rebelled under another rising leader Jeroboam, who led them into gross sin. King Rehoboam was going to extract greater taxes from the people than his father, ruling brutally if needed. Rebellion hit Israel, Dismissing that wise advice cost him ten tribes, or 83% of his people. Financially, this also means 83% of his taxes.
In that one pivotal decision to reject wisdom, King Rehoboam's national borders and power shrunk by 5/6ths.
Despite the loss, a selfish king still expects the same lavish lifestyle for himself and his family. Although there was a massive reduction in collective revenue, he still extracted huge taxes from the people who remained with him, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. He compelled that final 17% to support his eighteen wives and sixty concubines who bore him twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters.
Maybe Solomon should have spent more time with this son before choosing him. But then again, Solomon served his 1000 wives and concubines more than the people for much of his life. And this is what Rehoboam saw.
The servant-king principle is perverse to the wrong king.
Why does this apply to us?
We must decide how to lead people in our family, church, work or sports field. King Rehoboam fulfilled Proverb 14:12, There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. He brought death to his nation—one group divorcing the other—death to the heart of those who remained, death to national trust in God, and death to his defensive capabilities as he syphoned off that money to meet his personal needs.
We can rule our patch like a tyrant and lose family, friends and others, or be the hardest worker, like Jesus, constantly feeding our flocks and friends the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. It is in this gentle manner we fulfil Deuteronomy 6:6-7 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
When the servant-leader principle is ingrained in our hearts, it will help us lead gently and Christlike, but by refusing its entry, we set ourselves up to lose, as did King Rehoboam.
PRAYER Dear Lord, I have found myself using both ways of leading, but I only want to lead as Jesus did. Please show me the arrogance I still have and help me repent and discard it.
Photo by Markus Spiske