By Brian G. Bettes
In the United States we are facing yet another presidential election year. As I talk with most people about the election, they are of the same opinion that I am…there are no good leadership choices in this race. The statement I hear most is, “I am being forced to pick between the better of two evils, or pick no one at all.” OUCH! What an indictment on what is supposed to be the greatest leadership experiment in the history of mankind—democracy.
The rest of the world doesn’t look much better. In fact, even with all of its problems the United States still looks like a pretty good place to live compared to most countries where the leadership consists of despots and tyrants who oppress the masses for the sake of greed and power. Even a cursory survey of the political landscape around the world makes one thing very clear. The world is in a leadership crisis! Which then begs the question:
WHAT MAKES A GREAT LEADER?
The Bible is clear on this subject: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked bear rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2). I think we can safely say that the vast majority of people on earth today are not rejoicing in the life their leaders have created for them, but are indeed mourning their circumstances. And the above verse makes clear why; those in authority, our leaders, are not righteous. They are not striving to be righteous themselves, and they are not pointing people to righteousness or its Source. Herein lies the key to a great leader.
Biblical history shows a succession of kings in Israel and Judah that either obeyed God or did not. When the leadership led the people to obey God, the nation was blessed; it prospered, and was able to stand against its enemies. When they did not obey God, things went very badly for them. Ultimately, because of unrighteous leadership, which led to unrighteousness among the people, both Israel and Judah were taken into captivity. We know that history, don’t we? If we don’t, a review of the books of 1st and 2nd Kings and 1st and 2nd Chronicles should bring us up to speed to sufficiently understand the basic history. Several other books in the Bible fill in more details, but these four books cover the basic history of the rule of the kings of Israel and Judah and how they either prospered or declined according to the righteousness (obedience) of the king (leadership).
Great leadership points people to God. But they do not just point to God and talk about how He exists. They direct people to obey Him. They encourage people to look into His Word and follow Him. In the United States, our founding fathers were not perfect men, but they did recognize that God was not only the Source of all the blessings they were afforded, they also recognized that in order for any society to be sustainable, all within it must seek after and follow righteous living.
“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor:” — George Washington1
Our first president understood that acknowledging God’s existence was not enough. He regularly implored his soldiers and the citizens of the United States to obey God and follow the example of Jesus Christ. Our third president also felt the urgency for the whole society to follow the instructions and example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“The practice of morality being necessary for the well-being of society, He [God] has taken care to impress its precepts so indelibly on our hearts that they shall not be effaced by the subtleties of our brain. We all agree in the obligation of the moral principles of Jesus and nowhere will they be found delivered in greater purity than in His discourses.” — Thomas Jefferson2
Even a cursory examination of the writings of the signers of the Declaration of Independence bears witness to each member of the group’s belief that the very foundation of our society, if it was to succeed, was a belief in God and obedience to Him with all urgency! When leaders point to God and uphold righteousness as the way of life, God creates a wholesome environment of peace and joy. When they do not, He curses the leadership, their decisions, the people, their land, and they do not have peace from their enemies. There are too many applicable quotes from the book of Deuteronomy that testify of this to put in a short blog such as this one. I would encourage every reader to go back and carefully read and comprehend the blessings God offers those who obey Him, and the curses for those who do not. It is time well spent!
Finally, let’s take a look at how Jesus Christ, the ultimate Great Leader, rules in His 1000-year reign. His government will be established and it will be a government of everlasting peace (Isaiah 9:6-7). But also take note of how He rules. First and foremost, because the Spirit of God rests upon Him He will have the fear of the Lord. As a result, He will be filled with wisdom, understanding, counsel, might and knowledge (Isaiah 11:2). He delights in the fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:3). He will not judge by what He sees or hears. He will judge with righteousness and equity (Isaiah 11:3-4). Righteousness is a way of life for Him because it is who He is (Isaiah 11:5)
Great leadership flows from obedience to our Father and Elder Brother. The world around us that is suffering of a severe and catastrophic leadership crisis does not understand that yet, but they will soon!
1. George Washington, By the PRESIDENT of the UNITED STATES of America: A Proclamatin. New York, October 3rd, 1789.
2. Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Alberty Ellery Bergh, editor (Washington D.C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XII, p. 315, to James Fishback, September 27, 1809.