When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.

—Proverbs 29:2

This great proverb is often and rightfully viewed through the lens of the importance of appointing godly and righteous leaders, especially when we have the opportunity to vote them into office. But I want to look at this proverb from another direction, as a sort of a litmus test for those already in leadership.

Being a leader in any capacity is a God-ordained privilege, and we could well say the test of leadership is in the response of the followers. If you are an employer, what do your employees think of you? Are you a pleasure to work for and a cause of rejoicing, or does your name bring a groan from those who work under you? Now I am not so naïve as to fail to recognize that your position in and of itself is going to bring out animosity in some people, no matter what you do.

But the real question is, do those who work under your leadership or those who serve under you in ministry consider it a joy or a source of groaning? It is important to remember that the book of Proverbs is descriptive and not prescriptive; it is Solomon’s observations regarding life. And, as he says, when the behavior of bosses or leaders is righteous, the people called to serve under them generally do so with rejoicing. This is because the righteous leader is fair and honest and treats people with respect and dignity. If God has blessed you with the privilege of leadership, to borrow a colloquialism of the day, “How you doin’ with that?” Are you a joy to serve with or work for?

Even in ministry, it is so easy to get sucked into the power of position. I often find the cliques that form at pastors’ conferences and events very saddening. The “big guys” stick together, and most of the groups are based on church size or pastor popularity. I have to say, it is so refreshing to meet a “big guy” who is just one of the guys. These men stick out from the crowd and stand head and shoulders above anyone else blessed with a large flock. It also makes me believe that those who serve with them do so with rejoicing.

Again I say this as an exhortation to us all, to those called to lead and to those who follow: don’t groan without reason as an employee, and don’t be a cause of groaning as an employer or ministry head. I have to imagine that serving Jesus was a great joy for eleven of Jesus’ twelve disciples (with Judas as the lone groaner in the midst). I have to believe there was much laughter as the Creator of all things interacted with those He had created. The example cannot get any higher than God in human flesh and how He led His flock of twelve.

So take the test, leaders, recognizing you will always have the antiestablishment crowd with you at some level. But also listen to those who work or serve under your leadership; you’ll find out more about yourself there than anywhere else if you are willing. Lead like Jesus is all you need to do!

Excerpt from “Body Builders” now available on Amazon.

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Barry Stagner