Lead for Joy, Not Privilege

This week the blog is sponsored by Desiring God and the post is written by David Mathis.

Become a Patron

It is one of the filthiest lies Satan whispers in the ear of our comfortable and entitled generation. From before we can even remember, we have been indoctrinated with the idea that being “a leader” means prestige and privilege. Why would you settle for anything less? Why follow when you can lead? Leadership means privilege, and no generation has considered itself more entitled to privilege than ours.

As novel and inspiring as it may seem, it’s a very old deception. From the garden to the modern world, the natural, human, sinful way to think about leadership is to be king of the hill — to view leadership as the ascent to honor and comfort, rather than the descent to attend to the needs of others. One of the distinct marks of Satan’s influence in society — evidence that the god of this world is blinding unbelievers en masse — is that leaders lord their leadership over those for whom they are supposed to care.

Not Lording It Over

The voice that calls most clearly for the true path of leadership — leadership as a sacrifice, not a privilege — is Jesus himself. He warned sharply against both the pagan and religious leaders of his day who sought to use their people for their own benefit.

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:25–28; also Mark 10:42–45)

For a follower of Jesus, greatness in leadership is not defined by how many you have beneath you, but how consistently and significantly you are led by the Holy Spirit to take initiative and make personal sacrifices to serve the true needs of others.

And why do Christlike leaders take such initiative at such cost to themselves? According to the apostle Paul, they labor for the joy of those in our charge. “Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith” (2 Corinthians 1:24).

Sacrifice for Joy

Christian leadership is fundamentally about giving, not taking. Christian leaders are not empty, immature individuals looking to prop themselves up with new privileges. Rather, they are those in Christ who have become secure enough, and mature enough, to empty themselves for the good of others.

Mark this, fellow husbands, dads, and pastors, the very essence and heart of leadership is taking initiative we otherwise wouldn’t take and make sacrifices we otherwise wouldn’t make, to guide our people somewhere good they otherwise would not have gone. We are among those who are learning that life’s greatest joys come not in private comfort and ease, but in choosing what is uncomfortable and hard for the sake of others’ joy, and our joy in theirs. Like the Son of Man, we lead not to be served, but to serve. We die to self so that others might live, and in that dying, we find true and lasting life. It is our great joy to be workers for their joy.