Thursday, May 21, 2009

A leader without teeth

How would you like to be asked by God, "Why do you honor your sons more than me?". The priest Eli gets asked this question in 1 Samuel 2. Eli's sons are taking the favored part of sacrifices for themselves and they're making personal prostitutes out of the woman who came to serve in the temple. The people are speaking about their actions, and Eli hears about it. He asks his sons, "Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. No, my sons; the report I hear spreading among the LORD's people is not good" (2:23-24). He gets a +1 for talking about it, but his leadership fails when it comes to imposing consequences. The sons keep on their same course, and there's no recourse by their dad.

He's a leader without teeth, and it ends up costing him dearly. He reveals to God that he loves pleasing his kids more than pleasing God. This continued pattern enrages God, and he says, "The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of the members of your family, so that no one in it will reach old age, and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age. Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life" (2:31-33). Major ouch!

The best leader is also the best servant. As a servant, the leader serves to ensure his flock move in the right direction. It it is not a service to lead them into peril. Serving in leadership can mean making course corrections, and sometimes a course correction requires discipline.I wonder how things would have turned out for Eli if he had the balls to punish his sons.

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