Summary: Just what do we look for in a godly leader?
“A Nation Under God: Godly Leadership”
Jer. 22:1-5, 11-17
If the character of our government is to be good, we must put good characters in office. Abigail Adams, wife of the second president of the United States, wrote her husband a letter in which she made the following observation: “[A] true patriot must be a religious man. I have been led to think…that he who neglects his duty to his Maker may well be expected to be deficient and insincere in his duty towards the public. Even suppose him to possess a large share of what is called honor and public spirit, yet do not these men, by their bad example, by a loose, immoral conduct, corrupt the minds of youth and vitiate the morals of the age and thus injure the public more than they can compensate by…generosity and honor?” Unfortunately, as President Rutherford B. Hayes once said, “Nothing brings out the lower traits of human nature like office seeking.” That’s one of the reasons decisions regarding who to vote for can be so difficult. Just what do we look for in a godly leader?
First, a godly leader has a DEDICATION TO RIGHTEOUSNESS. Jer. 22:3 – “This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right.” As Proverbs 16:12 puts it, “Kings detest wrongdoing, for a throne is established through righteousness.” Godly leaders HAVE A HEART FOR GOD AND HIS WAYS. They value and pursue righteousness, striving to do what is right by God’s standards. They choose daily to cooperate with God. There’s some interesting insight in 1 Sam. 8. The Israelites went to Samuel and said they wanted to have a king “such as all the other nations have.” Through Samuel God warned them that if they got a king like other nations they would become like other nations and stop following God’s standards. Verse 18: God said, “’When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the Lord will not answer you in that day.’ But the people refused to listen… ‘We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations…’” God was making it clear that unless the leader has a heart for God, the people will not have a heart for God.
This dedication involves A COMMITMENT TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT. Consider David. Twice he had opportunity to capture and kill King Saul – and who could blame him? Saul was unjustly pursuing David. But David knew that doing so was not right by God’s standards and so he refused to do so. He knew he was accountable to God. Leaders of nations are ultimately accountable not to the electorate, the lobbyists, or the campaign contributors, but to God. A. W. Tozer stated, “... there can be no tolerance of evil, no laughing off the things that God hates."
Remember Daniel – he was told to eat what the king served but (1:8) “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.” Godly leaders must act on godly principles. When godly principles cease to matter then religion, truth, honesty, and integrity begin to disappear.
Godly leaders must also have an ATTITUDE OF SERVITUDE. Jer. 22:13-17 – “Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his countrymen work for nothing, not paying them for their labor. He says, ‘I will build myself a great palace with spacious upper rooms.’ So he makes large windows in it, panels it with cedar and decorates it in red. “Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well.
Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the LORD. “But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.” Godly leaders see POWER AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE, NOT TO SEEK PERSONAL GAIN. Godly leadership must be for the benefit of the followers not the enrichment of the leader.
John Maxwell has put the contrast between godly and ungodly leadership very well. Godly leadership pursues love and service to others rather than power and prestige; seeks to improve the welfare of the people rather than their own welfare; sees others as brothers and sisters rather than as enemies and competitors; determines to meet needs and grow the cause rather than remove or kill the opposition. (1)
Servitude also sees POWER AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE FAITHFUL. President Woodrow Wilson said “If you will think about what you ought to do for other people, your character will take care of itself.” Mother Teresa was on a street corner in Calcutta, and three bodies were lying on the street. She began working with one person and a visitor asked, “Aren’t you upset that you can’t get to all the bodies?” She responded, “No. God created us not to be successful, but to be faithful.” Such was the spirit of Joshua. Near the end of his life he challenged the Israelites (24:14-15): “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Godly leaders are concerned with serving and being faithful.