Summary: If you want to be a positive influence on others, don't compromise with the world, take care of your family, be consistent in the way you live your life, but most of all, count on God's grace.
Peter Falk (1927-2011), who died just a few years ago, will always be remembered for the role he played as an eccentric, sloppy detective in the TV series called “Columbo.” More often than not, he played dumb, but that put his subjects off guard, and he was always able to solve his cases as a result.
In real life, Peter Falk had a glass eye, resulting from an operation to remove a cancerous tumor when he was 3. In spite of his missing eye, he was a high school athlete. In one story he liked to tell, after being called out at third base during a baseball game, he removed his eye and handed it to the umpire.
“You'll do better with this,” he said. (Bruce Weber, “Peter Falk, Rumpled and Crafty Actor in Television's ‘Columbo,’ Dies at 83,” The New York Times, 6-24-11; www.PreachingToday.com)
Sometimes, I’d like to say that to some of our leaders. There is something missing that they just can’t see. That leads me to the question: What does it take to lead people effectively? What qualities do I need to be a better influence on people?
Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 38, Genesis 38, where we see why God chose Joseph to lead his tribe and not his older brother, Judah. Judah lacked crucial leadership qualities, and that becomes very clear here as he stands in stark contrast to his younger brother, Joseph.
Genesis 38:1 It happened at that time that Judah went down from his brothers and turned aside to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. (ESV)
It might not be so obvious in the English text, but Judah’s moral decline is very obvious in the Hebrew text. You see, he not only “went down” physically to the southern regions of Canaan. He “went down” morally in his own life and “turned aside.” The word for “turned aside” is used in many other Old Testament contexts to speak of those who “turn aside from the path of righteousness” (Exodus 23:2; Judges 9:3; 1 Samuel 8:3; Job 31:7). That’s Judah here. He has rejected his godly heritage and is turning aside to the ways of this world.
Gnesis 38:2a There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua (ESV) – which means affluence.
Genesis 38:2b-3 He took her and went in to her, and she conceived and bore a son, and he called his name Er (ESV) – which means “to arouse oneself.”
Genesis 38:4 She conceived again and bore a son, and she called his name Onan (ESV) – which means “manly vigor,” speaking of the potency of his sperm.
Genesis 38:5 Yet again she bore a son, and she called his name Shelah. Judah was in Chezib when she bore him. (ESV)
“Shelah” means “to be at ease” or “to be prosperous,” and “Chezib,” the town where they stayed, literally means deceit. Judah’s whole life was a lie as he turns aside from his godly heritage to pursue a life of wealth and pleasure.
He compromised with the world around him, and that disqualified him as a leader. He was seduced by the surrounding Canaanite culture. He was led astray from his pursuit of God into pursuing sex and money, so much so that he was unable to lead anybody to the right path. In fact, he had gone so far off the path that there was no way he could lead anybody on the path.
His worldly attitudes and actions disqualified him for effective leadership, and it still disqualifies people today. When you pursue wealth and pleasure rather than God, then you have no business trying to help people with their own lives.
Ken Wales is a TV and film producer, who has produced several, award-winning TV series and films, including Christy, East of Eden and the highly-acclaimed movie Amazing Grace. Wales has enjoyed tremendous success as a producer, but he started his Hollywood career as an unemployed actor.
Early in his career, Wales chose to turn down a significant role because it conflicted with his faith in Christ. While he was under contract with MGM, he was cast for a film starring Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Shirley MacLaine. At one point in the script, his character enticed a young woman to get drunk so he could take advantage of her. Wales described his decision to decline the role:
“I had been speaking to a lot of church groups and conventions around the country on the subject of making right choices. So when I read…the script… I had to meet with the director, Vincente Minnelli, to tell him I couldn't do it. He told me, ‘You'll do it, or you'll be out of your contract, you'll go on suspension, you'll have no salary for a year, and I'll see that you never work in this town again.’ I told him he'd have to find someone else, and he literally threw me out of his office.