“And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail and thou shalt be above only, not be beneath; if thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them.”
Deuteronomy 28: 13
King James Version
“Heads Not Tails”
“True greatness, true leadership, is achieved not by reducing (others) to one’s service but in giving oneself in selfless service to others.”
What characteristics do I think someone who is “the head” has?
What characteristics do I think someone who is “the tail” has?
“Faith in the ability of a leader is of slight service unless it be united with faith in (her) justice.”
George w. Goethals
“Not the cry, but the flight of the wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.”
I love the words of this descriptive Chinese Proverb. It reminds me of the family of wild ducks that calls Oak Creek Canyon home near where I live. Mom, dad and babies float along with the current of the creek. However, the moment danger appears, dad and mom go into action – doing what they can to protect their little ones.
Today, our text in the Blessings and Cursings, found in Deuteronomy 28: 13, focuses attention on the characteristics of “blessed” leadership. If we go back to the beginning of our study on the promised blessings of God, we find that the blessings promised relate directly to the position of God in our lives – His prominence and rulership. His adoration and our respect for what He says are at the core of our blessings. Good things, that are for our best eternal interest, are showered upon us because of “Who” we have chosen to place at the center of our being.
As we learned, when we relate to others with a quiet, unassuming God-centered life, perfumed with the “undeserved” grace of heaven, we become the “head” not the “tail” as our text today states.
Interestingly, the word “head” in this particular text in Hebrew, means to lead as the head of an army. In other words, God’s leadership in us makes others long to follow – not us, as much as the “ONE’ who is leading us. This is important! Because we often believe that to be a “real” human leader, a person has to either be adored and glorified or hated and despised. But if we look at the qualities Jesus exemplified in His life, we find, as Robert K. Greenleaf so correctly pointed out, “The great leader is seen as the servant first.”
I want to ask you a question, one that applies to leaders in all countries. What if a person were running for office and they got up in front of a crowd and said, “I’m a servant. That’s my job. Come to me and let me wash your dirty feet or clean your dirty house or wash your dirty car.” How would you react?
I fear, the servant leaders, no matter where they are – in church or in government – are viewed as weak. In fact, the “Servant-Leader Syndrome,” as I like to call it, was exactly what got under the skin of Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus. He couldn’t stand the idea of leadership appearing to be weak. Judas thought Jesus was acting like the tail! Oh, was he wrong. For in the Hebrew, the word “tail” means, “sense of flapping.” WHOA! I thought “tail” meant the last one or the bottom of the heap. WRONG! The tail means you flap in the breeze and go with the flow. You have no sense of moral courage. Your opinions change with the wind. The reason Jesus’ leadership was so effective as a servant-leader was because there was no doubt or question as to Who was at the core of His life. In His own words
Jesus said, “My meat (my food and the sustenance which gives me life) is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work” (John 4: 34, K.J.V.) There was no question in Jesus’ mind as to the focus of His life. No flapping in the breeze.
Jesus chose to draw others to His Father in heaven by leading as a servant. As Stephen Neill wrote, “There is power in Jesus, but there is no violence. There is authority, but it is the authority of one who has taken upon himself the form of a servant.”
How wonderful I find it to be that in Deuteronomy 28, when Moses, who himself reflected the qualities of a servant-leader, was sharing the promised blessings with the children of Israel, he gave them heaven’s perfect blueprint for being the head. Now we know and understand “Who” is at the core of our lives, rather than our being a flapping tail that has no direction at all.
“Our lives will harmonize best with God’s will and the demands of the law when they serve other people best.”
“I sought my soul,
But my soul I could not see.
I sought my God,
But my God eluded me.
I sought my brother,
And I found all three.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Available May 2009