CP Opinion

Saturday, Aug 30, 2014

The Temptation of Leadership

June 5, 2008|11:01 am

Some may have heard that time-worn story about a citizen who once admonished a politician that the office should seek the man and not the other way around. "Well, I guess that's all right," said the politician, "but I gave it plenty of time and it seemed rather bashful." [1]

It's most unfortunate the ambitious lengths candidates will often go to achieve power. Great leaders, however, do not seek power for selfish ends; instead they use it to serve.

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 4, is recorded the temptation of Christ. In the wilderness, Jesus was faced with what means he would employ in winning men to God. What method would he use to convince others he was the Messiah – the anointed leader of Israel? One commentator asked it this way: "How was he to turn the vision into actuality, and the dream into fact?" [2] The methods Jesus rejected in his temptation speak volumes to what is standard fare for most political campaigns today.

First was the offer of bread. Give them bread was the suggestion. Propose giving material things. If Christ had succumbed to this temptation, then people would have been persuaded to follow him for what they could get – not the way of the Cross – not the way of service. "Man does not live by bread alone," said Jesus. [3]

One sure way for politicians to develop a following is to offer jobs, food, education, housing, child care, healthcare, etc. Few matters reveal the depth of political corruption than the way public officials have addicted the nation to public assistance. Today the government has essentially become the opiate of the people. Politicians offer to solve all the problems of impoverishment, but in doing so pre-empt the genius of private enterprise, the power of private charity, and the profound influence of the church – all of which are indispensable to the national character. Whenever political candidates or the public fall for this temptation, freedom is actually lost as the role of government expands. The nation's soul becomes defined in terms of government grants and perceived entitlements – not the spirit and ingenuity of its people.

The second temptation was to dazzle the crowd. Jesus was taken to the pinnacle of the Temple, where Solomon's porch and the Royal porch met, and urged to use his divine power to leap down the 450-foot drop into the Kedron Valley below, unharmed. The suggestion was that people witnessing the event would surely become his followers by the sensation of it alone. Jesus rejected this enticement on the basis that those who sacrifice substance for sensation are ridiculously putting themselves at risk.

It's the act of a misguided faith. "Do not test the Lord your God," admonished Jesus. [4]

In a recent editorial titled "The Selling of a President," North Carolina columnist Bob Steinberg rightly noted politicians today are "being sold as a product and/or superheroes." He adds, "With all of the fanfare of a Hollywood studio introducing a new movie, each candidate is made to appear bigger than life." [5] Indeed. And in the process, charisma is substituted for character, charm replaces integrity, and appeal trumps ability.

Such not only puts the nation at risk, but ultimately results in the kind of cynicism regarding politics reflected in a lank, disconsolate-looking farmer who stood on the steps of the town hall during the progress of a political meeting. When a newcomer on the scene asked the farmer what the congressman's speech had been about, the farmer passed his hand across his forehead and sarcastically replied, "He didn't rightly say." [6]

Lastly, there was the temptation to compromise. "Fall down and worship me," promised the tempter, "and I will give you all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor." In essence, the tempter suggested: "Drop your standards a bit, Jesus. You will never accomplish world domination by the high and lofty principles you embrace. Don't you realize there are others in the world besides you? Make a bargain with the existing power. Make a few concessions. To win the public, you must reflect public opinion. To own the world, it must own you." Jesus countered the temptation declaring: "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him." [7]

One can only imagine the positive difference if politicians led primarily by allegiance to God. Gone would be the corruption precipitated by bribes from special interests. Gone would be politically correct statements like, "Well, I personally believe abortion is wrong, but I'm still pro-choice." Gone would be support for state lotteries enacted in the name of public education. Gone would be sympathy for legalized gay marriage, sodomy as a constitutional right, and the repeal of cohabitation laws affirming personal relationships outside of God's revealed order.

And how marvelously appropriate such allegiance would be when one considers the Bible teaches the "powers that be are ordained of God." [8] And when God says: "By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth," [9] it becomes abundantly clear leaders are established by God with the priority of serving his purposes. Moreover, in the final analysis, leaders are not to be judged by opinion polls. The measure of their success is not be determined by history, but instead by what God has decreed.

One can appreciate the folksy state senator from North Carolina, Jim Jacumin (R-Burke), who has often said on the campaign trail: "I can't be for it, if God's against it."

Certainly no leader better personified this principle than Jesus. Advances are never made by retreating. Evil is never defeated by compromising with it.

Leadership that resists bribing people into following; leadership which rejects sensation for substance; leadership that doesn't compromise with evil – always, as it did with Jesus, produces a cross ... hardship ... persecution. But then again, it also brings redemption.


[1] 10,000 Jokes Toasts and Stories, edited by Lewis and Faye Copeland, 1965, pg.523
[2] The Daily Study Bible Series, The Gospel of Matthew (Vol. 1), pg. 67
[3] The Holy Bible, St. Matthew 4:4
[4] The Holy Bible, St. Matthew 4:7
[5] "The Selling of a President," Bob Steinberg, freelance North Carolina columnist
[6] 10,000 Jokes Toasts and Stories, edited by Lewis and Faye Copeland, 1965, pg.520
[7] The Holy Bible, St. Matthew 4:10
[8] The Holy Bible, Romans 13:1
[9] The Holy Bible, Proverbs 8:16

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Rev. Mark H. Creech is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.

Source URL : http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-temptation-of-leadership-32683/