Living in America, I feel that we have a very specific perspective of politics — and it’s rarely a positive one. We quickly take for granted our privilege to elect the leaders of our communities, our states, and our nation. Instead, we tend to get wrapped up in the drama and the finances of campaigns. While we may hope for leaders to seek the best for their followers, the harsh reality we encounter over and over shows that many candidates are desperately seeking each other’s secrets for exploitation, both glorifying themselves and tearing down the competition.
Despite how discouraging this sounds, I want to reiterate just how blessed we are as a nation that gets to regularly choose new leaders, and how seriously we should consider this responsibility. Yes, it can be difficult to hope for change, but I believe that we must continue to do what we can to bring about the government we wish to see. And the best way for each of us — besides becoming the leaders ourselves, which some of you may indeed be called to do — is to take advantage of the privilege of choice we’ve been granted, and to do that again and again, whenever we can.
I want to avoid party lines and political issues in this discussion, as I think both topics are already argued enough. Instead, I want to bring this post back to the basics — what does God’s Word say about choosing good leaders? As you can imagine, it doesn’t say much, considering the times when the Bible was written; historically, democracy as we know it wouldn’t arrive until much later, and only to the farthest reaches of the biblical world. The New Testament, however, does provide us with some guidelines, as the early church members were establishing leadership roles and responsibilities:
1 Timothy 3:1-7 (Message):
If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a new believer, lest the position go to his head and the Devil trip him up. Outsiders must think well of him, or else the Devil will figure out a way to lure him into his trap
This passage shows me three criteria we should consider when choosing new leaders. We must look at how the potential leader interacts with others, including his allies and his opponents; how the leader guides and cares for his family; and how he handles his finances and his time.
- Interactions with others — “A leader must be well-thought-of,…accessible, and hospitable….Outsiders must think well of him…” A leader’s reputation is often the first thing known about him. How he treats his allies — and more importantly, his opponents — provides an audience with a key understanding of the leader’s honor and respect. In such a divisive time, it would be comforting to see a leader who can disagree with an opponent’s viewpoints yet still shake hands honestly at the end of a debate.
- Guidance and care for family — “A leader must be committed to his wife….He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect.” Leadership begins at home; one who guides his family well at home, as Christ leads the Church, would likely prove to be a leader in the larger sense as well. The attention a leader provides to his family becomes a reflection of the care that same person will pay to his constituents.
- Handling finances and time — “A leader must…not be overfond of wine…not money-hungry.” A leader’s stewardship of the gifts God has provided him predicts his management of the gifts from his followers. One who invests well with what has already been trusted to him ought to also do the same on a larger scale. A voter may seek someone who spends well, but not on overindulgence or dishonorable ways.