Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, is Presidents’ Day in the United States, a day officially celebrating the birthday of George Washington, although a lot of people unofficially connect Abraham Lincoln to it as well, since his birthday was Feb. 12.
Two great leaders, two men prepared in uniquely different ways to guide and shape the nation.
This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a two-day leadership seminar for young adults, and one of the sessions had to do with preparing themselves to lead—whether it be their families, on the job, in the community or—first of all—to lead their own lives in a productive manner.
This discussion focused on a time in history when some instructions were laid out to prepare the mind-set for kings as they assumed the throne. These were concise, simple guidelines; but simple should never be confused with shallow. These were actually quite profound, because they struck at the very core of the heart of leadership. To this day, many of the leadership problems we see in the world stem from these simple instructions being ignored.
First was a short list of what a king should not do, such as multiply horses for himself, multiply wives for himself, multiply gold and silver for himself. We would word some of these things differently today, but the principle is that leadership is not to be abused for self-gain or self-aggrandizement. Great leadership thinks about the good of those being served, not the benefit for oneself.
Next came the directive for what the king must do. He was to personally write a copy of the law of the land, keep it and read it “all the days of his life.” If he did, it would impact his life in five very important ways: It would keep his heart humble or, as it said, “from being lifted above his brethren”; it would keep him centered on principle, not turning one way or the other; it would keep him careful, mindful of these core principles; it would prolong his days—the people would love him and the nation would prosper; and it would—
Well, in order to understand the last benefit, I need to first stop here and explain when and where this instruction for kings was given and who gave it. You see, it was addressing the rulers over Israel. The law referred to was the law of God, and it was God who gave these instructions to Moses to record for all future leaders of the nation. With that in mind, you can understand why the last benefit listed was that the king would learn to fear God—to respect, honor, obey and look to God as the real leader of the nation.
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that in the latest presidential race we never heard discussed these requirements for kings, which, by the way, you can find in Deuteronomy 17. But why would we expect anyone to, when we rendered the law of God as irrelevant a long time ago?
God was obviously far more concerned about the heart of a leader than He was all other traits or skills. Later on, it was said of one of Israel’s greatest kings, David, that he shepherded Israel “according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.” Skills are important, to be sure, but integrity of heart is the quality that determines whether one uses their skills in powerful and productive ways, or in weak and destructive ways.
We will always have leaders, but will they be strong or weak? Leading us to greatness or to corruption? As those couple hundred young adults heard this weekend, tomorrow’s leaders are being prepared today. Those who understand that these ancient principles of leadership God gave for kings are timeless, are still important and are still relevant for all of us will be the ones who will develop into strong leaders in the home, in the community, in the churches and in the nations.