Go to Amazon.com and type in the word “leader” and you will be inundated with hundreds of hits, each listing books on the topic. If you “Google” the word “leader” you’ll be fed over 300 million search results. That’s right, over 300 million. Wow!
And if you peruse the shelves of books in my office, (and next to my nightstand), you will notice enough kindling for several good bonfires!
Don’t take me wrong when you read my next words. Because leadership has been one of my primary areas of passion and study for over 30 years.
But if you are like me, then you’ve experienced a growing weariness reading the current popular books on leadership. Many seem redundant or surface deep. When I get in this frame of mind, I return to the gospels and do a slow read, asking God to remind me what matters most to Him when it comes to leadership. I pray for him to reorient my perspective.
What a novel thought, right? Who would have thought to turn to the gospels to learn more about leadership?
Forgive my dry sarcasm! This past month, I’ve been in the Gospel of Matthew, attempting to slow down and listen to God’s heart concerning my leadership. Right out of the shoot in Matthew, Joseph, Jesus’ father, ambushed me. Mary, Jesus’ mom, seems to get all the press and attention – and well she should. She is an amazing young woman.
But look at Joseph for a moment.
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins. 22 Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 23 Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, God with us. 24 And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, 25 and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-24 NIV
Joseph is an extraordinary guy. As I read the passage recently, I was gripped by the fact that the Bible notes that at his core, Joseph was a righteous man. How often do you use the word righteous to describe a person you know?
Righteous is an interesting adjective. It means “to always behave according to a moral code or to be good and outstanding.” I find myself using the word occasionally to describe a good call by an official in sports- “that’s a righteous call”. Or when a tax deduction is legal and I can take it, “it’s a righteous deduction”. Or, sometimes I’ll use it to describe a piece of music that moves me- “that’s a righteous tune”. But, rarely do I ever use it to describe someone I know; and I have never used this adjective in the same sentence with a candidate’s name who is running for a public office. Let’s be honest, I’ve never used it to describe myself. Hmm…
Don’t get me wrong, I have prayed and asked God to fill me with His righteousness and help me to live a righteous life, almost everyday of my walk with Christ. But I would not be comfortable using this word as a personal descriptive. It surely is my desire. I want to be! But this word seems to keep convicting me and calling me to be honest with myself. I fall short everyday. Don’t misread me. I am not guilt ridden or plagued with a works theology. And I am not someone living a life of insidious careless sin. I aspire to abide in Christ.
At the top of our stairs hangs a picture of a dad kneeling beside a bed praying over his son. Under the picture is one of my favorite verses and driving forces for life- “The prayer of a righteous man, avails much.” I want to be a dad whose prayers avail much! Righteous is inseparable to availing prayers in this verse by James.
Back to our reflection on Joseph. In the eyes of God, Joseph was righteous. As I reflected on this passage I recorded a number of things that are true of righteous men.
Look at the passage, and read my list. See if you can come up with other characteristics of righteous people.
- Are attracted to the right kind of women
- Are given important responsibilities by God
- Obey God even if it’s a little irrational at times
- Value and respect the dignity of women
- Leave room for God to work
- Ignore the voices of others when they know their course of action is ordained by God
I want to be honest: I’m not much like Joseph, but I desire to be. Let’s pray for each other today that God will move us towards righteousness.
“Righteousness, righteousness is what I long for. Righteous is what I need. Righteousness is what you want from me. So take my heart and form it. Take my mind, transform it. Take my will, conform it to Yours, to Yours, oh Lord.”