Friday, September 13, 2013

Leading to Value

Wednesday, we published a post on our Other Stuff blog that was the second part of a two part series about writer’s tools.  I made the point that the particular tools and how they are used is very personal to each writer.  It made me think of how we handle leadership, our jobs, and our relationships.  Let’s explore that a little.

Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)  Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
John Maxwell, in his Leadership Bible, uses that passage to discuss how personal Jesus’ leadership was.  We’ll look at that and go a little deeper. 
The first thing John Maxwell points out is that the labor, in the original language, may include hard work, but speaks more of stress and the weariness from an environment that pushes too hard.  And the rest isn’t getting away from activity, it’s a mental, psychological, and spiritual rest.  A mental and spiritual vacation.  If we’re on vacation, we may be more active than when we’re working.  But the tension and all the other baggage of our usual employment is left behind.
Both times the yoke is mentioned, there’s suggestion that the burden will be easy.  The first time, it’s suggested that the disciples learn who Jesus is, to gain trust for Him and accept His direction.  Depending on the application where the yoke is used, it can be a tool to ease carrying a load and/or a means of keeping the yoked being going in the right direction.  The second mention of the yoke speaks of a light burden because of the yoke.

That phrase, “learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart”, is important.  Meekness doesn’t equate to weakness.  It’s a gentleness.  Jesus is a perfect example.  He was kind and gentle in dealing with most.  But the Pharisees, Scribes, and money changers were shown no weakness.  That’s very much Jesus’ entire ministry.  He was gentle with those who needed God and were trying to find Him, but strict with those who willfully put other priorities ahead of God.

Jesus treated those around Him personally.  Whether it was a healing, a call to the young rich man to give up his wealth, or tipping over the money changers’ tables, what Jesus said and did applied to the situation and people at hand.  There was no generic reaction that fit all similar cases.

When we talked, on Wednesday, about writers’ tools being personal, we were partly recognizing their individuality.  When you consider writers, musicians, artists, and actors, there’s a uniqueness that’s not seen as much through most of society.  That uniqueness may be part of what draws them to their forms of work.  Or it may be that they feel they’re missing some attention that these areas of endeavor allow them.  In either case, the barometer of success is attention.

The rich young man in Matthew 19:16-22 certainly had attention for his wealth.  But Jesus saw more.  The young man gained his identity from that wealth.  It allowed him to do the things he did, and he couldn’t see himself doing much without it.  Jesus offered him a relationship with God as his source of power.  The young man was unwilling or unable to trust meekness and humility for direction, couldn’t turn his sense of power over to another (God), and saw no value in himself and his capabilities without wealth.  He was unable to give up the recognition that his wealth brought him.

In all that, Jesus was personal with the young man.  Jesus took his thinking and condition to get the man to focus and compare.  There was an offer of an eternal power source to replace the temporal power source of his wealth.  Wealth, in itself, is not an issue.  But one’s attitude toward it is.  In this case, the young man had made the combination of his wealth and himself as an idol.  He was unwilling or unable to see anything else as having equal or greater importance.

Notice that I used the terms unwilling and unable multiple times.  Those words are the exact reason that Jesus continued in Matthew 19:23-24 with the comparison of the camel going through the “eye of a needle”.  That has a different meaning than the literal English, but we can discuss that another time.  The point is that anything that replaces God is a hindrance.  It changes how we see everything around us and how we see ourselves.  That prevents our having a full relationship with our Lord.

There’s a graphic going around the web that contrasts a boss and a leader.  It shows two pictures of a platform with a load being pulled by a bunch of people.  One image shows a man on the platform, with a whip, prodding the people pulling the load – the boss.  The other image shows one person ahead of the others, also pulling the load, but going ahead to lead the way – the leader.  The difference is that the “boss” is task or goal oriented, with the people performing the task being somewhat dispensable.  In comparison, the leader aims at a goal, but he’s aligned with the people taking him to that goal.

God created man with an inherent value.  Our problem is that we lose sight of that value.  Many of our jobs and relationships have someone or something as a “boss” and the function seems unimportant and we feel like anyone can fit into the situation and do as well or better.  We begin to see ourselves as a faceless cog in the wheel.  What we desire and need, however, is recognition as an individual and for our value.  Even a ditch digger wants to see value in what he does and who he is.

Whether we’re talking about eternal salvation or our existence here on earth, Jesus offers something special.  It’s not removing sins that appear so pleasant and enjoyable.  It’s replacing them with something infinitely better – a relationship with God, Himself.  Along with that, there comes a new sense of identity.  That’s how personal Jesus is!

We need to be leaders, not bosses.  We don’t want to drag people out of what we consider dens of iniquity to a tenuous salvation that really doesn’t exist.  Whether we go ahead or stay along side people, we want to guide people in meekness and humility to a salvation that is solidly there.

One of my favorite John Maxwell concepts is that we’re all leaders because we all influence someone, at least one person.  A friend of mine put an interesting spin on that by suggesting that one person might sometimes be ourselves.  In any case, whoever we influence, we can’t push people into being one with God, but we can show them the benefits of that relationship.  How are you showing others the benefits of a yoke that guides them toward peace and joy, today?  How are you pointing them toward a God whose love creates a yoke that carries most of our burdens?  That leaves us to start realizing the value God sees in us and that there is more value in a relationship with Him than anything else.  Who are you leading and how?

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