Updated: Sep 3, 2021
"First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Matthew 7:5
What is leadership? Is it a skillset? Perhaps a personality trait? Over the next few posts we will explore some principles of leadership presented throughout the Bible. First up, we will explore a fundamental and often overlooked pillar of Biblical leadership: we must remove the plank in our own eye so that we can be effective leaders.
This is a leadership principle established early on. An excellent example of this is found in the book of Leviticus, which records the establishment of the Aaronic priesthood. Aaron and his sons were chosen by God and were consecrated by Moses as leaders. They were given special clothes that signified their role, as well as special rights and responsibilities. They were tasked with the performance of sacerdotal duties on behalf of the people of Israel.
One of these duties was the administration of the sin offering. In this ritual, the person bringing the sin offering had to place his hands on the animal that was being killed on his behalf, powerfully symbolizing the substitutionary nature of the sacrifice. It seems that this would also communicate to the person offering the sacrifice the severity of their trespass. To watch an animal be slaughtered for what you had done would certainly make clear that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).
It is noteworthy that God required the priests to offer ritual sacrifices on behalf of their own sin before they could offer atonement for the people. It would be dishonoring to God for His priests to have undealt with sin while acting as intermediaries between God and His people. God required His leaders to look inward, to address their own relationship with Him before they could rightfully perform their duties as leaders.
Jesus is teaching us to address our own relationship with God so that we can lead others to Him. He is teaching us to be Kingdom leaders
Jesus further establishes this principle in the "sermon on the mount." In a well-known passage , He rhetorically asks: "Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? While this passage is part of a broader dialogue addressing judgement among His followers, the remainder of the passage makes it clear that there is more to this analogy than simply an admonition not to judge: "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye': and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:4-5)
Rather than a simple admonition not to judge, Jesus is instructing us to look inward, addressing sin in our own lives so that we may be effective in helping others. The analogy is not intended to keep us from removing the speck in our brother's eye, rather it teaches us how to be more effective surgeons. In the same way that the priests were required to make atonement for their own sin before offering sacrifices for the people, Jesus is teaching us to address our own relationship with God so that we can lead others to Him. He is teaching us to be Kingdom leaders.
Biblical leadership is a call to serve, and that service must begin by removing the planks in our own eyes.
Furthermore, the Apostle Peter ties our effectiveness as leaders directly to issues of our personal character (2 Peter 1:5-8). He exhorts us to add to our faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness, and love. Moreover, he ties our fruitfulness directly to possession of these qualities. Once again, the concept is presented that God requires His leaders to look inward, and to be willing to give to Him our character flaws, our fears and failures, and any areas of unresolved sin. Of course these things can only truly come as a result of the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit (John 15:1-5; Galatians 5:22-23). Therefore our effectiveness as leaders is dependent on our willingness to humbly allow the Holy Spirit to purge and to cleanse us, to regenerate and to make us new.
Biblical leadership does not require greatness. Neither genius nor skill are necessary. Rather, He requires those called to lead to begin with a humble heart to seek after Him, allowing the Spirit to identify and deal with issues that hinder our lives and our ministries. Biblical leadership is a call to serve, and that service must begin by removing the planks in our own eyes.
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