December 2, 2016 • Life for Leaders
But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.
Psalm 52 begins with criticism of a “mighty hero,” whom the heading of the Psalm identifies as “Doeg the Edomite” (see 1 Sam. 21-22). This warrior uses his tongue to boast of his crimes and to lie in order to destroy others. But, in time, God will “uproot” him from the land of the living.
In contrast to this uprooted tree, the psalmist is “like an olive tree, flourishing in the house of God” (52:8). The Hebrew describes this tree literally as “green” or “fresh” (ra’anan in Hebrew). The NIV rightly renders the sense of this adjective with “flourishing.” Whereas the uprooted “tree” will wither and die, the psalmist thrives. (Photo: Olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane.)
Why? What is the difference? Unlike the boastful warrior, the psalmist lives “in the house of God.” Now, he was not a priest who literally lived in the temple. Rather, this metaphor of living in the house of God suggests that the psalm writer remains firmly planted in God’s own presence. Moreover, he trusts not in his power, wealth, or clever words, but in God’s unfailing love. His relationship with God enables him to be forever fresh and fruitful.
When we see people around us getting ahead through deceit and defamation, we might be tempted to join in. Too often these days, Christians in leadership roles sound just like others who are not following Jesus. We can misrepresent the truth when it is in our interest. We can even attack our “enemies” in the same way they have attacked us. But Jesus calls us to a different way, a way of integrity and peace, a way of dwelling with God and trusting him. Thus we reject the practices of this world in order to reflect God’s loving and truthful presence in every part of life.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Have you ever known someone like Doeg? How have you responded to this person?
Are you ever tempted to imitate their behavior?
How might you be more truthful and gracious in your speaking today?
What helps you to trust in God and be deeply rooted in him in every part of life, including your work?
Gracious God, as you know, we have plenty of “Doegs” in our world today. There is no shortage of people who use their words to tout their crimes and cut others to shreds. It is tempting, Lord, to imitate these people, especially when we see them advancing their agenda.
But you have called us to a different way, a way that begins with living in your presence. Only when we are rooted in you can we remain fresh and fruitful. So help us, dear Lord, to abide in you, to draw sustenance from you, and to imitate your ways, not the ways of this world.
All praise be to you, O God, because you nurture and sustain us, making us fruitful when we are planted in you. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Anxiety when unscrupulous people succeed (Psalms 49, 50, 52, 62)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.