August 15, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Isaiah 39:1-2 (NRSV)
At that time King Merodach-baladan son of Baladan of Babylon sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. Hezekiah welcomed them; he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.
We all have weaknesses, and these weaknesses can be a real problem in our lives, especially in our exercise of leadership. We see a striking example of this truth in Isaiah 39, in the life of King Hezekiah. His pride contributed, not only to his personal downfall, but also the downfall of his nation. If we pay attention to our weaknesses, if we bring them honestly before God, we can structure our lives so as to minimize their negative impact.
Hezekiah was one of the most pious and faithful kings of Judah. Chapters 37 and 38 of Isaiah testify to his exemplary trust in the Lord. But then, in Isaiah 39, we see some of Hezekiah’s weaknesses: his susceptibility to flattery and his pride over his possessions. When Babylonian officials visited Hezekiah in order to offer their best wishes for his recovery from a dire illness, he was thrilled to show them all of “his” treasures. Apparently, he didn’t stop to think of the dangers inherent in a relationship with Babylon, or the risks involved in displaying the royal treasures to those who might wish to seize them. Instead, Hezekiah was flattered by the visit of the Babylonian envoys, and he proudly displayed his exceptional wealth.
Soon thereafter, the word of the Lord came to Hezekiah through Isaiah: “Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the LORD” (Isaiah 39:6). Moreover, even some of Hezekiah’s descendants will be carried off to Babylon in order to serve the king of Babylon as his eunuchs (39:7). Indeed, this happened about a hundred years later.
Hezekiah was manipulated by flattery and fell prey to pride. Like any other human being, he had his weaknesses, and these were costly, not only to him, but also to his people. Our leadership, whether in our jobs or families, whether in our churches or communities, can also be compromised by our weaknesses. You may not struggle with pride, but perhaps with anger, insecurity, perfectionism, or, well, you name it.
Yet if we are aware of our weaknesses, we can work to see that they don’t wreak havoc in our lives. Perhaps we can ask close friends to hold us accountable. Or we might make sure that a colleague has strengths that balance out our weaknesses. We might be able to establish systems in our workplace that keep our weaknesses in check. Or we might hire a coach to help us learn to overcome our weaknesses. An honest appraisal of our strengths and weaknesses will enable us to lead with effectiveness and with faithfulness to God.
What are your strengths as a leader?
What are your weaknesses?
What have you done to minimize the impact of your weaknesses?
What might you do to make sure that your weaknesses don’t injure your organization, your family, and your own effectiveness as a leader?
See if you can identify one significant weakness in your leadership. Talk to God honestly about this, asking for help to understand and overcome this weakness.
Gracious God, even as Hezekiah’s leadership was hurt by his weaknesses, so it can be with me. This is especially true if I try to pretend that I don’t have any. So, first of all, I pray that you will help me to see myself clearly. In particular, show me where I am weak, and how these weaknesses could hamper my leadership.
If my failings are sinful, may I confess them, receiving your forgiveness. Then, by your Spirit, help me to live rightly, with new freedom from sin.
If my weak spots are a matter of inability, help me to surround myself with people who are strong where I am weak. May I follow their leadership in contexts where I need their help.
Teach me, Lord, to listen, not only to you, but also to those in my life who can help me to see myself truly and to keep my weaknesses from doing damage. May I risk the vulnerability of true community so that I might be the leader you have called me to be. Amen.
Banner image by Wladislaw Peljuchno on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Wise Worker is Modest (Proverbs).
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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.