Why Do You Lead?

small_3433136680There are many reasons people choose to lead.

Some do so because they are thrust into leadership by the demands of the moment.

Some lead to validate their identity.

Some lead for the applause of the crowd.

Some do so for the status they hope to achieve.

Some lead sheerly for the power to do so.

And some rightly lead from a sense of calling and a desire to serve others.

Leadership can be a drug.

Even within the Christian realm we tend towards celebrity leadership.

The young leader naively enters in, not knowing what price he may have to pay.

The old leader often reflects with regret on the cost of leadership paid.

There is one aspect of leadership that always accompanies this risky endeavor.


There is a scenario in the Bible where two brothers who are close followers of Jesus ask him if they may occupy the 2nd and 3rd most powerful positions in his kingdom. They do this in the context of the rest of the twelve and through their adoring mother. James and John are anticipating a reordered realm where the chains of Rome will be cast away. They are hoping for a new politic where they might assert themselves in ways they have only imagined. Jesus confronts their misunderstanding and asks them a penetrating question that was meant to shake them to the core. In Matthew 20:22 Jesus says, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?”

The metaphor of the “cup” in Scripture is almost always an image of judgment.

Throughout the Old Testament, with which these Jewish men should have been familiar, the cup often referred to God’s wrath. In particular the prophetic literature of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel make use of the cup imagery in this way. Jesus knew that for him this mean a path to the cross where he would take on the judgment and wrath for all the world’s sin. For these would be first century leaders it held the derision of an ancient near east religious culture and a dictatorial one in Rome. Ultimately, James would be beheaded for his faith and leadership and John would be exiled to an island between Greece and Turkey. They tasted and drank the cup of leadership.

Leadership is always this way.

Leaders, if they are to lead well, must at times take a stand.

They cannot appease everyone.

They must make unpopular decisions.

They must have a greater good in mind.

They will be judged–fairly or unfairly.

And if you lead for any other reason than the well being of those who called you or those who follow, you will probably suffer old leader regret.

The question of why you lead, attendant with the knowledge that some level of judgment is always in store, should help clarify your motives.

Read the whole story. Matthew 20:20-28. You will encounter a counter intuitive form of leadership that will withstand the cup of judgment.

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