Meek Leadership Is Mighty Leadership

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Complete this sentence. "Leaders are ___________."

That's easy, right? Leaders are bold. Leaders are visionary. Leaders are decisive. Leaders are action-oriented. How about, "Leaders are meek." Meekness and leadership---like oil and water---seem to be at odds. But not to God. God's favor rests on the meek.

Nothing reveals character like a crisis and Moses was facing a crisis. His own sister and brother were questioning his leadership.

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, "Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?" And the LORD heard it. Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. Numbers 12:1-3 ESV

Perhaps Miriam and Aaron really were upset about Moses' marriage. More likely, this incident provided the opportunity they were looking for to grab a bigger piece of the leadership pie and the recognition that went with it.

Interestingly, Moses does not mount a counter-attack. There is no press release to "set the record straight." There is no defamation lawsuit. There is no moaning and groaning about being unfairly treated. He is amazingly silent.

Moses' behavior during this family feud brings to light an essential characteristic of Christian leadership: meekness.

Meek Is Not Weak

There is something about adding the word "meek" to a leader's vocabulary that can be threatening. Many believe that "meek" isn't "manly." They mistakenly assume meekness implies cowardliness and cowering. It implies neither.

Meekness is a humility of spirit, "a quality of sincere and straightforward behavior, suggesting a lack of arrogance and pride."[1] Meek people have great strength. It is simply that their strength is subordinated -- their power is under God's control. Meek leadership is humble leadership.

Meek Is Magnificent

The Scriptures give us Moses as a model of meekness. Looking at his life we see why meek is magnificent.

1. Meek leadership is God-dependent leadership

Do you remember Moses' encounter with God at the burning bush? God said, "Come I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people ... out of Egypt." Moses replied: "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?" (Exodus 3:11 ESV)

When I read that passage I focus on Moses' timidity. I want to say, "Come on Moses. Get some backbone."

What I should see is Moses' deep recognition that he lacks---within himself---what is needed to lead. He needs God. Meek leadership is marked by a devout dependence on God: God's wisdom, God's peace, and God's power. [2]

2. Meek leadership is people-focused leadership

Miriam and Aaron challenged Moses' leadership: "Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?" 

This was no small matter. These two disgruntled siblings were not only challenging Moses, they were challenging God. God responds by descending in a cloud, defending Moses, and disciplining Miriam (the chief instigator). The Scriptural account continues:

The anger of the LORD was kindled against [Miriam and Aaron], and he departed. When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. Numbers 12:10 ESV

Interestingly, Moses who has been silent during this entire episode, finally speaks up. But he doesn't open his mouth to belittle his sister. Instead, he prays for her. [3]

And Moses cried to the LORD, "O God, please heal her--please." Numbers 12:13 ESV

Leadership is not about popularity contests or settling the score. It is about serving people. One way we do that is by praying. It takes great humility to pray for those who make life miserable for you, but that is what meek leadership does. It sacrifices self for the betterment of others.

3. Meek leadership is effective leadership

Meek leaders are effective leaders precisely because they are humble. It takes humility to listen, humility to collaborate, and humility to hold one's ideas loosely. It takes humility to disagree without being disagreeable.

Exodus 18 records a crucial conversation between Moses and Jethro, his father-in-law. Jethro provided great organizational consultation for his son-in-law. Because Moses exercised meek leadership, he was able to receive it.

4. Meek leadership is blessed leadership

Meek people don't worry about promoting themselves. They don't worry about rewards. They leave that up to God---and God rewards that trust.

  • But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. Psalm 37:11
  • The LORD lifts up the humble (meek). Psalm 147:6
  • To the humble (meek) he gives favor. Proverbs 3:34
  • Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

It might seem counterintuitive, but meekness brings the blessing of God.

Are You Exercising Meek Leadership?

We need visionary leaders, bold leaders, and action-oriented leaders. They move the work forard and are absolutely necessary. But God recognized Moses for his meekness. What would he say about you?

What would meek leadership look like in your context today?

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[1] Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] Cole, R. D. (2000). Vol. 3B: Numbers. The New American Commentary (202). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[3] Riggans, W. (1983). Numbers. The Daily Study Bible Series. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.