One Reason Leaders "Cave In"


Sadly, it happens. Leaders cave in.

History past and present is replete with leaders who have fallen off their horses. To borrow from JRR Tolkien, there is a Gollum inside of every Sméagol. All it takes is a ring to entice, then enslave, and finally destroy the one who wears it. Herod fell under the ring's spell. He bowed to his passions and his pride.

21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee.22 For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.”23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.”24 And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.”25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison28 and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother.
— Mark 6

Why do strong men grow weak at the knees? Why do kings bow, presidents tumble and CEOs crumble?

Eli takes us to the root of the problem. Eli was God's man, a leader who guided the people of God. But Eli grew complacent and fat, blind to his pride and deaf to the Word of God. The boards of his house may have been washed in white, but the wood was rotten. God saw it even if the people did not. And God sent a messenger to deliver the notice, "Your building has been condemned."

27 And there came a man of God to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Did I indeed reveal myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharaoh?28 Did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? I gave to the house of your father all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel.29 Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’
— 1 Samuel 2:27-29

A key word in this passage is honor. In Eli's day the word was KABBED. It meant heavy, weighty, influential, worthy of honor. It is the same word from which we get the word, "glory."

Eli gave honor to his sons over God. Herod gave honor to his guests over John (and by inference, God). Both traded the honor due the Lord for a few moments to temporarily bask in the glory themselves. But God will not share his glory:

I am the Lord; that is my name!I will not yield my glory to another.
— Isaiah 42:8 NIV

I can get defensive at this point.

"Certainly, I am not like Herod. I don't cower to my guests! And I am definitely not like Eli. My kids know that God comes first." Looking past that thin veneer of piety I realize that I am a lot more like Herod and Eli than I may want to admit. There are probably a hundred times and more when I bow my knee to self:

  1. Do I honor my priorities above God's priorities?

  2. Do I honor my reasoning above God's Word?

  3. Do I honor my Sunday scurrying above God's Sunday rest?

  4. Do I honor my name above God's name?

  5. Do I honor my passions above that which is the passion of God?

I could go on . . . we all could. The issue is not one of self-flagellation or personal vindication, but to remember that leadership exists for God's glory. My duty is to steward my role in such a way so that He is honored above all. It's when I exalt myself that the cave-in begins.