What Is the Basis of Your Leadership?
What Is the Basis of Your Leadership?
Moral Absolutes vs. Momentary Convenience
When you think about it, all our decisions derive their basis from a specific “somewhere.” That “somewhere” differs from person to person, but if we look beyond the surface, the root of our leadership and decision-making will most likely stem from one of two sources.
We make decisions that originate either from our moral compass and those moral absolutes ingrained deep inside of us, or from a sense of momentary convenience and what’s most beneficial and expedient to “me” right now.
Moral absolutes and momentary convenience wage a daily battle within us, and each promise very different outcomes.
The Choice Defined
Here are my simple definitions of the two terms:
Moral Absolutes = God is my standard
Momentary Convenience = Self (interest) is my standard
I’ve been there so many times myself. I know what the right thing to do is, yet the promise of momentary benefit manages to win the battle. If we are honest, I believe all of us can recount moments when self won the day. But why do we so often choose self-interest over God’s moral compass?
The book of Amos provides great insight into that conflict and, if we are willing to listen, a stern warning of what will eventually happen if we continue to choose self over God.
Success without Integrity
God called Amos to prophesy to the leaders of Judah and Israel in a time when everything seemed to be going great. It was during a time of peace and great economic prosperity. Unfortunately, the financial prosperity was being obtained without integrity. In Amos chapter 2 we read:
“They sell the innocent for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals.
They trample on the heads of the poor
as on the dust of the ground
and deny justice to the oppressed…
They lie down beside every altar
on garments taken in pledge.
In the house of their god
they drink wine taken as fines.” (Amos 2:6-8)
God used Amos to send a clear message to the society elites: Success obtained through injustice and lack of integrity will not be tolerated.
Lesson for today: Temptation and pressure to achieve success is real, and if we are not careful, we may fall into the same trap as the Israelites. The snare is often disguised in small, seemingly unimportant moments when self-interest has to be protected at all costs. In order to do that we:
- Exaggerate just a bit
- Flatter someone rather than speak with honesty
- Manipulate situations and people just enough to achieve certain outcomes
- Use information about others to paint them in a bad light or to curry favor with a leader
But just as with the Israelites in Amos’s time, momentary convenience eventually ends in captivity. Self over God will eventually destroy leaders, teams and, if we’re not careful, an entire organization. It’s not a matter of if, but when.
Self-interest always perverts our perspective. The Israelites in Amos’s day mistakenly interpreted peace and financial prosperity as God’s seal of approval on their evil practices.
In his review of the book of Amos, Chuck Swindoll describes them this way:
“While their outer lives gleamed with the rays of success, their inner lives sank into a pit of moral decay. Rather than seeking out opportunities to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly [with God], they embraced their arrogance, idolatry, self-righteousness, and materialism… God’s word through Amos was directed against the privileged people of Israel, a people who had no love for their neighbor, who took advantage of others, and who only looked out for their own concerns.”
Lesson for today: It’s much easier to drift from God’s moral compass in times of external success.
Amos used the example of a plumb line to illustrate how the Israelites had fallen out of “alignment” with God’s standards of justice and morality. Just as builders used this simple tool to assure the proper alignment of a building, we should use God’s Word as the “plumb line” to test whether or not our values line up with His.
In His grace and mercy God sent His prophet to the elites of Israel both to call them to repentance and to provide them with a solution.
Not surprisingly, Amos’s message was met with strong opposition because it stepped on too many toes and challenged too many self-interested people (especially those close to the king).
Amaziah was a priest very close to King Jeroboam, and one responsible for upholding the religious practices, assemblies and rituals that Amos specifically opposed. He sent a word to the king that Amos was dangerous and should be expelled from the land. Amaziah declared that Amos should stop prophesying, not because Amos’s message was wrong, but because Amaziah felt personally threatened by that message.
Lesson for today: As leaders, we listen to multiple voices daily. Some will be the voice of Amos. Others will be the voice of Amaziah. It’s much more tempting (and natural) to dismiss the “Amoses” and embrace the “Amaziahs.”
Once again, let’s look to the plumb line to determine the alignment of our values. When competing voices strive for our attention, using God’s Word as the true measure will protect us from the temptation to surround ourselves with “false prophets” who say what our self wants to hear.
Leading from God’s moral absolutes is not easy. It’s a daily battle. It’s much more natural for us to look at short-term expediency rather than long-term outcomes.
I hope that the life and message of Amos will be a constant reminder of the choices we face: the dangers of self-interest and momentary convenience vs. our moral compass that must be aligned with God’s Word.