Legacy is not the sole domain of the powerful or influential—it’s for everyone. And it’s built by the values that shape our everyday lives. But a controlling desire for power and position can destroy the legacy we hope to leave.
I don’t think many of us would say that we are power hungry. “Power hungry” makes me think of some crazed lunatic vying for the throne, killing anyone who stands in the way.
But think of it differently. Think of the position you’ve longed for, worked for, waited for, and then it’s yours. How do you exercise that leadership? Do you assert your authority? Do you lead in order to keep and grow your power, or for others’ good?
The King Who Would Not Serve
Consider King Rehoboam, Solomon’s heir. He became king after what seemed like a long wait. In those days, the heir to the throne was often long recognized. So Rehoboam waited. And perhaps he imagined position and the power of the throne and what it meant.
But when he became king, a decision came to him: how would he lead?
The elders of Israel come to him with simple advice: “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.” (I Kings 12.7)
Did you catch it? The advice of the elders was to be a servant leader—not a leader who would exercise power, authority and control to serve himself.
You may know the rest of the story. Rehoboam chose not to be a servant leader. Instead, he spoke harshly to the assembled people. I imagine the scene as he rises up to his full height and pronounces: “Let me show you who is the boss! Let me show you who is tough! Let me show you who is control!
I’m not sure what drove Rehoboam to that place or why he felt the need to demonstrate such power in his leadership. But I know this. It destroyed his legacy, and changed the course of the nation of Israel. Ten tribes broke away. Ten tribes largely followed pagan gods thereafter.
Rehoboam‘s legacy would forever be shaped by his foolish quest for and display of power.
The Man Who Would Be King
Consider too the pursuit of position, a close cousin to the pursuit of power. Position. Status. Recognition. Place. These words describe what we see people pursuing all around us.
I know something about this. Born into a family that was poor, I looked upon those who had houses and functioning cars with some envy. I had no conception of celebrities or of royal families who made the news simply because of their position in life.
The desire for position in life may fuel an unhealthy ambition. The lack of position may operate as a snub, a chip on the shoulder.
I wonder if Jeroboam was like that. He wasn’t royalty. He was a servant in King Solomon’s employ. But he was a good one. In fact, he was given charge over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph. His influence and authority grew, and he became a threat to Solomon, and so Jeroboam fled to Egypt.
The scriptures are silent as to Jeroboam’s mindset, but it takes little imagination to believe that Jeroboam was sick with disappointment. I can see him saying to himself, “I was almost out of that little life and on the verge of greatness. How I might have ruled! How I might have led!”
He aspired for position and dared to believe that if he ever got it—the chance to lead—that he would not lose it. Indeed, it is not hard to imagine that during his Egyptian exile Jeroboam vowed revenge.
Position or Promise?
As the story turns, Solomon dies, and Jeroboam returns to his homeland. He’d been offered a promise by God: “…if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes…I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David…”
Despite this powerful promise, when Jeroboam ascends to the throne over Israel, he chooses to protect his position instead of serving the Lord. The scriptures record Jeroboam’s contemplation: “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem…to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me…” (I Kings 12.26-27)
You can see Jeroboam’s mind turning. If he follows the Lord, and allows people to sacrifice in Jerusalem, then he fears he might lose his position—the throne over Israel. His fear and his desire to keep his position lead to a fateful decision that will literally destroy his legacy.
Jeroboam creates false gods and sets them up throughout Israel so that no one has to travel to Jerusalem. He protects his turf—his position and power—and ultimately turns the nation away from serving the Lord.
Because Jeroboam rejects the promise to protect his position, the Lord pronounces a curse on Jeroboam: “…behold I will bring harm upon the house of Jeroboam and will cut off from Jeroboam every male, both bond and free in Israel, and will burn up the house of Jeroboam, as a man burns up dung until it is all gone.” (I Kings 14.10)
Just a chapter later, the Bible states with stunning simplicity: “And as soon as he [Baasha] was king, he killed all the house of Jeroboam. He left to the house of Jeroboam not one that breathed…”
Jeroboam’s controlling love of position destroyed his legacy. Forever.
The Way of the Servant King
So what’s the moral of these stories? Are we to avoid position and power at all costs?
No. There is another way.
Jesus the Christ was also a king, but a king unlike any this earth has ever produced. In him we see the one who had every claim to position and power, but who willingly gave them up to to humbly serve others.
He submitted completely to his Father’s authority, obediently going all the way to death on a cross in order to rescue his enemies.
Jesus’ life, death and resurrection created a life-giving legacy for all people for all time.
We don’t need to fear having position or power—though we’re wise to regularly examine our motives.
Jesus’ life serves as our pattern: position and power are gifts to steward. We use our power to serve others. We use our position to lead others to God.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
How will you be faithful with the power and position God has entrusted to you?
Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash
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Published August 8, 2019
Topics: A Life of Faith