1 Kings 12 tells the story of when Israel officially was divided into two kingdoms. In reading this passage, I was struck that, obviously this was God’s will and judgement, but it came as the result of one leader listening to bad advice and choosing to lead poorly.
Jeroboam had just taken over to rule and sought advice on how to best handle the people. They felt they had been heavily burdened during his father’s reign and they cried out to him for relief. In verse 7 the elders told Jeroboam, “Today if you will be a servant to these people and serve them, and if you respond to them by speaking kind words to them, they will be your servants forever.”
That advice is the definition of servant leadership and I’m sure was quite different from how kings were used to ruling. In fact, when Jeroboam sought advice from the people his own age, they suggested a much different approach. In fact, they told him to tell the people that he would be tougher and harsher than his father ever was.
Jeroboam chose the latter approach. The people rebelled against his harshness. The kingdom split.
We are all in danger of creating divisions within our own lives. We can create separation of relationships in our jobs, in our marriages, in our ministry, in our churches, in our friendships, and with our children.
Jeroboam provides quite the recipe for creating division. Here are some ways that you and I may be creating disconnects as well.
- Choose pride, power, or position over kindness. We likely don’t do this as blatantly as Jeroboam did. However, if we are honest with ourselves, we do it every day:
- Insist on having the last word
- Make sure others know how important we are or how busy we are or how hard we work
- Hold tightly to the fact that we are right, even when it really doesn’t matter
- Refuse to admit when we are wrong, because we are afraid others will think badly of us.
- Protect our pride at the cost of investing in others.
- Become territorial in our area of work which ends up hindering relationships with other co-workers.
- Only listen to people who are just like us.
- Disregard advice that from people who are in a different life stage from you and just assume they “don’t get it”.
- Refuse to consider others’ points of view, especially those that hold a radically different opinion than yours.
- Seek people who agree with you more than you seek Biblical wisdom.
- Assume people can’t speak into our decisions regarding our ministry or our job because they work in a different area.
- Choose harshness or indifference over grace.
- Refuse to speak to our spouse because we were obviously right and they obviously wronged us.
- Choose stricter discipline for our kids than might be necessary because our feelings are hurt
- Hold people to an unattainably high standard and be upset when they don’t meet it.
- Use sarcasm and harsh words to express our feelings.
When we focus on preserving ourselves or making sure our own image is protected, we end up harming relationships with those God has put in our lives… those who are made in HIS image. We end up causing stress in our families, strain in our marriages, discomfort in our workplaces, and grumbling in our church. What if, instead, we followed the first advice that Jeroboam received?
“Be a servant to the people and serve them…. respond to them by speaking kind words to them.” (1 Kings 12:7)
Isn’t this what Jesus did and taught? Isn’t this what we know in our heads is the right way to treat the people in our lives?
My challenge for you – and for me – is to identify one way that we may be causing division somewhere in our own lives. At work? In marriage? With your children? In the church? What is one way that you can start serving instead of preserving pride? What is one situation in which you can respond with kindness and grace instead?
Let us be people who seek to be Romans 12:18 people, “ If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”