How Rehoboam Failed at Servant Leadership
Every story can be broken down into a few parts. The setting, where the story takes place and why it might be important. The characters and their emotions and thoughts invested in the story. A tension that needs resolved. A resolution that brings us through the tension, and a through line (aka main idea) that carries the story through from beginning to end.
The SettingIsrael had gone to Shechem to make Rehoboam king.
The CharactersRehoboam the harsh king, The Israelites as oppressed people, Elders who gave wise advice, Young men who gave terrible advice, and Jesus who teaches us what it is to be great.
The TensionKing Solomon had put a heavy burden on the people, both in taxation and labor. The Israelites had gathered to meet Rehoboam to ask him to make their burden lighter. Rehoboam would presented with a choice of what sort of king he would become. Would he become a servant king or another oppressive king? He’d also have to make a decision between listening to wisdom or listening to those who would stand to benefit gain themselves if Rehoboam listened to them.
The ResolutionWe find resolution in what we can learn from this story. When we lose sight of servanthood things go awry. When we do what’s best for others we will often find that it’s actually what’s best for us to, but when we lose sight of this and make our leadership and lives about ourselves we stray away from the life God has designed for us.
The Through LineThere are many different schools of thought about leadership out there that can be loosely categorized into self serving vs others serving. Servant Leadership itself can take many forms, but on thing is clear, it’s about taking on the nature of servant. Those of us who follow Jesus have this mandate. To be the greatest we have to be the least. To be the leader we have to be the servant. Rehoboam missed this and his kingdom strayed away from God.
Why has this story endured?It’s a dark story. It’s Rehoboam doubling down on King Solomon’s burden on the people and this is something where sadly history consistently repeats itself. This story serves as a backdrop for servant leadership.
What is true for them then that is still true for us today?There’s still power in servanthood if we would choose it. It’s much more life giving and influencing than any of us give it credit for. It doesn’t necessarily fit the narrative we are given in culture, the narrative of strong man leadership and getting things done, but our ways are often misaligned with God’s ways and God’s way truly is servant leadership. Jesus’ very servanthood took him to the cross making a way for life for us.
How does this story help us love God?When we reflect on leadership, it calls us to remembrance of Jesus’ leadership. God took on the form of servanthood to us to make a way towards eternal life for us. It helps us love God more by helping us to remember that God loves us so much that God even took the form of a servant as Jesus in the world.
How does this story help us love others?It gives us permission to be servants to others when sometimes the world shouts at us to make life all about ourselves. Sometimes the most freeing thing we can do in life is to submit self to servanthood.