Hanging in my office is a framed excerpt from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt. You have probably seen it. It has been called “the Man in the Arena”. Without sharing the entire quote, it simply says the credit belongs to the man in the arena. Not the sideline observer or the Monday morning quarterback. The credit goes to the doer of deeds. It is a necessary ingredient in leadership.
I have many articles written by men such as Vince Lombardi and John Wooden that address this idea of leadership. And I am sure not the first one to observe that this is the crisis of our time. Leadership in government, in the home, in the church, in the workplace, etc. appears to be in short supply.
Recently I was considering the idea of parables. Parables are generally defined to be earthly stories with heavenly meanings. We associate parables with the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament. Much of His teaching was done through these stories designed to illustrate deeper truths. The parable of the prodigal son is a widely recognized story and teaches many wonderful lessons.
However the parables are not confined to the New Testament alone. There are many parables in the Old Testament as well. An example of this is the story Nathan told David in 2 Samuel 12: 1-7 in order to help David realize and confront the sin he had committed with Bathsheba.
Today I would like to focus our attention on the parable of the trees found in Judges 9: 8-15. The parable has strong lessons concerning the selection of leaders.
The story is told that the trees of the forest went forth looking for a tree to anoint as king over them. They first approached the olive tree. This was the most valued and respected of the trees. But the olive tree refused.
Next the trees sought the fig tree. This tree was less valued than the olive tree but still respected nonetheless. It too refused. And the search continued all the while lowering the standards.
The vine was approached and after refusing, lastly the bramble was selected. The olive tree, the fig, and the vine were all plants of great importance to the people because they produced fruit. The bramble however was completely worthless and unsuitable for the task.
The bramble was probably the thorn bush, a scraggly bush common in the hills of Canaan and a menace to farming. It produced nothing of value. But note the lowly bramble was the only one who would accept the mantle of leadership.
The scripture in Judges was applied to Abimelech. He was an unworthy leader and it was a mistake to select him for the position. The bramble was an appropriate figure for Abimelech.
The parable has application to us today. Whether we are selecting church leadership or leaders otherwise, the lesson is the same. When those qualified refuse to lead sometimes those less qualified take the lead. This is a very dangerous situation.
Even our nation is not immune. Just look back at our history over the last 50 years, note the decline in morality, and consider the role weak leadership has played in this.
Whether we are talking leadership in the church, at home, or in the pursuit of career success, I wish to make but one point. Leadership doesn’t just happen. It takes a concerted effort to prepare oneself for the mantle of leadership.
As far as church leadership goes, I am convinced this is one of the most crucial areas facing the church. Let us prepare the next generation of leaders. And you younger Christians, realize it is a project that you must work on for yourself.
The preparation is not done overnight. Study GOD’S word, make application of it, have an active prayer life and prepare yourself for that opportunity. Seize it when it comes but be sure you are an olive, fig or vine. Don’t be a bramble.