Our family is reading Ecclesiastes for daily devotions this summer. As I sat down to today's reading (Ecclesiastes 4:13-16), I struggled with application. The passage speaks of a poor, young man usurping a foolish old king. And, to follow the theme of the book, "this too is meaningless, a chasing after wind." How would I apply this to my own life--or to our children?
Questions (and the Holy Spirit) led me to 1 Kings 11-12 where Solomon--the foolish, old king--was reprimanded by God for turning aside from His commands. God continued to inform Solomon that his kingdom would be given to his servant (the poor young man--1 Kings 11:11). Ecclesiastes tells us that people would throng to the side of this young man, but "there is no end to all the people...who...will not be happy with him, for this too is vanity, a striving after wind" (Ecc. 4:16).
What, then, is the take-away? A leader's worth, importance, and influence is not determined by popularity. It is God who sets up and establishes all authority (Romans 13:1-2). If I desire a place of influence to receive glory, power, the admiration of others--it is for nothing, it is absolute folly. People are fickle and any series of unpopular decisions will lose their favor, regardless of the wisdom of those decisions. To regard others as my audience is vanity and foolishness (Jeroboam's downfall, 1 Kings 12:27). But to serve with humility and dependence on God--this is effective leadership. Serving God first and foremost brings blessing, longevity, and favor with God (1 Kings 11:38).
The servant's heart will serve God, not people. In serving God, I will minister more effectively to the needs of others. Only God knows their true need and is able to move me toward meeting something more than a perceived need. Will I depend solely on the words and actions of others to determine my service? Or will I serve God first and foremost, living out an obedience and worship that blesses others?
(For a more in depth look at the traps of pleasing people vs. pleasing God, I highly recommend Lou Priolo's book, Pleasing People: How not to be an "approval junkie.")