A regular feature on this blog will be some reflections on leadership. Now this isn’t because I think I’m a top shelf leader, far from it. The reason is because I read and hear and reflect a lot on leadership and leadership issues and so this is a place for me to filter and ponder.
The whole enterprise is called Plundering the Egyptians. I’ll explain that in a minute.
I recently heard Peter Jensen speak on the topic “The Biblical Model of Leadership” and his reflections were profoundly helpful.
He was given the topic, and said he didn’t like the word “Leadership” because it wasn’t really a word the Bible uses much at all. The Bible doesn’t really have much to explicitly say on the topic. It talks a lot about “authority” and “responsibility” and “ruling”, but not much about leadership per se.
He didn’t like the word “Model” because lots of the “models” people find in the Bible aren’t really what the passages are seeking to teach, a classic example being Moses and his mad delegation skills. But is that really what the passage is trying to teach us? Or is that a principle we already know and think is true which we then find an example of in Scripture. You have models of explicit teaching. You need to know what the teaching is before you can see the model, that’s just how it works.
Which means he also didn’t like the word “Biblical”. I mean he likes the word, don’t get me wrong, but just not in this context because although the example is found in scripture the teaching it exemplifies comes from outside the scriptures. Which doesn’t make it evil or wrong but it does mean it’s not Biblical in that sense. It’s not against scripture but it’s not from scripture either.
And he didn’t like the word “The”, because the Bible has lots of things to say about authority and responsibility and about ruling and has lots of models we can find, and so to say there is one, ultimate, THE model is unhelpful.
But he did want to make it clear that he liked the word “of”.
All this is to say that for these thoughts on leadership, the vast majority – though not all – of them will not be coming from the Bible. I would class them in category of wisdom. Reflections on the way our world normally works and reflections on how to navigate this world with some degree of success. I believe that everything in the Bible is true, but that not everything that’s true is in the Bible. I think that’s the realm where leadership thoughts function: reflections on life that are largely true. In fact, I see a good deal of overlap between “leadership teaching” and individual Proverbs in that both are focussed on relating to and positively influencing other people.
So these “Leadership Proverbs” are called “Plundering the Egyptians” for two reasons:
1) The title is an allusion to Exodus 12:35-36 – “35 The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians”. God’s people, even as they were separating themselves from the Egyptians, took with them some of the valuable goodies from the Egyptian people. In the same way, although I have a fundamental difference to secular thinking in this area in the sense that, hopefully, my thinking is cross-shaped, still I’m happy to take on any valuable and true insight that they, by God’s grace, notice about the world.
2) A bit more obscure, seeing these insights as mutatis mutandis comparable to Proverbs my understanding of Proverbs is that it itself is an example of “plundering the Egyptians” in that there are significant similarities between the biblical Book of Proverbs and the Egyptian wisdom literature referred to as Amen-em-ope, written circa. 1100 BC. Here I am of the opinion that the Israelites didn’t simply slavishly copy the Egyptian wisdom, but that in assimilating that wisdom the Israelites transformed or rejected that which didn’t line up with their understanding of the world as created and ruled by Yahweh as told in the rest of Hebrew Scripture. So these thoughts are a dual-plundering, if you like.
Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.