“It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the children of perversion continue to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel. Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time First reading.
This reading talks about leadership and what it means for King David to be a leader. It brings to mind another reading, this one from Numbers.
Moses told the NAME, “May the NAME, the God of the spirits of all humanity, set over the community someone who will be their leader in battle and who will bring them out and bring them in, that the NAME’s community may not be like sheep without a shepherd.” And the NAME replied to Moses: Take Joshua, son of Nun, a man of spirit, and lay your hand upon him. Numbers 27:15-18
It is no coincidence that Jesus hung out with fishermen. “Nun,” is the Aramaic word for a fish. Joshua is the Hebrew word for Jesus, God Saves. Joshua is the first great shepherd after Moses and Joshua Ben Nun is Jesus. David, in his address to God asking to build a temple shows how he doesn’t get it. God doesn’t want great houses. He wants to go out before the people and be their leader.
The Hebrew word for a leader is כָּבֵד, which also means the liver, importance, and by extension, glory. There is a reason we speak of leading as lead. Lead is a heavy metal, and in Irish tradition also the important one. To show how Hebrew connects mind and body, “Cali” means the kidneys and is the place the Jewish people assigned for the mind. The leader is the important one because he’s the shepherd, the one who leads the people out and the one who brings them in.
Moses asks that the people not be as sheep without a shepherd, but regrettably today, that is precisely the case. We have people in high places who like to think they’re important. “The wealth disparity between upper and middle-income Americans has hit a record high, according to a new Pew Research Center Report. On average, today’s upper-income families are almost seven times wealthier than middle-income ones, compared to 3.4 times wealthier in 1984. When compared to lower income family wealth, upper income family wealth is 70 times larger.”
“Someone from among your own kindred you may set over you as king; you may not set over you a foreigner, who is no kin of yours.” Deuteronomy 17: 15
How can someone be of our own kindred when they bring home 70 times more than we do?
Luther Gulick in his Management theory lists 5 management skills: Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, and Controlling/Accounting. If one looks at a typical M.B.A. program one will not find a single class required for this directing. One is also hard pressed to find classes in staffing. Luther lists in his understanding of Directing: Motivation, Leadership, and Communication. The typical M.B.A. program has no courses for these skills, either. Luther Gulick lists for Leadership, “Leadership is the ability of a manager to induce the subordinates to work with confidence and zeal.”
From their training on, managers, plan, organize, staff and control, do accounting, use number to measure the non-measurable, human beings. They don’t lead because they don’t know how. They don’t shepherd the people because they don’t know how and don’t know who the sheep even are. The people are like sheep without a shepherd.
Leadership is the potential to influence behavior of others. It is also defined as the capacity to influence a group towards the realization of a goal. Leaders are required to develop future visions, and to motivate the organizational members to want to achieve the visions.
According to Koontz and o’ Donnell, “Leadership is the ability to persuade others to seek defined objectives enthusiastically. It is the human factor which binds a group together and motivates it towards goals.” Keith Davis goes on to say, “Leadership is its nature to understand the feelings and problems of the group as a whole as well as the individuals, and a leader should strive to satisfy the personal and social needs of his followers, which is very much expected by them. A
Psalm 72: To Solomon “The end of the psalms of David, son of Jesse.” (This is King David’s advice, his last words to his son on how to lead the people.) O God, give your judgment to the king; your justice to the king’s son; That he may govern your people with justice, your oppressed with right judgment, that he may defend the oppressed among the people, save the children of the poor and crush the oppressor. May all kings bow before him, all nations serve him. He rescues the poor when they cry out, the oppressed who have no one to help. He shows pity to the needy and the poor and saves the lives of the poor. From extortion and violence, he redeems them, for precious is their blood in his sight.
Psalm 82: God takes a stand in the divine council, gives judgment in the midst of the gods. “How long will you judge unjustly and favor the cause of those who think themselves first? “Defend the lowly and fatherless; render justice to the afflicted and needy. Rescue the lowly and poor; deliver them from the hand of those who think themselves first.” The gods neither know nor understand, wandering about in darkness, and all the world’s foundations shake.
Who are these gods? “I declare: “Gods though you be, offspring of the Most High all of you, Yet like any mortal you shall die; like any prince you shall fall.” They were great managers. They had great plans, organized for them with zeal, even hired day laborers for their plans. Their accounting was top notch. They lacked leadership. They left their charges like sheep without a shepherd, just like our managers.
These gods are the princes, the managers of secular industry and the current federal government. Their job, and the job of all leaders is to do what David tells Solomon in Psalm 72 and God accuses the princes of not doing in Psalm 82. To find this fault he must live among the people, and listen to them. This is what Jesus does and this is what he calls our leaders to do.
When Moses asks for Joshua Ben Nun to lead the people, by using the shepherding analogy, this is what he means. This is what he means for Jesus, and by extension for us, and in particular for our leaders. There is no room here for making 70 times more than workers make. Those who do are not among us.
Leadership and by extension management includes leading people from the front. Jesus speaks of leadership in John 10: 2-4. This is also the passage where Jesus says he came to bring life and life to its fullest for his sheep. “But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.” This is leadership. This is what Jesus did throughout his life, by being born in a feeding trough, the son of a homeless immigrant unwed mother, to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, walking the roads looking for these folk, and the list goes on. Now let us follow his example.
This Christmas, let us remember our leader, lying in a feeding trough, among us. Let us remember how we sing of the little drummer boy and the baby in the manger who heals the wounded lamb. From birth, this baby, an immigrant, the son of a homeless unwed mother, came to and for the poor. Let us be like him in our lives. Bring leadership to the people.