16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people.
This was one of the verses that made me think the entire chapter was written to leaders. The issue isn’t how much or whether you enjoy the company of ordinary people. It’s that you even think there are classes of people.
Now, let’s be careful here. We have to acknowledge that leaders are different. The sacrifices, stress, risks, crises, blame and weight of decisions are enough to make Dan Allender conclude that if you’re not called to lead, why on earth would you ever do it? Leaders are different. But as leaders, what is our attitude toward those differences?
Pride sneaks into a leader’s life in subtle ways. Leadership positions feed it because of the uniqueness of the profession. Isolation can feed it. Holding onto secrets can feed it. Safety concerns can feed it. Decision-making power can certainly feed it. Let me share a subtle example.
I recall a story I read in Freakonomics. Some researchers came up with a pretty simple way to measure employee honesty: they talked to a bagel company that provided bagels to the break rooms of businesses in a major U.S. city. This company used an honor system, a little jar beside the bagels to gather payment. Over time, the empirical data showed some trends. Which group of employees as a general rule cheated the most? Right. The entitled ones on the top floor!
It hurts to read that! So, let’s have some discussion. What has worked to help you overcome the pride that sneaks up behind isolation, secrecy and security? How do you continue to think of yourself as an “ordinary person”? What keeps you grounded?
Of course, Jesus would have a problem with the idea that leaders are ordinary. Remember that the night before he was arrested, he gave a powerful lesson to his disciples. John 13:3 recounts that because “Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God,” he got down on his knees and did the lowest possible job in that culture: he washed his disciples’ feet. Jesus stated counterculturally that leaders should be last. Not ordinary, but last. The pyramid is inverted, and leaders are at the bottom.
So, let’s not try to be lofty leaders, or even ordinary people. Let’s be men and women who exist to support and encourage and serve those whom God has entrusted to us.