Why do we desire to lead? Hint - it is not always because we are humble or want to change the world. Sometimes our desires for fame, fortunate and power drive our aspirations for leadership. I would maintain that authentic biblical leadership starts with an examination of the "passions"/desires that underlie our desire to lead.
Evagrius Ponticus (349–399 AD), a monastic theologian in Egypt, is believed to be the first writer to record and systematize certain teachings of the predominately illiterate Desert Fathers. A prominent feature of his research was a list of eight evil "passions" (desires). While he did not create the list from scratch, he is credited with refining and developing it.
His list of “passions” was, in order of increasing seriousness:
Acedia (from the Greek "akedia," or "not to care") denoted "spiritual sloth."
Evagrius intended for this list to be used for diagnostic purposes. One cannot resist temptation without being aware of how it operates. What is interesting, is that his list starts with gluttony. For Evagrius, sin starts with our surrender to our uncontrolled appetites. This is echoed in the Scriptures when the Apostle Paul writes:
For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. (Philippians 3:18-19)
The age-old discipline of fasting, or the curbing of our appetites might be the first step in the purification of our desires. The Philokalia (the writings of the Desert Fathers) records that Abba John the Short, advising the young brothers to love fasting, told them frequently:
“The good soldier, undertaking to capture a strongly fortified, enemy city, blockades food and water. In this way the resistance of the enemy is weakened and he finally surrenders. Something similar happens with carnal impulses, which severely war against a person in his youth. Blessed fasting subdues the passions and the demons and ultimately removes them far from the combatant."
"And the powerful lion,” he told them another time, “frequently falls into a snare because of his gluttony, and all of his strength and might disappear.”
Fasting for most of us should include the curbing of more than our appetites for food. We should fast for those desires and activities that lead to sin. For some this could mean a fasting from speaking, curbing our desire to always having an opinion and sharing it. For others it might mean the willingness to let others have an opportunity to lead.
What is your area of gluttony? What are those biblical disciplines that will help you to curb those desires that tempt us to move from leadership to dictatorship?
May we all have the courage to re-examine all our desires for leadership - this might have to start in the determined control of our appetites - including our desire for power over others.
Related from Spiritual Life:
Fasting Teaching Sheet by CBN.com
The Power of Prayer and Fasting by Marilyn Hickey
Fasting: The Soul Vacation by Jennifer E. Jones
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Dr. Corné Bekker joined Regent University in 2005. He previously served as the associate dean for academics of Rhema Bible College in Johannesburg, South Africa and now as an associate professor for the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship. Dr. Bekker teaches in the doctoral programs of the School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship and is actively involved in research on the use of biblical hermeneutics and spirituality to explore leadership. He is the editor of the Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership (JBPL) and the co-editor of Inner Resources for Leaders (IRL).
Dr. Bekker is an ordained minister and has traveled in Africa, Europe, the East and North America to present at churches, ministries, seminars and academic conferences on the subject of Christian spirituality and leadership formation.
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