It was said of R. C. Chapman, “He was exceptionally wise; characterized by a humble, gentle, and loving spirit.” Every leader amongst God’s people should covet such a commendation. The emphasis on the wise man in Proverbs is “character in leadership.”
King David had joy in his son Solomon. He saw evidences of his wisdom and trusted him with the plans and materials for building the temple of God. Solomon’s God-given wisdom was the result of his reverence for his father’s God. “Solomon loved the Lord” (1 Kings 3:3). Under the scepter of his wise rule, Israel saw no war and was united in peace for forty years.
Solomon wrote proverbs of wise counsel for his son Rehoboam. How sad that Rehoboam did not follow their wise counsel! He listened to the counsel of unproven, power-seeking men, and became a self-willed, egotistical, and harsh individual. As a forceful, conceited leader, he was the cause of the sad and catastrophic division of God’s people.
The wise man and his wisdom is mentioned several times in the book of Proverbs. In chapter 8 we cannot fail to see our Lord Jesus Christ personifying wisdom. Thus, likeness to Christ shines through those displaying this wisdom. Those God entrusts with leadership today must therefore grow in likeness to Christ.
We will consider three metaphors used of the wise man in Proverbs.
Value the Heritage!
In Proverbs 10:1-15, 13:1-16, and 29:1-4, the king’s son is taught principles for inheriting and governing the kingdom. Analyzing these statements impresses us with the teaching and training prospective leaders should receive. The inheritance to be entrusted to new leaders is described as treasures, great riches, and wealth. Paul by the Spirit speaks of “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” With such an inheritance to develop, we require wise men to teach and preserve the King’s riches and glory. This includes both the material and tact necessary to instruct saints. Young men being encouraged to share responsibility for the church of God should be taught to be students of the doctrines of God. Doctrine is the foundation for teaching and behavior in God’s assembly.
Character is also emphasized in these proverbs. Righteousness, diligence, humility, impartiality, and love are to mark the person who will govern and be trusted by the subjects of the realm. It is interesting to note that the “son” in these passages becomes a “servant” first to his superior and also to the citizens. Paul exhorts; “By love serve one another” (Gal 5:13). Leadership amongst God’s people is not about flaunting authority but is, rather, about distributing the needed materials and guidance to construct and garnish the temple of God.
Learn from the Ant!
The exhortation here is to one who considers himself wise by sidestepping responsibility. God has no respect for such careless leaders. The proud, professing leader is told to go to the insect and learn some God-given talents which are profitable for his responsibilities. A leader who is willing to learn becomes a good teacher.
Proverbs 6:6-11 and 30:24-25 teach us characteristics of the ant colony, which God commends. The ant is not strong, not self–sufficient, but uses its abilities tirelessly serving the colony. It is wise with foresight, preparing provision for the coming generation. Mature ants bite off both ends of grain so it will not sprout and its nourishment will be available to the young who cannot gather. There is no rivalry amongst the matured ants.
God desires to see these qualities developed in both the young and in the older person with whom He will entrust leadership. How beautiful is the unity and supply of the ant colony. “Keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:2). New Testament leadership requires skill, commitment, and patient grace in meeting the varied needs of young couples, singles, and elderly saints. The food supply gathered is varied: gospel doctrines, assembly principles, prophecy, and practical exhortation. By these, saints will more deeply adore their Lord and anticipate their coming hope. Thus, leadership is spiritual, not just passing the emblems on Lord’s Day morning. Leaders feed saints appropriately, and, as necessary, correct them.
Leaders become mentors. The young in the faith need available and approachable leaders, someone to introduce them to gospel distribution, children’s gatherings, and visitation of saints and neighbors. So let all of us go to the ant and learn God-given characteristics which produce productive, commendable, and trustworthy leaders in the churches of God today.
Become a Steersman!
This is the metaphor pictured in Proverbs 1:1-6. The wise man is the man of understanding. There is a nautical intention in the words “counsel” and “man of understanding.” So the wise man is pictured steering his ship safely through troublesome seas, following his chart, believing the compass, and navigating the buoys. The directives he gives are based on his calculations from the instruments. His charts show routes and danger areas along his course.
As Paul advises Titus for the guidance of overseers in Crete, leaders are to be men who know doctrine. Steering the testimony through false teaching and dangerous assaults of deceitful men requires strict attention to Scripture. While we are living in a time of changing values and the assertion of cultural behavior, we must guide testimony for God according to the teaching of the Master Steersman, our exalted Lord. His principles come first and regulate cultural preferences accordingly. The apostles’ teaching was foremost at the planting of the first , the prototypical church of God (Acts 2:41).
Realize the importance of spiritual leadership. Learn the effective attitude and activity of the lowly ant. As your hands take hold of the wheel to guide the assembly of God, believe the compass, refer always to the chart, and be discerning of the buoys.