“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”
The church is God’s household, and we are called to be faithful stewards of that household. The kings of Israel and Judah provide us with a powerful cautionary tale to avoid self-centered arrogance.
The church—the new covenant community of the King—thrives on servant leadership, and it is threatened by self-centered leadership. As Jesus said, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)
In a fallen world, there is something about the position and power of leadership that seduces people into arrogance and pride. Lord Acton made the now famous observation that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
More often than not, world history has validated this statement. It was certainly true for the nation of Israel in the OT.
This is tragic, because leadership is a high calling. Leaders are in a unique position to do great good for the people they lead, whether that is a nation, an organization, a team, or a work group.
But for some reason, when people get into a position of leadership, many become self-oriented. Too often they use their position and power to pursue their personal agenda, indulge their passions, and serve themselves.
They fail to recognize the Great Secret of Leadership: It’s not about you!
In the 2 Chronicles passage that describes Solomon completing the temple in Jerusalem, there is something that got my attention. Here is the passage: “Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished” (2 Chronicles 7.11).
What got my attention was the statement that in addition to completing a spectacular temple for the Lord, Solomon also completed a spectacular palace for himself. 1 Kings 7.1 says that it took thirteen years to build his own house. Earlier in 1 Kings 6 it says that it took seven years to build God’s temple.
In other words, Solomon spent nearly twice as much time building his own palace as he did building the Lord’s temple. I don’t know if this is significant or not, but we do know the legacy left by Solomon was not a great one. Despite his wisdom and many blessings from God, Solomon grew increasingly self-centered and arrogant throughout his life.
And it would appear that Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, inherited his father’s arrogance. After Solomon’s death, Rehoboam succeeded him as king, and it was Rehoboam’s ego and arrogance that caused the great split in Israel between the ten tribes in the north and the two tribes in the south.
Solomon had built and God had blessed a unified Israel. But now because of arrogant, self-centered leadership, the unity disintegrated and the history that follows is a tragedy. Yes, Solomon built a great temple for God and a spectacular palace for himself. But as Psalm 127 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”
The lesson for all leaders is clear: Pay attention to what kind of house you are building, for whom you are building it, and why. Remember the Great Secret of Leadership: It’s not about you.
It’s about the Audience of One.