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The True Cost of Following Bad Leaders

Posted by Joshua Claycamp on

For behold, the Lord God of hosts is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah support and supply, all support of bread, and all support of water; the mighty man and the soldier, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder, the captain of fifty and the man of rank, the counselor and the skillful magician and the expert in charms.

And I will make boys their princes, and infants shall rule over them. And the people will oppress one another, every one his fellow and every one his neighbor; the youth will be insolent to the elder, and the despised to the honorable. For a man will take hold of his brother in the house of his father, saying: “You have a cloak; you shall be our leader, and this heap of ruins shall be under your rule”; in that day he will speak out, saying: “I will not be a healer; in my house there is neither bread nor cloak; you shall not make me leader of the people.”

For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence. For the look on their faces bears witness against them; they proclaim their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves. Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him. My people—infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them.

O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths. The Lord has taken his place to contend; he stands to judge peoples.” (Isaiah 3:1–13, ESV)


Isaiah 3:1-13 is a judgement upon Judah and Jerusalem. The nation had trusted for far too long in their leaders, who were corrupt, and the result of their misplaced dependence is to be ruled by those who are, perhaps both figuratively and literally, children. The “great men,” so called, have been hauled off into captivity as a punishment for leading the entire nation into idolatry. As the great men have been lead off into exile, they have left behind lesser men, or children, to rule the nation. These lesser men will rule through tyrannical means; justice will fall to the ground and anarchy will reign. Society will become unstable. The only law that matters is to appease and satisfy whoever happens to be in power at that moment.

If you follow and depend upon bad leaders you will suffer through even worse leadership in their wake.  

Be sure to note the crime and punishment: Israel followed bad leaders into idolatry. This sin resulted in a war ravaged country left in “ruins” to be governed by impetuous self-serving children. The punishment for supporting and following bad leaders is not merely a broken home or a broken community. It is a broken home and broken community to be left indefinitely in the hands of tyrants. The true punishment is heart ache followed by a near-hopeless uncertainty for your future and your children's future as you are left in the hands of despots.

This is one of those crimes against the Lord where the true punishment is exponentially greater than the initial disaster of bad leadership. It is isn't simply war and exile; it is war, exile, and an entire future is lost.

This is what was happening in Israel: one weak leader followed upon another as the nation seemed intent on devouring itself before Assyria could reach it. To make a select few great men the source of your community’s’ greatness is always to end up with a scarcity of great men. Unless greatness comes from within the community itself, where every man and woman is a leader after God’s own heart, no great leaders will arise from it. Leaders usually reflect the poverty of the community itself. Your community will produce leaders who lead from the same spiritual bankruptcy as the community. The only remedy is for every member of the community to be grounded in Christ and responsible for every other member within the community. The punishment for embracing anything less than this is an unsteady and uncertian future spent at the hands of villains.

Years ago, reflecting on the insanity of the Reichstag Government under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, a bold Lutheran Pastor proclaimed:

"If [the true Leader] understands his function in any other way than as it is rooted in fact, if he does not continually tell his followers quite clearly of the limited nature of his task and of their own responsibility, if he allows himself to surrender to the wishes of his followers, who would always make him their idol – then the image of the Leader will pass over into the image of the mis-leader, and he will be acting in a criminal way not only towards those he leads, but also towards himself. The true Leader must always be able to disillusion. It is not just that this is his responsibility and real object. He must lead his following away from the authority of his person to the recognition of the real authority of orders and offices…" (Bold added)

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dear Christian, you are called by God to be a leader who follows Him. Every Christian man and woman must be a leader within the community. As we seek to ponder and understand these lessons and to apply them to our church, it becomes clear that the Baptist distinctive of congregationalism, rule by the community of believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is the only sure remedy for two ever present temptations:

  1. Ambitious men will always be tempted by their gifts and the position of their office to take increasingly more authority to themselves than God would allow them.
  2. And less ambitious men are always tempted to remain lazy and to abide in spiritual mediocrity, thus giving way to the tyrants.

God does give leaders, but He grants authority to leaders for the purpose of elevating the many to greatness, not to lord over them. If you seek a Lord, then allow me to point you to Jesus Christ, but please be careful. If you truly encounter Christ, you will find that He calls you to stand as a disciple, a leader of men for the sake of their greatness and not your own.


Tags: leadership, leaders, anarchy, society, congregationalism, church leadership