“Mercy and truth preserve the king: and his throne is upholden by mercy.” (KJV).
“Unfailing love and faithfulness protect the king; his throne is made secure through love.” (NLT).
Advice for Leaders:
In this Proverb, Solomon teaches us two things. First, he commends to us two virtues of a good king: mercy and truth. Secondly, he shows how the ruler who walks in mercy will ensure he is successful in his rule. And although this proverb specifically deals with a king, I believe that the universal principle behind it can be applied to anyone in a leadership position – be they a government leader, teacher, parent, employer, or pastor.
Two Leadership Virtues:
In the world today, we are experiencing a crisis of leadership. There are so many leaders that don’t lead well. How many leaders – both prominent political leaders and religious leaders – have lost their position and influence because of a lack of integrity? Too many to count. If a leader wants to lead long, finish well, and have a lasting influence, he must be a person with a virtuous character. And two of the most important virtues, Solomon tells us, are mercy and truth. In fact, in another Proverb, Solomon tells all people, not just leaders, to aspire to be people of mercy and truth: “Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.” (3:3).
What does it mean for a leader to be merciful? It means that you don’t rule with harshness, cruelty or legalism. It means you are tender and gracious, and willing to forgive the mistakes of those you lead. It means you choose to lead with love, acceptance and forgiveness. And what does it mean to be truthful? It means you are faithful to your word, you keep your promises, and do what’s right. When you make mistakes (and you will make mistakes, and that’s okay), you are quick to admit it and ask for forgiveness where necessary.
When a leader walks in truth and especially mercy (which is mentioned twice in our text), it is said that his throne will be upholden, or made secure, by mercy. In other words, his leadership will last. His character and integrity will be preserved, and his influence will outlive his life.
I know of a leader in a church once who got hurt and offended, and rather than being merciful and choosing to forgive the other leader who had hurt him, he got bitter and started lying and gossiping about that other leader. As a consequence, many people were hurt and affected by his actions. It was such a sad and terrible situation that resulted in many people walking away from the church as a result of it. It totally broke my heart. This story serves as a warning to all who would neglect the proverbial admonition to walk in mercy and truth, which is designed to protect a leader – and the people he leads.
June 13th, 2013 at 12:08 am
Wow the last point about the minister’s inability to forgive is very sobering. Every pastor ought to read this and be reminded to seek forgiveness through the Gospel as motivation.
June 13th, 2013 at 8:43 am
Amen Slimjim! May the Lord help all of us as leaders to walk in forgiveness, free from Satan’s trap of offense… (p.s. a great resource is “The Bait of Satan” by John Bevere, all about the dangers of offense and unforgiveness, and how to walk free from that trap…
June 13th, 2013 at 3:04 pm
Is this a study guide? I just looked it up in a library’s catalog and found something with that title
June 13th, 2013 at 3:15 pm
Slimjim – what I posted on Proverbial Thought is just a single devotional based on that one Proverb, though I’m sure you could find dozens of books and study guides that deal with leadership advice, if you’re looking for it. My personal favourite book on the topic is “Spiritual Leadership” by Oswald Sanders, a book which I revisit about once a year. Great principles!
June 13th, 2013 at 12:37 am
I have been both kinds of leader. Fortunately, I was a Christian when I first entered any sort of leadership role, so my not good leads have been few.
I have also been in some churches and ministries with bad or misguided leaders, and it always ended badly for the church or ministry (or at least the leader).
June 13th, 2013 at 8:40 am
Daniel – I think all leaders would admit we have made mistakes – that’s part of life and leadership. But hopefully we can learn from our mistakes and grow as leaders and become more like the leaders God is calling us to me.
I too have been in and experiences churches and ministries with bad leadership, as I am sure have many people. I think this is why the Lord commands us to pray for all leaders, so we can live a quiet and peaceable life!
Thanks for your comments…
June 14th, 2013 at 8:26 am
While I agree with your thoughts on the proverb, I’m not sure that they really get to the heart of what is said.
To me it seems that when the writer says that ruler-ship is “upholden by mercy” it is completely reasonable to argue with him. There has never been a king or ruler who’s throne was founded entirely upon mercy and truth. Even King Solomon had enemies who needed keeping down by force. I think that the writer wants the reader to think this and then through meditation come to agree with his real view that perceived power (kingdoms, governments, etc) hold no real power other than that given to them by God whose kingdom is one of mercy, justice and truth. I think that we can conclude that, while there is practical advice in the proverb, the real message there is that when people are tempted to despair of their helplessness, or when they have pride about their own position of power, they need reminding that the only real throne is one of love and that the only real power that has ever existed belongs to God.
June 14th, 2013 at 9:07 am
Personally, I think you may be over-analyzing 😉 this verse, but anyone who “smokes a good pipe” needs to be heard. The combination of briarwood and black cavendish are conducive to deep, proverbial thinking.
Glad to have you along!
June 14th, 2013 at 9:20 am
Haha. You’re probably right. I personally prefer meerschaum.
June 14th, 2013 at 9:00 am
I appreciate your good words, Chris. Sometimes the role of leadership is a difficult burden to bear, especially when others hurt us. It is too easy to seek revenge or vindication. It is hard, however, to say good morning and lend a friendly smile to ones you know for a fact are seeking your demise.