If there is one sad story that we’ve seen too often repeated in the church, it is the story of gifted leaders getting off track. The result is a train wreck. Some of the most famous examples have been those who had large radio and television followings.
It may be a great over simplification to say that the story of Jeroboam explains this phenomenon, but perhaps it does give us a clue.
In 1 Kings 11:28 tells us:
Now the man Jeroboam was a valiant warrior, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious, he appointed him over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph.
Jeroboam had talent. He was a mighty warrior and a good manager. He was a man that men would follow. Solomon recognized this and rewarded it.
Jeroboam also had opportunity. A few verses later we are told that the prophet Ahijah came to Jeroboam to inform him that God was giving ten of the tribes of Israel to Jeroboam to lead. Not only would he lead them, but if he led well and followed God’s commands, Jeroboam would have an enduring kingdom like that promised to David.
It was at this point that Jeroboam had a choice to make. He had to choose between living in dependence upon God or relying on his wit and talent. As we can see from the following chapters, Jeroboam chose the latter and Israel suffered. 1 Kings 13:33 tells us that Jeroboam “did not return from his evil way.”
In reality, all of us have this same choice to make on a moment-by-moment, daily basis. In Luke 9:23, Jesus tells us to take up our cross daily. We have to constantly choose the path of self denial and reliance upon God. This is true not only for our Salvation but for our very existence as believers in Jesus Christ.
For those of us who are not in official positions of responsibility in the church, this choice seems like it would have small impact. Yet this is not the case. For the Body of Christ to be healthy, all of the members of the body must be in harmony with the head, Jesus Christ. We cannot be in harmony with the head unless we acknowledge our dependence upon him. Small rebellions can have a big impact.
For those, like Jeroboam, who have been given the responsibility to lead, small rebellions will always have huge impact. I believe this is why James 3:1 tells warns us that teachers will incur a stricter judgment. It is one thing to move yourself out of God’s blessing, it is another to lead a group toward chaos.
For all of us, small or great in the workings of the church, we need to learn the lesson of Jeroboam. Self reliance and self will have no place in the Kingdom of God. We rely on our own talent to our own peril and to the peril of those we lead.
We need to be reminded of the words Jesus spoke to Paul as recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
Reliance upon God-given talent, no matter how great that talent is, will always end in brokenness and failure. It’s not worth it; depend upon God and God alone.