The Ultimate Leader's Script for Self-Defeat

Gideon's example in the Book of Judges urges us to throw off self-exaltation and follow Christ's example of servanthood.

Steve Zeisler provides insightful commentary on the subtle shift in the condition of Gideon’s heart.

“Over time,” says Zeisler, “Gideon begins to like the position of power to which he’s been raised, using it for ends that aren’t right. He continues to credit God (most of the time) for what’s done, but he also believes more and more that the human contribution should be rewarded.

“He refuses to be king formally, but has had opened the door for an informal testimony to his greatness.

“Small decisions build on one another to suggest that Gideon liked prestige and royal treatment, while continuing to claim, ‘the Lord shall rule over you.’”

Ultimately, Gideon’s actions exacted destructive consequences: Israel’s fall into idolatry and ruin to his family. On Gideon’s self-defeat, Zeisler states: “In the moment of public temptation to self-aggrandizement, Gideon gave the right answer. Immediately afterwards, he began the incremental process of undermining it—a few perks, a bit of gold, a few wives, an idol. His life deteriorated, and though he didn’t suffer most from it, the next generation suffered horribly because the son he left behind was an angry, godless man.”

Gideon’s legacy ought to be a wakeup call to all Christian leaders. We should choose humility over self-exaltation, recognize the subtle temptation that comes with positions of power, and always follow Christ’s example of servanthood (see Luke 14:11, Romans, 11:20, Philippians 2:3-8, I Peter 5:6).

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Charles Ridley
Chuck Ridley is professor of counseling psychology at Texas A & M University. Previously, he has taught at Indiana University and the Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary. Dr. Ridley is an avowed scientist-practitioner, one who applies sound social science principles to individual and organizational functioning. He also is deeply committed to the integration of psychology and theology. As a faculty member at Fuller Seminary, he developed the Church Planter Profile.