Today I was thinking about leadership. Leadership in government, as well as leadership in the Church. I have read books regarding various qualities that Church leaders should have. But does the Bible give us any indications of qualifications for civic leadership?

I want to focus this study on one verse found in the Old Testament. The context of this verse involves civic affairs in Israel under the leadership of Moses.

In Exodus there is a time where Moses is overwhelmed with the responsibilities of leading the Israelites, so he seeks out others to help him lead. These people were to be judges to help resolve matters in a fair manner. In Exodus 18:21 we can read a few of their qualifications.

Exodus 18:21 “…. look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.” (ESV)

Able
This is a small word in this passage, able, but it holds great significance. It reveals that not just anyone is capable to lead. That there is something to look for in a leader that makes them stand out above the rest, something that reveals they have skills and talents to perform the tasks that need to be accomplished. So, how can you tell if someone is able? You need to see a track record of competence with other tasks, there needs to be some experience involved with leading.

Trustworthy
A leader needs to be trusted. They must be known to be honest. There needs to be a record of them dealing with situations where being trustworthy has been noted. One can not be found to be trustworthy unless they have been placed into a situation where to be dishonest was a temptation. Being trustworthy is something that needs to be revealed through the character of the individual, tested by situations and time. You can’t fake being trustworthy for very long. The truth has a way of coming out.

Hate a Bribe
A leader can not be bought. That there is no amount of money that will cause them to trade their convictions for what is right, to satisfy their own desires. And not just that taking a bribe is a bad thing, that they would ‘hate’ a bribe. That everyone who is near them would know that to even go to that person with a bribe would be a disaster. Outspoken and strong leadership that can never be bought. This is a core value of a true biblical leader.

It is leaders with these qualities that we should be looking for to guide us and direct us down the right path. As we look to elect leaders in government these are a few characteristics that we can look to from scripture to guide us. This short list, derived from one passage, is far from exhaustive, and is simply some of the criteria that Moses utilized to select leaders for Israel. I have heard some say that we should not apply biblical principles in choosing secular civic leadership. I disagree. The Bible gives us useful information that is meant to be applied to our lives. We should not ignore what the Bible says makes a good leader. In fact we should strive to elect leaders that most closely resemble the type of leadership that God describes for us so clearly throughout scripture. A Biblical Leader will possess characteristics that make them stand above the crowd, not through arrogance or pride, but through ability, honesty, and integrity.