Week of May 24

The Smile of God and Amazon Frown

Read: 1 Kings 4-5; 2 Chronicles 2; Psalm 101;
2 Thessalonians 3

Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy. Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.
1 Kings 4:20-21, ESV


More than a few rags-to-riches graduation videos have made social media news this year. I enjoy viewing the stories of young men and women who have overcome great hardship to accomplish academic milestones. I guess we can say that Bathsheba’s boy was featured in the Israelite Gazette! His success is well-chronicled in Kings. His predecessor Saul had overseen a loose confederacy of tribes, and his father had expanded the kingdom greatly, but Solomon was known for his ability to govern internally and internationally. His strategic leadership is in full view in our focal chapter. We may glean several key leadership principles that apply to our lives, homes, churches, businesses and institutions.

A Biblical Lens

First, Solomon sought God’s help to lead (cf. 3:8; “give your servant”). I know that I appear to have stated the obvious, but, if that were a given, then why did King Saul fail so miserably?! (1 Samuel 15:10-11, 17). Solomon described himself as “‘ebed” or servant. The word appears 799 times in the Old Testament where the service may be directed toward things, people, or God. Do you see what I see? There may be hundreds of uses in a variety of contexts, but what matters most is for a leader to get right this one relationship with God. God speaks, then the leader obeys. This was God’s requirement for Israel’s kings, but he also expects the same of people like you and me (Luke 6:46; John 14:15; Romans 6:16; James 1:22; 4:7).

Secondly, he applied God’s gift of wisdom to organize the kingdom (3:8, “an understanding mind to govern your people”). Solomon’s call was to govern, and the word meant to exercise the processes of the government. Unlike our age where we are governed by the rule of law, and government is divided into branches, Solomon knew that people would look to him as the one who ruled over them. God, of course, was the ultimate ruler (Genesis 18:25; Psalm 96:13), but Solomon ruled by His divine authority (Deuteronomy 1:17; 1 Kings 4:1). Solomon placed good leaders in areas of key responsibility; and, success followed (4:1-19). One of my pastor-mentors once told me, “Larry put good people into areas of responsibility, then let those good people do their good work.”

Thirdly, remember that you oversee people not just organizations (4:7-19). The nation had been a confederacy of twelve loose-knit tribes. Solomon reorganized them to sustain the central government for the present and future (4:7). He did utilize family members, but the point was that all these individuals were capable (cf. NAC). Overall, our writer wants us to see that this king took what he had been given by God and used his gifts and talents to strengthen it. In Ashlock speak, too many leaders fail to realize that a faith family, not a flow chart alone, brings about God’s success.

Fourthly, always remember that the blessings originate with God, and they are not to be laid as burdens upon those one leads (4:20; James 1:17). The people were taxed, but they were also happy. How may this ever be so? Their food needs and protection from enemies were provided, so they were pleased (4:20). Keep in mind that Solomon was one person whom God used to accomplish the promises given to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-9; EBC).

The leader may use the blessings to benefit others, in this case, or to become a burden (cf. 1 Kings 12:1-4). Hints that something was not entirely good, and right, are evident in Solomon’s accumulation of horses (Deuteronomy 17:14-20) and his royal excesses (1 Samuel 8:10-18). Therefore, it is always good for a leader to ask, “What will be the long-term good that may come from this current action?” Let’s make use of a current moral situation where the principles are evident.

A Moral Pathway

An incredible news item has emerged from this extraordinary period in the world. While the World Health Organization forecasts a coming pandemic of famine that will follow the current global health crisis, one man is projected to become the world’s first trillionaire by 2026 (USA Today, 5-14-20). The founder and CEO of Amazon has been in the news of late because he has become even more wealthy in this crisis; even as his employees express their dissatisfaction over the safety of their working conditions and pay. He also has made billions of dollars while more than 30 million Americans are unemployed. In short, people are not eating and drinking and at peace with this person. Hmm.

Even though the CEO is not known to be a Christian, nor to profess a belief in God as we know Him, there are some moral principles that apply (see principle one above). His life is a rags-to-riches story, somewhat like Solomon’s background, because he began the company in the garage of his rented home with a $250,000 investment from his parents (Re-read 1 Kings 1). I do not know the person, and I am definitely not his judge, but it may have been tempting for him to assume that his blessings of wisdom and business acumen were his own (cf. 1 Kings 3:7-9 with Luke 12:16-21, “my crops,” “my barns,” “my grain and my goods,” and “my soul”).

The CEO presumably must answer to his board of directors, but one wonders what ultimate accountability there may be to respect the value and dignity of human lives. Even some of his most senior officials have resigned because they were upset at the firings of executives who spoke out against the treatment of workers in warehouses (see principle two above). Perhaps the leader knows how to build a company but not how to build lives (see principle three above). One wonders if he failed to look through the lens of gratitude when he was planning his future. World-shapers, however, have a different worldview (Matthew 6:19-24; Luke 12:21).

For Your Journaling

I often asked my students what type of graduate will you be; a strutting rooster in a barnyard, or a turtle on a fence post? The rooster thinks he got where he is because of his own value, and he lords over the other chickens. The turtle on a fence post knows that others helped to get him/her there. He/she also knows that help must be given in order to move forward!

Question: What type of leader will you be at home, church, business, and life?

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock