Leader or King? The Answer May Surprise You.

by Andy Wood on August 5, 2008

in Leadership, Life Currency

CrownIt was one of the most significant turning points in Israel’s history.  A day when elders behaved like spoiled children – deciding what they wanted, then fitting the problem to their solution.  A day that set their course for hundreds of years.  An event that, prompted by fear and ambition, abandoned the character and calling of a nation.  And yet, compared to other great events in the family-nation’s remarkable history, this day is seldom remembered.

In a time when influence was wielded by men and women who knew and walked with God, Israel’s leaders wanted more.

They wanted to be like everybody else.

“Give us a king,” they said.

Samuel didn’t like it, and took it personally.  “Relax,” God says.  “They’re rejecting Me, not you.  But now you know how I feel.”

Human nature tends to swing between two extremes:

Extreme #1:  Judges 21:25 says that “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Extreme #2:  “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles”  (1 Samuel 8:19-20).

Anarchy or monarchy.  License or lock-up.

Here in the “land of the free,” we’re no different.  We’re still pushing those envelopes – we just use different language and systems.  One minute we (as a culture) are saying, “Don’t tell me how to live my life!”  The next, we’re willingly giving up tax money, children (!), and personal freedom to have the government (the king) fight our battles for us.

Samuel tried to warn them back then, but Israel’s elders didn’t want their convinced minds confused by facts.

So is there something healthier?  Something that bridges the gap in the two extremes?  Of course.  But it requires something completely different.  It requires leadership and personal and corporate responsibility.  It would have required Israel to accept their calling as a kingdom of priests.  It requires Christ-followers to do the same.

Let’s be honest – kings are a heckuvalot easier, mentally.  Let somebody else figure all this out, and we’ll just give them lots of money.  But at what price?

Oh, and before you say “amen” and turn the page, may I gently suggest that Christians even do this in churches?

I’ve met some kings and king-makers over the years.  None of them were in government.  They all were in churches or denominations.

So what’s the difference between a king and a leader?  And what are you looking for in your place of worship or in your capital building?  Here are some first-blush ideas, with a little help from Samuel:

  • Kings rule by position; leaders lead by influence.
  • Kings tax people; leaders encourage voluntary acts of service and sacrifice.
  • Kings promise security, but do so by exacting it from the people at a great price.  Leaders empower people to secure themselves, and/or find their security in the Lord.
  • Kings serve as a final arbiter – a judge.  Leaders teach people to settle their own differences, or offer counsel – using authority only as a last resort.
  • Kings depend on authority and might to rule.  Leaders depend on integrity and, in a spiritual context, intimacy with God.

I’d like to know your ideas.  I know authority has its place.  But am I off the wall here?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

RicardoTrumbo September 17, 2011 at 1:56 am

Dr Wood your commentary was very good and very true, I really like this sentence: Leaders empower people to secure themselves, and/or find their security in the Lord. I pray that the leaders of our Families and our Nation will embrace the attributes you shared.
Here is a website I have been a supporter of for many years, it is in no way endorsing any particular person; it is for prayer.

The quiet storm April 9, 2018 at 8:27 am

The king is the sovereign in his own right. The leader is the one who dictates the gaze of the king. We each have the ability to do both. This is one manifestation of the eternal duality in man. For man is dual brained and dual spirited. Blessed be are those that find this inner knowing. Balance in all things.

J.Michael October 27, 2019 at 9:41 am


Judges enforce laws. (God’s laws in Old Testament times)

Kings make up the laws. (Godless laws included in modern times)

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