ARTICLE: Gideon and Abimelech: A Lesson for Power-Hungry Christians. By Gean T George, India
The Old Testament features Gideon as a significant character who was divinely selected by God to liberate the Israelites from the subjugation of the Midianites. Notwithstanding his initial uncertainties and sentiments of insufficiency, Gideon exhibited remarkable faith and compliance with God’s directives. Despite having a limited number of troops, he managed to secure a significant triumph over an overwhelmingly large adversary, thereby showcasing the potency and steadfastness of the divine.
Modern believers are inspired by Gideon’s story. His story emphasises how God can use normal people, regardless of their apparent shortcomings or limits, to create exemplary leaders. The Biblical narrative also underscores the dangers of self-centered ambition. In Judges 8:22, Gideon declares “The Lord will rule over you!” instead of becoming king. The way Gideon reacted to the Israelites’ proposal of him becoming their king is indicative of genuine humility. Gideon’s refusal to accept the role of a king can be interpreted as an act of faith in the supremacy of God’s governance and an acknowledgement of the fact that the nation could only be effectively guided and led by God.
However, in contrast, Gideon’s son Abimelech takes power without divine authorization and kills his brothers, as recorded in Judges 9. Abimelech is a complex figure in the Book of Judges. Unlike his father, Abimelech wants power, dishonesty, and aggressiveness. Abimelech sought leadership after Gideon’s death and took drastic lengths to establish himself. He yielded to the temptation of power and neglected the tenets of virtuous governance. Abimelech employed manipulative tactics to secure the support of the inhabitants of Shechem, a locality in which his mother held ancestral ties, to establish his reign as king. He engaged in the act of killing his sibling, displaying a ruthless character, with the intention of eliminating any potential competition posed by his brothers, who were also the sons of Gideon. Modern Christian institutions exhibit the same sequence of ambition, subversion, and self-interest as ancient times.
The narrative of Abimelech functions as a moralistic example of the perils associated with the uncontrolled desire for power and the relentless pursuit of dominance, regardless of the consequences. Ultimately, Abimelech’s tenure as ruler was brief, culminating in his tragic demise because of a millstone being dropped on his head by a woman amidst a siege. The downfall of the individual in question serves as a sad illustration of the fact that individuals who employ aggressive and deceitful tactics to further their own interests frequently encounter severe repercussions. His behaviour exemplifies the negative consequences of pursuing self-interest without regard for ethical standards or the welfare of others.
Regrettably, such an attitude is increasingly prevalent within contemporary Christian leadership. In order to attain leadership positions, numerous power-hungry Christians resort to character assassination as a means of discrediting their competitors. In their pursuit of power, they appear to have disregarded the ethical principles of servitude and humility, resorting to unrelenting backbiting and tarnishing of other brothers. Manifesting an unwillingness to adhere to spiritual guidance, their sole aspiration is to achieve greatness in the eyes of the masses. In their unethical pursuit of leadership, they frequently neglect what Jesus says, “What is highly valued among men is abomination in God’s sight.” The text from John chapter 6 shows Jesus’ view on power and leadership. After performing a miracle, the people recognised Jesus as the Messiah. This recognition may have prompted them to violently proclaim Him king. However, Jesus refused to submit to this coercion.
Jesus understood leadership and led well. He chose to escape to a mountain rather than succumb to power and popular ambitions. This shows the person’s humility, sageness, and tenacity in rejecting secular concepts of governance. Jesus’ primary focus was not on establishing an earthly kingdom or attaining positions of power, but rather on accomplishing His divine purpose and instructing the veracity of God’s realm. He consistently placed emphasis on the significance of humility, servanthood, and self-sacrificial love within his teachings.
Jesus’ decision to withdraw from the group that attempted to forcibly crown him king serves as a demonstration that authentic leadership does not involve the acquisition of power or the imposition of one’s desires onto others. Rather than relying on personal desires and ambitions, this approach entails submitting to the will of God, prioritising the welfare of others, and adhering to spiritual values.
Within contemporary Christian congregations, the inclination to pursue positions of power for individual benefit or to establish superiority over others remains a persistent temptation. The lessons derived from Gideon’s humility, Abimelech’s detrimental ambition, and Jesus’ servant-like demeanour offer a lucid blueprint for authentic leadership and discipleship. Leadership within the Christian church can cultivate an atmosphere of love, unity, and spiritual growth by espousing humility and embracing a servant’s heart.