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January 15, 2011 – Nehemiah 5

What is that makes a good leader? Intelligence? Good looks? Smooth words? The best wardrobe? In today’s world, sometimes it’s hard to tell what it is we look for when we choose a leader. One good method is the well-known “troll test.” You are unfamiliar? Very well, I’ll explain.

The troll test goes something like this: If this person/leader looked or smelled like a troll, would I still be willing to follow them? For example, whoever you voted for in the last election, would they pass the troll test? Would you have voted for that board member if they had some hairy moles on the face or a few extra antenna? While not very practical, the troll test does bring out the difference between people’s outward appearances and their actual leadership abilities.

What Would Nehemiah Do?

Nehemiah 5 is a good chapter to study for anyone who’s interested in seeing how a real leader behaves. Nehemiah calls attention to serious problems he sees in his underlings, he’s not afraid to call out the middle managers, and he importantly doesn’t avail himself of the many privileges of his position. But today, EveryDayDevotions looks at another aspect of his leadership: self-control.

In verses 6 and 7, Nehemiah first hears about the abuses of the “nobles and officals,” what we would call the civil servants and politicians. He finds that they are harassing the poor, much in the same way that those lovely credit card people like to call and wish me a very merry unbirthday. Nehemiah is understandably very upset, and I think he would be justified in giving the brotherly karate chop of reprimand.

1…2…3…4

But instead, though he admits in verse 6 that he “was very angry,” he takes the time in verse 7 to “ponder” these events, and only then does he accuse the nobles. In other words, he took the time to count to 10 (or 100) before letting loose. Now, if anyone ever deserved to be righteously angry, it was Nehemiah. But he still took the time to carefully consider the situation.

This is a good word for us today. If we are to be good leaders (and who doesn’t want to be a good leader?), then we must master the art of careful consideration before accusing or reprimanding those under us. Flying off the spiritual handle at a moment’s provocation is the one sure way to lose the respect of your subordinates and draw unwanted attention from your superiors.

Even if they be trolls themselves.

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