Finding the Freedom to Lead in the Dirt


Can you find freedom to lead in a jar of dirt?

Sometimes the most profound insights come to us in the simplest forms. Remember The One Minute Manager, Who Moved My Cheese and the insights from Jim Collins that included The Hedgehog, The Flywheel and the Big Hairy Audacious Goal?

A number of us in Christian leadership believe that the Steward Leader is the most powerful biblical paradigm for faithful leadership for God’s people.  A Steward Leader is defined simply as a faithful steward called to lead. The faithful steward is a follower of Jesus Christ who has been set free in every area of life. Becoming a faithful steward is a journey of transformation, and as we are freed from the bondages under which we labor, we are empowered to lead in a profoundly different way.

The best symbol I have found to convey this simple, powerful truth is a jar of dirt.  I would encourage you to fill a mason jar with fresh dirt and place it in your office where you can see it every morning. It symbolizes two very important things.


Genesis 2:7 records God’s creation of our first ancestor by proclaiming that “God formed man from the dust of the earth.” God breathed into a pile of dirt and out of the most basic, elemental matter, we who would  bear the very image of God were brought into existence.  Dirt and the breath of God, that’s how we all started.  Our jar of dirt should remind us of that fact every morning.


The worms will have their day with us (or the flames) and we will once again be returned to the very form from which we were created.  After the fall God makes it clear to Adam, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19)

What is the leadership lesson here? We started as dirt, and we will end as dirt, and in between, everything, every second of life belongs to God! It was His first breath that brought us life and it will be His withdrawal of that breath that will end our life. Everything in between is a gift, a loving, gracious, second-by-second blessing that he lavishes on us that we might exist and prosper and work and love and worship and play and laugh and sleep and comfort and serve and bless those around us.

Look around at all the stuff in your home or office.  Gaze at your image in a mirror.  Think through your ‘to do’ list, re-read your goals, assess your responsibilities.  Pile up your worries, your stress, your fears and your doubts.  Assemble your dreams, your aspirations and your heart’s deepest desires.  Then over them all say this one statement out loud so your heart and soul and hear it…”It’s All His.” Can you begin to feel the freedom?

The burdens we carry as leaders come from our desire to play the owner over things that we can never own.  We claim ownership of our jobs, our employees, our goals, our finances and our reputations.  And each puts us in bondage.  Owner leaders are enslaved to the need to control, to be right and to be applauded.  They take their organizations on their own shoulders and believe it is all up to them.

If this sounds at all like you, then gaze intently on your jar of dirt.  The amazing thing about our existence is that God promises us freedom in place of all of our owner-inflicted bondage.  All he asks in the “time in between” is that we trust Him. It’s that simple.

I believe it is the most fundamental commitment of every faithful leader. I pray you will claim this truth for yourself on a daily basis; “Lord, this is all yours.  Help me today to be a faithful steward of what I do not possess.  Help me to move us ahead into a future I do not know through people I do not control in pursuit of goals only you can make possible. Set me free to lead in obedience and joy, because I trust you.  It’s all yours, Lord. It’s all yours.”

Can you find freedom to lead in a jar of dirt? 


Written by Scott Rodin

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