Leadership in the Image of God: Values


Strong moral values are hallmarks of effective leadership. King David and the Apostle Paul are two leaders who had strong values, but even they had to struggle with their desires.

Read Psalm 119:1-32

Values are uncompromisable, undebatable truths that drive and direct behavior. They are motivational -- they give us reasons why we do things; and they are restrictive -- they place boundaries around behavior. Leadership literature is paying increased attention to the importance of consistent values to a leader’s effectiveness over the long haul.

King David demonstrated value-driven behavior in Psalm 15. Leaders who are value driven reap a great benefit from the Lord. David said they will never fall. Regardless of what may happen around them, they can live with full confidence that the right principles have shaped their values and have guided their decisions. That confidence will give them emotional and spiritual stability. It will enable them to be leaders whom God can use for His glory.

As you reflect on this psalm, consider what values drove the psalmist’s behavior. As you examine your own life, what values do you see as driving your behavior? What values would you like to have drive your behavior? Make it your goal, as you begin this two-week study on values, to more completely integrate godly values into your professional and personal life.

Values and Who God Is

God is accountable to no one, and there is no higher principle to which He must conform. He Himself is the absolute of truth, beauty, goodness, love and justice. His perfect character is the essence of what the Bible calls “righteousness.” In a universe without God, what we call “good” would have no ultimate referent. Read Habakkuk 1:13 for a view of this prophet’s struggle with God’s goodness.

Read Habakkuk 1:13

This righteous prophet struggled with the reality that wicked people often prosper. The leader must value justice, fairness, equity. What gladdens or satisfies a leader makes a crucial statement about his or her values.

Habakkuk’s first complaint to God questioned why the Lord was allowing the people of Judah to continue in their wickedness and injustice. When the Lord answered that He was preparing the Babylonians as His weapon of judgment on Judah’s unrighteousness (vv. 5-6), Habakkuk made an even more strenuous objection. The Babylonians were even more wicked than the people of Judah; how could God allow such a

people to judge His people? God’s response overcame the prophet’s objections, but notice that Habakkuk was confused by an apparent incompatibility between God’s character and God’s actions. As we look at the progressive revelation of the person of God from Genesis to Revelation, we discover Him to be the immutable foundation upon which moral concepts such as goodness, love and justice are based. As did Habakkuk, Abraham struggled briefly with God (Genesis 18:25). Paul also commented on this (Romans 3:4; compare Psalm 51:4).

Habakkuk learned that God’s plan for the purification of His people went far beyond what he could understand. Although God’s actions seemed unjust and out of line with eternal values, this prophet realized that God’s actions were a small part of His larger, and perfectly sovereign, plan.

God’s moral structures and values are built into the created order. The Bible affirms that even those who have not been exposed to God’s law have a conscience -- a moral law --within them. According to Romans 2:14-16, what are the implications of this reality? As human beings, the crown of God’s creation, God has set the idea of eternity in their hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Godly leaders seek to live by God’s eternal values of truth, beauty, goodness, love and justice, set forth in the biblical record.

Values and Who I Am

If we look to the world for our moral values, we will be confused by self-interest, social conditioning and situational ethics. The values of our culture are shallow and subjective, but the moral standards of Scripture reflect God’s absolute and unchanging character. See Exodus 20:1-17 for the clearest summary of God’s values for His people.

Read Exodus 20:1-17

God’s moral law for His people is an expression of His own changeless perfection. In the Ten Commandments, God is actually calling His covenant people to be like Him, to be holy as He is holy. (Leviticus 11:45).

The Ten Commandments begin with our demonstrated relationship with God and end with our relationship with others. In Scripture, righteousness is always realized within the context of relationships; it consistently relates to loving behavior toward God and others. Love does no harm to its neighbor, and as a result, is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10). The whole law is summed up in the command to love our neighbor (Galatians 5:14).

It is one thing to know the right things to do and another to consistently do them. Jesus called us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48), but this is unattainable apart from the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Only as we live by the Spirit are we empowered to “put skin on” biblical values and make them real in our own lives.

Values and How I Think

Values are interesting to discuss in the abstract, but sometimes “values” get in the way of valuable decisions. Maintaining one’s values can cost a leader dearly. So how do we decide what matters most when we’re weighing the bottom-line costs against our bottom-line convictions? Jesus teaches us how in Matthew 6:19-21. Read it carefully -- it is extremely valuable advice.

Read Matthew 6:19-21

The first step in effective leadership is defining core values. Until that is done, the ship the leader is trying to steer has no rudder. Vision, mission, strategy and outcomes are difficult -- if not impossible -- to define until values are clear. Jesus knew that; early in the process of developing His team of disciples, He forced them to confront this foundational issue.

Jesus told His disciples that the core value, the driving value, the eternal value is this: “Does what I am doing please God?” Every other value is second to that one. When that value is in place all other values line up. Matthew 6 is among the most definitive chapters in the Bible for shaping a leader’s philosophy of life and leadership. Spend some time here. Doing so will have inestimable value.

Values and What I Do

The Apostle Paul possessed tremendous resolve because he was able to link his desires with his values.

Read Philippians 1:21-24

Paul wrestled with two desires. When he traced these desires back to their core values, he found a resolution. Most leaders today also face the tension between competing value systems and structures. In the face of difficult daily decisions, sorting out primary from secondary values can be frustrating.

Paul wrestled with his desires until he clarified what he valued. Leaders who want to be effective will find that clarifying and communicating values is an essential task. 

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