God is Our Model
God is not a man, that he should lie,
Or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said and will he not do it?
We cannot go far wrong if we look to God as a model and guide for any aspect of how we live and relate to others. This amazing verse was spoken by a pagan prophet – Balaam. Israel was in their wilderness migration and Balaam had been retained by Balak, the King of Moab. Balak had charged Balaam to “curse Jacob for me and denounce Israel”. Having taken the money and started work Balaam had responded “How can I curse whom God has not cursed?” Balak was not pleased and complained.
Numbers 23:19 was part of Balaam’s reply. Essentially it tells us that we are not to look at God as if he is a fickle man, capable of changing his mind. Rather he is the model of integrity and he says what he means and does what he says. This is a good guide for all people, especially the Christ-centred servant leader.
The secret to this is to think; to consider carefully what to do and think clearly about what we say, seeking to honour God, so that we never have to back-track. In earlier modules we have seen the importance of being trustworthy. Thus, we need to be straight forward and honest in the things we say. Where we feel the pressure to be diplomatic in our style, we need to be sure never to actually say one thing while meaning another. We will soon be discovering too, the issues that obscure understanding, which cause our hearers to understand something different than we meant.
When we are dealing with people from another national culture, especially where one of us is not using our mother tongue, we need to make special efforts to be sure that understanding has actually taken place. Take time to review the Gaining Cultural Insight lesson. If you can obtain a copy, ing Cross Cultural Communication A Visual Approach by Richard D Lewis, Transcreen Publications – ISBN 095343981X will also be helpful.
The Value of Considered Speaking and Listening
A word aptly spoken
is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
Like and ear-ring of gold or an ornament of fine gold
is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear.
Proverbs 25:11&12 (NIV 1984)
These two insightful proverbs highlight the fact that there are two parts to successful communications: speaking and listening. They also emphasize the value of working at our communication skills.
What does it mean to speak aptly? It’s about considering the hearer and how to convey the message to them so that they can receive it and understand it. It’s about considering the content, the manner and the timing of the message. Proverbs is about wisdom, which is living in a manner that honours and pleases God, so from a Biblical perspective speaking aptly also includes honouring God thorugh the things we say.
But it’s not all down to the speaker. The preparedness of the listener to listen is of equal value. In fact, it is the act of listening that makes the aptly spoken word to be like “apples of gold in settings of silver” If the recipient does not listen then the speaker’s words have no value at all regardless of how wise they may be.
Both the ability to speak well and listen well are vital skills.
The Impact of Words
The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life,
but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.
Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 15:4 & Proverbs 12:18 (NIV 1984)
Solomon tells us that words can be dangerous, they can also be very beneficial. The implication of his warning is that we need to consider carefully what we say and how we say it.
As Christ-centred servant leaders the last thing we want to do is to be reckless and crush the spirit of those that we lead. That is quite contrary to both the outworking of the character of Christ in us as we lead others, and our goal as servant leaders to enable those we lead to grow and achieve their full potential. Rather, it is our goal to stimulate life and vitality in those we lead. This means we need to enable those who are crushed and disengaged to become inspired, involved and committed to the journey. Therefore, we need to be wise, to be careful in the things we say.
The Heart Speaks
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” explained Jesus. He is teaching that it is what is within us, our ambitions, desires, motivations, good or bad, that determines what we do and especially what we say. Simply it’s about our deep-down heart motives and nothing we say or do can cover them up. One can try and be a servant leader but without the servant heart the desire to serve one-self will burn through in our actions and words, like a bright light on a foggy day.
Remember in Reflections on Leadership, and in our various considerations on integrity, we have observed that words and deeds must match. People do what the leader does not what they say. When the manner or tone of what is said or the leader’s behavior, does not reflect the words used, then this simply reinforces this “follow my leader” dynamic.
As Christ-centred servant leaders we must strive to be mature in Christ and keep an eye on our own motives to make sure that our hearts and minds are aligned with him. If they are not, it will be visible to those we lead because what we say and what we do will not match. A heart that is not centred on Christ undermines our character, our leadership, our team and above all, Christ.
Take a Moment:
- Before you proceed with this lesson take time out to prayerfully browse Proverbs chapters 8 to 18 and 25 & 26.
- What do you learn from the wisdom of Solomon about speaking and listening?
- How does this apply to other modes of communication?
- How well do your communications skills compare to what you have learned from Solomon?
- Identify three ways in which you can improve?