A Leader Is Godly and a Godly Leader Is Honest

May 26, 2014

In his 600 page commentary on the Book of Proverbs Tremper Longham III describes a proverb as a “short, pithy saying that offers advice or an observation on the world” (p., 54).

A Leader Is Godly and a Godly Leader is Honest

Today’s blog post continues my series of posts examining the six times the Book of Proverbs mentions the word “leader” or “leadership.” Read the other posts here and here.

Today’s post looks at Proverbs 17:26 which states,

It is wrong to punish the godly for being good
or to flog leaders for being honest (New Living Translation).

Based on my understanding of Biblical Hebrew, a more literal word-for-word translation of this verse is,

Also, it is not good to fine the righteous
to smite leaders on account of their righteousness.

Here’s a breakdown of the words in this text and my examination:

Line 1

  • גַּ֤ם = “also” as a conjunction. It may modify a word or a clause while it also associates its clause with a precedding cluase (A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax [GBHS], 132).
  • עֲנֹ֣ושׁ = “to impose a fine” as a Qal Infinitive Construct. This is a rare word in the Hebrew text and is only spelled this way one time in the entire Hebrew Old Testament. As an Qal Infinitive Construct nominal nominative it is used as a noun in place of a noun (also known as “nominal,” GBHS, 67-68).
  • לַצַּדִּ֣יק = “just,righteous” which is an adjective with the definite article הַ “the” with the preposition ל which indicates the purpose in order to show the aim or goal of another verb (GBHS, 111).
  • לֹא = “no, not.”
  • טֹ֑וב = “good” as an adjective.

Line 2

  • לְהַכֹּ֖ות = “to strike, smite, hit, injure” with the preposition ל. 
  • נְדִיבִ֣ים = “leader, ruler, official, prince, one who has great noble status” as a noun in the plural form which is sometimes translated in the New Living Translation as “leader.”
  • עַל = “on, over, against, on account of” preposition which is adversative showing action directed against another. This preposition can show that an action can occur despite circumstances and expectation of a reader (GBHS, 123).
  • יֹֽשֶׁר = “straight, upright, morally upright.”

The most important thing for leaders to observe from this verse:

A leader is godly and a godly leader is honest.
The most clear implication of this proverb is that a godly leader is someone who is honest and righteous. In the first line we see a godly man being punished for being good and we see leaders being flogged for being honest. The leaders talked about in the second line of this proverb are men who adhere to lofty principles and would not compromise their honor. They were dedicated to the truth regardless of how they might have been punished. That is the definition of a godly leader.

An example of being honest as a Godly leader comes to mind about a time when working with A Day of Hope to feed families in need at Thanksgiving. We had set a very large goal for the number of families that we hoped to feed (750 families, to be exact). After months of hard work raising money, gathering food, and recruiting volunteers the person who was ordering turkeys for our families asked me, “Christopher, do you really think you will be able to feed 750 families? If not, I need to know because we are going to order and pay for these turkeys. The number needs to be exact.” I was left in a dilhema. Did I stick to the goal which was clearly out of reach of our budget? Or did I tell the truth and admit that we were not going to hit our goal?

I told the volunteer that we were going to be short of our goal. In fact, very short. I told him we would be lucky if we were able to feed 200 families instead of the original 750.

You as a leader, will be faced with similar situations where you will need to be honest. The important thing to remember is that a leader is godly and a godly leader is honest. 

Question: What is a story of when you have been punished for being righteous and honest?

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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