by Michael E. Brooks
“Woe to the worthless shepherd, who leaves the flock! A sword shall be against his arm and against his right eye; his arm shall completely wither, and his right eye shall be totally blinded” (Zechariah 11:17 NKJV).
On a recent trip to the northern districts of Bangladesh, several preachers, including myself, listened as members of a remote congregation accused us of neglecting them for an extended period of time.
Deaths had occurred, needs had gone unmet, and no one had come to inquire as to their condition or to minister to the grieving. Needless to say it was difficult to hear such complaints.
The fact is that we were not the locally appointed leaders of that congregation. Our authority and responsibility are limited at best, and perhaps altogether absent. Additionally, they had not communicated their situation to us, nor given us much opportunity for involvement.
Reality is, however, that there was at that time no official local leadership and their condition was such that someone needed to help. We could pass the buck, and make excuses, but when all was said and done, human needs had gone unmet and we had done nothing for them.
Whether I or others present at that meeting bear guilt for these things only God can judge. It was a needed lesson, however, in responsibility and communication. And it was a reminder that God is intolerant of irresponsible leaders.
Zechariah proclaims woe to “worthless shepherds, who leave the flock.” Their punishment is severe.
Obviously the prophet’s interest in this passage has little to do with literal shepherds and their sheep. These are allegories representing God’s people and their leaders. Those in positions of responsibility and authority are held accountable. If and when they ignore their duties they will be judged.
“Okay”, you say, “I will simply avoid all positions of leadership, then I can’t be accused of neglect.” It is not that easy. Are you a parent? That is God-given leadership (Ephesians 6:1-4). What kind of occupation do you have?
The chances are good that you have some degree of authority, even if it is limited. What about your influence over your friends, neighbors or other peers? The simple fact is that almost everyone is a leader, at some point, in some situations.
It is far better (and easier in the long run) to commit ourselves to faithful discharge of responsibility than to seek to avoid it. A good shepherd does not desert his flock. A faithful parent is not negligent towards his or her children.
In the political and religious arenas, good leaders are concerned for the needs of their constituents. We do not need God to tell us of these things. Our own experience and reason confirm them.
We demand conscientious service from those leaders we appoint. So does God. We must also expect no less from ourselves, in every relationship and situation where we have responsibility for or over others.