31 The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him:
2 What are you doing, my son? What are you doing, son of my womb?
What are you doing, son of my vows?
3 Do not give your strength to women,
your ways to those who destroy kings.
4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
it is not for kings to drink wine,
or for rulers to take strong drink,
5 lest they drink and forget what has been decreed
and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
6 Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,
and wine to those in bitter distress;
7 let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
8 Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
When someone mentions Proverbs 31, the first 9 verses aren’t usually the first to come to mind. In a book full of catchy sayings, this motherly advice is easy to pass over.
King Lemuel’s mother took the time to teach her son some important lessons about leadership that are easy to forget. She begins her oracle by demanding attention, asking, “What are you doing, my son?” It is a call to stop and reflect. She asks her son to reevaluate his actions.
Then she says: “It is not for Kings.”
It is not for kings to chase after women. It is not kings to spend their time drinking to forget the world around them. These are distractions. They keep the king from being aware of the people they lead and their needs. They take the king’s attention away from doing what is right and pursuing justice.
She never says that these things must be avoided by everyone. There are things that are fine for other people to put their time and money into. However, they are not for the leaders of the people. We have a job that we must actively be doing. As leaders, we have a job that we need to put all of our focus into: speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves, and for those who have nothing, judging fairly, and defending the rights of those who are easily stepped on.
I have had to make some decisions for myself as leader. I don’t hold others to these standards, but I choose to hold myself to them so that I can lead as well as God has called me to.
Tonight is New Year’s Eve. As we reflect on this last year, let’s also consider what we have allowed ourselves to do that distract us from leading well. Is our focus on taking good care of those in our charge?
Some things are just not for me.