Gideon: Sabotaging Potential

We have followed the story of Gideon from the time he was hiding in fear until he led the people to a great victory. It is exciting to watch as Gideon sees his potential, begins to shape it as he grows as a leader and finally how he shares this with others on his team. But sadly, his story does not end well, as we see in Judges 8:22-28.

22 The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” 24 And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.) 25 They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it. 26 The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. 27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family. 28 Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years. (Judges 8:22-28)

Gideon had heard God call him a “mighty warrior.” Now others were calling him a “mighty warrior.” When God calls you “mighty warrior,” be encouraged; when others do, beware!

To Gideon’s credit, he resisted two temptations. The people invited him to “rule over them.” He was offered a good position. He declined and pointed them to God’s leadership over them. He also refused to use his leadership victory to promote his son, a common temptation for leaders.

But in other areas Gideon failed and like many leaders he did not finish well. He sabotaged* the potential God gave him by replacing his gifts of leadership with counterfeits.

Potential is sabotaged when income replaces influence. Gideon refused to take a permanent position but he asked to benefit financially from his leadership. While it is not wrong to be paid for work done, Gideon felt like his influence should be rewarded, not in a small way but with the huge sum of money he collected.

Position often leads to privilege. Every good leader will be tempted to think, “I’ve done well and deserve good compensation as reward for my effort.” Servant leaders ask God to keep their hearts focused on influencing others towards God, instead of on the income their leadership will bring.

Potential is sabotaged when religion replaces relationship. Gideon took the earrings and set up a place of worship. This was in direct violation of God’s instructions. His actions became “a snare to Gideon and his family.” Gideon began his leadership in a relationship with God but at the end of his life he allowed a religion of works to replace a relationship of intimacy.

Leaders love action and will be tempted to focus on what they do instead of intimacy with Jesus. Their acts of leadership quickly become a religion based on works. Servant leaders seek a continually growing intimate relationship with Jesus.

Potential is sabotaged when leisure replaces legacy. “During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years.” Peace is great! But although Gideon served his nation for a moment, he did nothing to equip leaders for the future. He allowed leisure to replace his legacy and Gideon’s impact lasted only for his lifetime. After his death there was leadership chaos.

Servant leaders seize every moment to prepare the next generation. They share potential with others, not for one battle, but for a lifetime of leadership.

Servant leaders learn from Gideon’s mistakes and seek God’s power to continue to develop their own potential.


Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler


*sabotaged means destroyed, damaged, or ruined


For further reflection and discussion:

  • In what way do I feel like I deserve privileges because I am a leader? How can I avoid allowing these to replace God’s call on my life to influence others for Him?
  • In what way does my leadership keep me so busy that I don’t have time to strengthen my intimacy with Jesus? What do I need to change?
  • In what way am I using the present to prepare for the future? Who will lead after I am gone? What can I do today to help prepare them?
  • Which of the three mistakes that Gideon made is the greatest temptation for me? Are there other temptations that would keep me from fully utilizing my potential? What can I do to avoid them?

Read the account of the chaos that resulted after Gideon’s death in Judges 8:29-9:57. What do I learn from this story of Abimelech, one of Gideon’s illegitimate children? How can it help me to build up or shape my own legacy now?


Copyright, Global Disciples, 2018.

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