Leadership Temptation: Using Calling for Provision

Leaders face temptations like everyone else, but they also face unique temptations because of their leadership gifts, calling and roles. Jesus faced these temptations at the beginning of His leadership journey, and shows all servant leaders how to identify these tests and how to resist them. In the first of three temptations, Matthew records the devil’s request for Jesus to turn stones into bread.

1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:1-4).

The tempter didn’t question Jesus’ ability to make the stones become bread. So what was the test and how does it apply to us as leaders? This was a temptation to use His calling to provide for His needs. Every leader will be tempted to use their leadership calling as provision for their needs in three ways.

The temptation to use leadership calling as provision for personality needs. The devil very cleverly tested Jesus’ identity with the words, “If you are the Son of God…” His temptation was for Jesus to prove His identity by performing a miracle. He tempted Jesus to use His power to prove who He was. But Jesus refused to allow His leadership calling to shape His identity. His identity was already deeply rooted in His relationship with His Father.

It is easy for leaders to find their identity in their calling or role. Leaders often introduce themselves by saying, “I’m the pastor…chairman…or CEO.” Of course, there is nothing wrong with having an identity as a leader. The temptation, however, is to use our leadership role to provide our identity. Servant leaders refuse to allow their role to define who they are.

The temptation to use leadership calling as provision for physical needs. Jesus was hungry and ready for something to eat after 40 days of fasting. Jesus had a legitimate physical need. The temptation for Jesus was to use His power to meet these physical needs. But He responded, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus implies that His calling is to higher things than the physical. He was called to help people find purpose for their lives, a sense of fulfillment, to develop their own gifts and to see the needs of the world as He did. To use His leadership for “bread alone” would have been a great compromise.

All leaders have physical needs for food, money, and housing. These physical needs are legitimate, just as Jesus’ need for food was normal. But the physical needs should not be the focus of our leadership. Servant leaders gratefully accept God’s provision for their physical needs, but focus their leadership on a higher purpose.

The temptation to use leadership calling as provision for personal needs. The temptation to turn the stones into bread was for Jesus to use His calling to serve Himself instead of serving others. He was called to be the Bread of Life and to offer Himself to others, feeding them physically and spiritually. But Jesus refused to allow His leadership to fulfill His own needs, choosing instead to offer Himself for the sake of others.

Leaders are tempted to use their positions to focus on what they get out of the role instead of what they can give to others. Servant leaders follow Jesus’ example and focus on what they can give rather than what they will get. They recognize that leadership is a sacred calling, not a means to physical gain.

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler


For further reflection and discussion:

  • In what ways am I tempted to allow my leadership to shape my identity? If I would lose my current position or role, would I still know who I am?
  • In what ways does my leadership role provide for my physical needs? Are there ways that I am tempted to see my calling as primarily to provide for the physical? If so, what is the result in my leadership? What is the ‘higher’ calling of my leadership role?
  • Does my leadership focus more on what I can give or what I will get from the role?

Copyright, Global Disciples 2018.