Leadership Temptation: Compromising Character for Privilege

Jesus resisted using His calling for provision and He refused to use His charisma for promotion. But the devil had one more temptation for Jesus before He began His public ministry. Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him (Matthew 4:8-11).

This temptation does not involve Jesus’ identity. Instead, the enemy reveals “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” and says to Jesus, “All this I will give you…” It was an offer of the power, position and prestige that many leaders enjoy. This temptation relates to the privileges of leadership. But the enemy’s offer came with a high price. He asked Jesus to worship him. He tempted Jesus to compromise His character to gain privilege.

The temptation to compromise character by coveting privilege. The devil said to Jesus, “All this I will give you.” The enemy wanted Jesus to covet the privileges of leadership more than the cost of leadership. Jesus deserved the privilege which makes this temptation even more difficult for Jesus than for us. But He had deliberately given that up for the sake of His mission to save us. (See Philippians 2:5-8.)

Most leaders dream of what it would be like to have a little more wealth, honor, recognition, fame, a bigger church or a business that makes it big. What would it be like to be on the cover of the leadership magazine or to receive the “Leader of the year” award? The enemy still tests our hearts to see if we will focus on our desire for privilege. Servant leaders do not refuse recognition or privilege, but they refuse to make that the desire of their hearts. Coveting privilege is the front line of the battle. If this battle is lost here, the other two aspects of this temptation will quickly follow.

The temptation to compromise character by changing focus for privilege. A part of the enemy’s temptation of Jesus was to invite Jesus to focus on what He could get out of leadership instead of what He would give as a leader. He wanted Jesus to change the focus of His leadership.

All leaders are tempted to focus on what they will get out of leadership rather than what they can give. It is normal to ask, “What’s in it for me? What will I get in return?”

But Jesus knew His focus was to give and to serve. Privilege would come from that, but He would not shift His focus to self. Servant leaders see their leadership as an opportunity to give, not to get. They refuse to focus on the privileges of leadership.

The temptation to compromise character by conceding worship for privilege. Finally the devil named his price, “if only you will bow down and worship me.” Here Jesus was tempted to exchange His worship of the true God for privileges of leadership. The plan of the enemy is for us to compromise our integrity to gain privilege. He whispers, “You can have it all…if you will only…cheat, tell a ‘small’ lie, withhold taxes, or hide your mistakes.”

Servant leaders follow Jesus’ example and refuse to worship anything except God. They see their leadership as a sacred privilege to be used to focus people’s worship on God, not themselves or even their vision. They guard against the temptation to worship their vision instead of God. Servant leaders cry out to Jesus to give them strength to overcome the temptation to compromise their character for privilege.

Jesus’ victory provides a model for us to follow and His Spirit within provides the power for us to overcome the temptations that come with leadership.


Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler


For further reflection and discussion:

  • How much do I honestly desire power, wealth, fame or honor? What does this say about the condition of my heart?
  • In what ways have I recently been tempted to compromise character to gain privileges in my leadership?
  • Do I focus more on what I can give in my leadership or what I will get out of my leadership? How does this impact my ability to lead as a servant?
  • How am I tempted to worship the vision God has given me instead of worshipping Him?


Copyright, Global Disciples 2018.