“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Jesus was a great storyteller and used parables to teach his audience what it meant to live faithfully with God in their daily lives. In this parable from Luke 18:9-14, Jesus contrasts two very familiar first-century characters: a Pharisee and a tax-collector. Perhaps Jesus’s listeners wouldn’t have been shocked to hear Jesus challenge the smugness of the Pharisee, but to praise a tax-collector would certainly have been unexpected. Jesus raises up the value of a person’s honesty, sincerity, and straightforwardness when it comes to one’s relationship with God. And he implies that his true followers will embrace an authenticity that will be noticed by God and others.
In Jedd Medefind and Erik Lokkesmoe’s book, The Revolutionary Communicator, they argue that what keeps leaders from being great are specific fears that limit their authenticity. “We fear the deflation of our image and diminishment in the eyes of those who respect us. We fear rejection. We fear we will undermine the causes we believe in or the faith we want others to embrace. We fear our longings will be mocked and our dreams dismissed. We fear followers will no longer follow, students will no longer listen, and admirers will no longer admire” (73). Pursuing authenticity in our leadership can be a scary endeavor.
The Washington Post published some insights by Fuller Youth Institute’s Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin, that relate to this challenge of authenticity: “For our book [Growing Young], we researched more than 250 congregations. When we spoke to more than 1,300 young churchgoers, ages 15 to 29, they told us what they want: authenticity and connection. In a word: warmth.”
The research backs up what Jesus modeled. Young people (and older ones, too!) long for authenticity. They aren’t demanding that leaders be cool. You don’t have to be the best influencer or have the most Instagram followers. But you do have to be authentic. This is true in the church and outside it as well.
Tomorrow, we will look at another one of Jesus’s parables to consider how being childlike relates to authenticity.
Something to Think About:
“In a media age, we assume that… image sells, and spin saves. In every age, the truth is… people crave authenticity” (The Revolutionary Communicator, 68).
Something to Do:
Listen to this podcast of Pastor Albert Tate sharing on “Pastoral Authenticity.”
Consider what the broader leadership implications are for your context, whether you are a pastor, artist, entrepreneur, or manager. Choose one specific way to lead with authenticity this week.
Jesus, help me to be authentic before you and others. I want to be aware of the fears that drive my decisions so that I can hand them over to you to live more freely and to lead more authentically. Amen.