Rising Above Temptation, Part One: Danger: Leadership Brings Temptation

We’ve all watched leaders implode. From the sidelines, these moments of collapse seem so silly. Why would someone with so much money… with such a good-looking wife…why would someone in his position…?

But the moment of collapse is just the culminating moment. Generally, what ends in a splashy mess begins as a much tamer temptation—an innocent email, a harmless choice, an honest omission. But those tiny temptations are fueled by the perks of leadership. Leaders have access to money. And personnel. And power.

In fact, these leader-specific temptations may not look like “sin” at all. When we think about temptation, we think of the big ones like stealing or immorality. But in a leadership context, the difference between a legitimate perk and an abused privilege can be subtle. And fuzzy. The temptation isn’t really to outright “sin.” It’s a small temptation that might set you up for a larger moment of implosion down the road.

When we look at the temptations Jesus faced in Matthew 4, they're pretty fuzzy too.

Is it a sin to turn stones into bread? Have any of us honestly been tempted to throw ourselves from a building? These temptations weren’t clearly “sin.” Nor were they necessarily alluring. But as we’ll dive into over the next few posts, they were temptations that may have created future disaster.

Could it be that more hangs in the balance of your private—maybe even innocent—temptations than you know? The very first verse (Matthew 4:1) recounting Jesus’ temptations says, “Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit…” Could it be that the subtle temptations that accompany leadership—I deserve this…I can make this work…the end justifies the means—could it be that these temptations are a test from God?

In his Harvard Business Review article “How Will You Measure Your Life” and book by the same name, HBS professor Clayton Christensen asks his students and readers to consider how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail? The question is absurd to most of us. But Christensen argues that the path to jail is paved with “in this particular extenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s OK” excuses.

We’ll dive into the three specific temptations Jesus faced over the next few posts; and we’ll see how they may relate (you’ll be surprised) to the leadership-specific temptations you may be facing. But let’s start simple:

What is the temptation you’re justifying?

It might be subtle. And fuzzy. And innocent enough right now.

Could more be hanging in the balance of your choice than you know?


Our discussion of temptation continues here, “Temptation: Full Steam Ahead.”

Our Pause DVD is a 4-part series by Andy Stanley that takes a closer look at temptation. Buy it here.


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