“Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land”

Joel 1:2

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Joel 1:1-12

The well-educated and well-read prophet, Joel, highlights the current events that plague Judah to call them to repentance. Their fate results from their spiritual apathy and continued disobedience to God’s law of love.

Joel shows how God sometimes uses the natural realm to point us to the truths of the spiritual realm. Joel uses a locust plague as an analogy to point to a much greater disaster: the spiritual catastrophe that will come if the people do not change their ways.

It is intriguing to read this short book. Joel refers to the elders, priests, drunkards, farmers and young people. Throughout the struggle and destruction Joel describes, the prophet never once mentions leaders or kings as a possible source of help or support. It was the kings who had failed the people. Joel suggests that a leader who is an irrelevant presence is worse than no leader at all.

Leadership is a form of stewardship. A steward is one who takes care of something – a property, an organisation or a country. Leaders of nations are called to care for all the people in that nation; in other words, their main focus should be the common good. When things go wrong, leaders must step up to the plate. They must stand up and be counted. Joel says that repentance begins with leaders who, as good stewards, recognise, own and take responsibility for their shortcomings. Not to do so is to be irrelevant.

Sadly, many leaders today do not do this. They hide behind spokespeople or simply avoid taking responsibility. At worst, they are dishonest. They fail as stewards.

Joel shows us too that we, who elect leaders, need to be more discerning. If we choose those who violate the principle of stewardship, we cannot blame anyone but ourselves. In the end, we all suffer the catastrophe because we have failed to choose wisely.

Do I see leadership as stewardship – caring for the common good? How can I be more discerning in the leaders I choose, what really impacts my choice?

Lord God,
At the beginning of creation, you gave us, the human family, the responsibility of stewardship over all your creation. Grace us to see that leadership is stewardship. Help us become, and choose, good stewards as our leaders.

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ is the Director of the Jesuit Institute and is interested in the impact that communications technology has on society and spirituality. He regularly comments on South African Politics and various issues in the Catholic Church.

director@jesuitinstitute.org.za @rpollittsj
See more from Russell Pollitt SJ
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