I came across the following Bible story via Len Sweet the other day.
“There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it. Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man. So I said, ‘Wisdom is better than strength.’ But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded.” Ecclesiastes 9:14-16
This story is found in a cheerless section of Solomon’s writings reflecting on all the days of this meaningless life, and its ending, which is when you’re die and there won’t be any working or planning or wisdom anyway. And yet, the unnamed, poor man in the story accomplished one thing that impressed Solomon in all his God-given wisdom.
There’s not a lot of backstory or detail. He was a poor man, so probably was not well-known or much noticed. Yet “by his wisdom” he saved an entire city. He didn’t accomplish that alone. I think it’s safe to suggest that somehow “by his wisdom” he rose from obscurity into a position of leadership. He was able to rally people together, devise a plan – a strategy – and encourage and motivate the people as a team.
The poor wise man was just another of the people in the besieged city. He apparently had a gift of leadership, though he didn’t “influence” others to accomplish his purposes, he worked among them – served them – for a unified goal. And remarkably, though we don’t know how, the “powerful king” who had surrounded them was defeated and the city was saved.
In a world where social media requires a “personal brand,” and leadership is frequently held up as most valuable among the spiritual gifts, today that guy would have a book deal, “Surrounded and Besieged – Leadership Principles from a John Doe.” He’d have endorsements from John Maxwell and Bill Hybels. A Facebook Fan page, tweets about his Amazon ranking, twitpics from the lecture tour and all the ad nauseum self-hype.
Instead, the leader who saved a city is identified only as “the poor man,” and no one remembers his name. Maybe each of us is really only called to save some portion of “our city.” Whether it’s our neighbor’s failing marriage, issues at work, a family member out of a job – people around us are under siege. Maybe all I’m really called to do is save my little corner of the world. Whether anyone remembers my name or not.