Word of the Week
November 12, 2022
Spoudē: Antidote to Lackluster Leadership
However, since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to use them properly: . . . the one who is in leadership, with diligence.
Romans 12:6, 8
Novelist John Updike wrote, “A leader is one who, out of madness or goodness, volunteers to take upon himself the woe of a people. There are few men so foolish; hence the erratic quality of leadership in the world.”
You may be CEO of a Silicon Valley powerhouse or the team leader for a small cluster of office workers, the head of an inner-city ministry or the coordinator for a vacation Bible school. You might figure that your only followers are the two toddlers who call you Mom. Almost everybody has a sphere of influence where they watch out for someone else’s interests.
Whether you lead many or few, you carry a weighty responsibility as you set the pace for a whole group of people. Leadership is so important that God includes it in the array of spiritual gifts that He provides for His church. Just as the church needs teachers, givers and servers, it only flourishes when it is led by people whom God has gifted with the ability to manage others.
What does it take to be a good leader? Romans 12:8 contains a key to success. Just as we should give with generosity and show mercy with cheerfulness, Paul calls us to lead with diligence.
We can gain a deeper understanding of this crucial element in leadership by taking a closer look at the Greek word Paul uses here.
The word translated “diligence” in Romans 12 is spoudē (spoo-DAY), usually translated “eagerness, earnestness, concern.” It occurs 12 times in the New Testament along with a related verb and adjective.
What does it mean? In classical Greek, it had the idea of “speed” or “haste.” It described quick movement in the interests of a person or the pursuit of a goal. A person with spoudē didn’t procrastinate or mess around; they threw themselves into the project without delay.
This meaning shows up in the New Testament as well. When Mary got the word that she would be the mother of the Messiah, she set out and “went in a hurry” to see her relative Elizabeth, supernaturally pregnant with John the Baptist – the one person who would truly understand her situation (Luke 1:39). And when Herod offered his daughter the chance to ask for any gift, she conferred with her mother and immediately went back “in a hurry” to ask her father for the head of John the Baptist (Mark 6:35). It was important to make the request before Herod had a chance to change his mind.
Lesson: Leaders don’t dawdle; they plunge into action.
The idea of haste morphs naturally into a second meaning: zeal, effort, industriousness. A person with spoudē approaches a task with intensity, willing to take pains to achieve the goal. It is the opposite of sloth or laziness. This virtue recognizes the importance of the task and is willing to invest whatever it takes to meet the challenge.
New Testament examples:
- When Paul exposed the failure of the Corinthian church to deal with a serious case of immorality in their midst, they responded with thorough repentance. They were so grieved by their offense that they moved with earnestness to correct their error (2 Corinthians 7:11-12)
- When Paul organized a collection to help impoverished believers in Jerusalem, he remarked on the earnestness with which the various churches joined in the project (2 Corinthians 8:7-8).
- Titus had gone to Corinth to help them through a difficult situation, and when Paul needed someone to go back to Corinth, Titus was the one who had the earnestness to return to finish the job (2 Corinthians 8:16).
- The writer of Hebrews urged his readers not to give up when things got tough, but to “demonstrate the same diligence” that would keep them going to the end (Hebrews 6:11).
- Peter demanded that believers “apply all diligence” in moving up the ladder of Christian virtues that would produce mature character and fruitful ministry (2 Peter 1:5).
- Jude was working with intensity, making every effort to write a treatise on the doctrine of salvation until he had to switch gears and compose a warning against false teachers (Jude 3).
Lesson: Leaders don’t coast; they work with intensity.
If I view leadership as a position – as a box on an organizational chart – I will be tempted to drift, to simply maintain the status quo, putting in the hours to get the paycheck. But if I recognize that my position of leadership is a commission from God to serve His people by carrying out His will, then I will recognize the importance of making the most of each day.
UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said the secret of his success was that he aimed to make each day a masterpiece. The apostle Paul urged us to “redeem the opportunities.” And the psalmist asked, “Teach us to number our days so that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.” Good words for leaders!
This word is part of a larger group of words, each worthy of study.
- Spoudaios (adjective) – zealous, earnest – 2 Cor 8:17, 22
- Spoudazō (verb) – to be zealous, earnest – Gal 2:10; Eph 4:3; 1 Thess 2:17; 2 Tim 2:15; 4:9, 21; Titus 3:12; Heb 4:11; 2 Peter 1:10, 15; 3:14
- Spoudaiōs (adverb) – earnestly – Luke 7:4; Phil 2:28; 2 Tim 1:17; Titus 3:13.
Q – Paul gives an intriguing series of contrasts when he describes the realities of ministry in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9. Can you clarify the distinctions between the Greek words he uses?
A – Without doing a formal study, here are the highlights:
Afflicted – hard pressed on every side
But not crushed – completely cornered, without room for movement, driven to surrender
Perplexed – bewildered
But not despairing – at wit’s end
Persecuted – hounded by the foe
But not forsaken – abandoned, left to his mercy
Struck down – knocked to the ground
But not destroyed – permanently “grounded”
We sometimes hear about “apocalyptic” films or novels, but most people don’t realize that this word comes from an important Greek term. Next week, we will pull back the veil on this word.
©Ezra Project 2022