“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
Joshua faces a problem as leaders sometimes do. He had given his farewell address after long years of service. He was about to retire. Yet, there were some in the multitude that had not given up their old ways, and Joshua decided to make one last effort for consensus. Silent opposition may remain even after consensus. Joshua was giving another opportunity.
Both Joshua and the people came to the table with a context—there is always a context in leadership. The people knew the Torah, had memories of the journey to Canaan and their flirtatious behavior with idolatry, but saw how God had delivered. Yet people are not always rational—there is emotion, intuition and bias with system 1 thinking (the quick and emotional) versus system 2 (the slow and rational). Each problem has its context, but Joshua had an end in mind, to re-forge a covenant between God and the people. There were a series of alternatives with trade-offs—continue serving the gods of the Amorites, the gods of their ancestors or Jehovah. There was a cost-benefit analysis with each option, based on selected criteria. There would have been the thrill of instant as against the patience of delayed gratification, and the cost of executing whatever decision was taken. The people respond, “we will serve the Lord”, and a discussion ensued, and Joshua made his stance clear. The floor got to speak back with good order. Joshua completed the vote with “All in favor, say aye”, and they said “Aye”, and it was carried. He then recorded it in the Minutes of the meeting with a solemn covenant at Shechem. Even after Joshua died, “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that over-lived Joshua”.
Leadership is about making choices with an end in mind and taking the people with you. It involves the context, the consideration of alternatives, the cost of each, as well as a risk analysis and trade-off. Sometimes, we must delay instant gratification to wait for the long-term result, while yet living practically in the present for all present actions must lead to some conclusion. Leadership is about character development for God gives us choices which are inherent in character formation. Keep the end in mind, remember the source of knowledge, then go on God’s errands. Moses passed on, Joshua passed on, but the elders that outlived Joshua continued his work and kept the faith. The quality of effort should be matched by the quality of execution. We are all building a cathedral, not merely laying bricks. All are laying bricks, but not all might be building a cathedral. Let us keep the cathedral in mind. It is the end that drives present action.