Worthless Leaders

Mark Fackler

READ : Zechariah 11:15-17

May the sword strike his arm . . . ! (v. 17)

In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins must destroy the evil ring of the Dark Lord Sauron, who uses enchantment and sinister power trying to recover it. No parent reading this tale would name their son Sauron or urge him to be like the Dark Lord. Yet the book needs Sauron. Without him, the story has no sizzle, no suspense.

Zechariah offers us a parable about terrible leaders. In John 10, Jesus describes a good shepherd as kind, courageous, and self-sacrificing. But Zechariah writes about shepherds who will kick you when you’re down and who laugh as they eat your last bowl of oatmeal. Very unlikeable.

Why does God seem to endorse such leaders?

Remember this is a parable. If you have leadership responsibility, this passage is not your permission slip for cruel or insensitive treatment of others. Just the opposite: Zechariah’s message is that, as part of his righteous judgment, God will put his wayward people under such awful leaders that their lives will be bitter and hard. They will feel what empty hopelessness is, in a world without God’s goodness.

Paul says we are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are all leaders called to represent his goodness, in whatever sphere we operate. So do well, speak God’s truth, lead with courage and kindness.


Lord, I follow no master but you.