5 Habits of Ungodly Leaders


1 Samuel 15 details a tragic episode in the life of Saul, the first king of Israel. Despite a positive start, Saul’s reign as king was marked by folly and rebellion. The pattern of Saul’s folly and rebellion reached a low point in 1 Samuel 15. This episode from Saul’s life provides us with a striking profile of “ungodly leadership.” Consider the following habits of ungodly leaders:

  1. Ungodly leaders think that partial obedience is good enough (1 Samuel 15:13). When Samuel arrived at Saul’s camp, Saul actually bragged about how well he had obeyed the Lord’s instructions. His obedience was partial at best, and for Saul partial obedience was good enough. Samuel had to remind Saul that partial obedience is actually disobedience.
  2. Ungodly leaders don’t see the importance of their position (1 Samuel 15:17). Samuel rebuked Saul with this questions: “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel?” Apparently Saul didn’t think he was that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. He didn’t see his position of leadership as important or influential.
  3. Ungodly leaders blame their mistakes on their followers (1 Samuel 15:20-21). When Samuel pressed Saul into a corner, Saul maintained his innocence even as he threw the people of Israel under the proverbial bus. Taking a page from Adam blaming his wife for his rebellion, Saul blamed the people for his own refusal to carry out the Lord’s instructions.
  4. Ungodly leaders fear man more than they fear God (1 Samuel 15:24). Eventually Saul fessed up. He admitted his mistake. He confessed his sin. Saul admitted that he feared the people of Israel. This fear resulted in Saul obeying the people instead of God. The king became a follower rather than a leader, all because he feared man more than he feared God.
  5. Ungodly leaders try to save face rather than repenting of sin (1 Samuel 15:30). After Samuel put Saul in his place, Saul was worried about one thing: his reputation. He should have been moved to heart-felt confession and genuine repentance. Instead, he tried to save face by begging Samuel to appear with him before the elders of Israel.

These are habits we must avoid in our lives. Whether our leadership is rooted at home, at church, or at work, we must beware of these foolish, sinful habits. We must also seek to cultivate the opposite virtues:

  1. Godly leaders pursue wholehearted obedience.
  2. Godly leaders are good stewards of their position.
  3. Godly leaders take responsibility for their mistakes.
  4. Godly leaders fear God more than they fear man.
  5. Godly leaders repent of sin instead of trying to save face. 

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