"Luxury is not fitting for a fool; much less for a slave to rule over princes."
This is a very interesting proverb because it is a comparison proverb, but it does not start with the typical "better." The comparison is hidden in the middle of the proverb in the “much less.” Solomon has taken two truths that are important to be explored and then compares them so you can see how really bad the last one is. He seems to do this because we tend not to see the grave mistake of putting a person who has never been in charge, in charge over leaders.
We have a tendency to not think that we do this unwise thing. But God does not allow Solomon to record things that will not be true across cultures and time. He is talking about the practice of having people who have never led anything successfully be in charge of training the future leaders. Many times we do this in schools and young people are fed the poison of an intelligent cynic or the bias of a lazy pessimist.
When a person who is not, or has never been, a leader is put in charge of those who they know will soon be their bosses, it can lead to all kinds of putdowns, injustices, games, emotional and mental traps, etc.
It was the common practices in those days to have the training of princes be supervised by a captive slave from a conquered people. Solomon is railing against the practice of just picking anyone to train, guard, and/or direct the future leaders. It is just not wise. A pupil will become like their master. This obviously brings up the point of who is teaching your children. Are they successful; have they accomplished things with their life; are they a cynic; are they lazy; what are they teaching your children; what are their biases; are they embittered because they never succeeded; are they excited about young people reaching their full potential and surpassing them?
This is the Hebrew word taanug which means daintiness, luxury. It seems to carry with it a level of delicateness; that which is not rugged or common.
This is the Hebrew word naweh which means beautiful or seemly. From this the translators felt it better to translate it fitting. It is not proportional; it is just not the way it is supposed to be. Beauty is appropriate, proportional, and connected. In this case Solomon is saying that something delicate, luxurious, and dainty just does not belong in the hands of a deeply selfish, angry, and demanding person because they cannot appreciate it. Solomon is saying that it is inappropriate for something of great value to be handed to a selfish person because their whole orientation is themself. How will this serve me? How will this make me happy? They don't have an ability to appreciate the beauty of a thing for itself. So in a sense, Solomon is saying it is not beautiful for selfish people to have beautiful things. It is just a waste of the beauty.
And then the next point he is making is that just as ridiculous as giving beautiful delicate things to selfish, impulsive, rebellious, angry people is, so it makes even less sense to give future leaders to the care of those who all their lives have never been leaders. If you want to train leaders, have them be trained by leaders. If you want to produce slaves, then have them be trained by slaves.
This is why the best companies have their new leaders be mentored by their present leaders. Certainly there are rudimentary facts and skills that need to be trained into young people in the beginning, but they need to be under the tutelage of leaders to maximize their leadership ability. One of the reasons Alexander became a great leader is that he had Aristotle as his teacher.
To change gears here just a little bit... I talk with young men and women who clearly have leadership potential, and they are not developing their potential under the watchful eye of a successful leader. They should ask a leader they admire to mentor them and show them the ropes. How would you say I should become a better leader? Read the biographies of great leaders. Listen to the tapes of great leaders. Contact leaders and ask them if you could interact with them. Read their books.
No matter what age you are – if you want to improve as a leader – get alongside good leaders and you will learn. Don't settle for the present level of your leadership. Grow or you will stagnate and begin to rot.
On the other hand, do not put on your board in any kind of oversight position a person who has never exercised effective leadership. It will only cause you a great deal of trouble.
This is the Hebrew word ebed which is the word slave or servant. It seems to convey the idea of one who has never known leadership – in this case not just their present employment status or position but the person at the end of the authority food chain. The person who only takes orders should not be giving them to the future leaders. It is just not right and fitting. Kings were to be trained by the priests and the writing out the five books of Moses under the Old Testament system. The moral boundaries of God were to be firmly planted in their minds. Deuteronomy 17:18
This is the Hebrew word mashal which means to rule, to have dominion over. This means to have a position of oversight over the young princes. Solomon is making the statement that you should not put a self-absorbed person over the training and development of young leaders. Neither should you put a person who has no leadership ability over people who have significant leadership potential. Both of these scenarios are disastrous. You will destroy the potential of the young leaders or you will turn them into selfish leaders just like their mentor.
A person who has never exercised leadership and does not know the subtleties of saying no to a good thing so that you can say yes to a better thing or being tight on the budget so that you can say yes to an opportunity that has not even come along yet – these are all the functions of leadership that the person who has never led does not really understand.
This is clearly young leaders; people who could influence lots of others. These people have the gifts, abilities, and training to significantly impact and influence others; but they are capped by a small-minded person. Some companies allow this type of situation to exist all the time. They assign positions by seniority rather than ability or merit, so a person who has been around a long time gets to be in a position of leadership even though they have no leadership skills.
Be very careful as you put people in positions of leadership that they have the appropriate skills of leadership for that position. It is very hard to get a person out of leadership once they have tasted the power and authority of that position.