Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 28:16
"A leader who is a great oppressor lacks understanding, but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days"
Solomon deals with the problem that afflicts all positions of authority and power: corruption. Do not get involved with unjust gain. There are a lot of ways to gain when you are the leader that are not open to other people. Most of these you should not take advantage of even though everybody else is doing it.
This is the Hebrew word nagid, which means ruler, leader. This is different from the word king which Solomon uses most of the time to deal with leading, leadership, and ruling principles. It is not clear whether he is trying to indicate a lower-level leader or is just indicating a broader level of leadership.
This is the Hebrew word maasaqqa, which means extortion and oppression. The root word carries with it the idea that you are trampling upon or using those who are beneath you in the social or political or managerial ladder. This is a great temptation and must be avoided, Solomon says, “or your "reign" will not last.” You will enjoy a period of short-term gain but not long-term authority.
This is the word rab, which means much, many, great. It is important to note that Solomon specifically adds this word in front of the very strong word oppressor or extorter. This is not just a person who does this occasionally; this is a person who systematically and consistently looks out for number one at the expense of others. There are many examples, Solomon says.
It is interesting that Solomon says that the person who behaves in this kind of “me first” behavior is shortsighted. What they want is what they are destroying by their wholesale run after it. God tells us, through the mouth of Solomon, that this kind of person does not see the big picture. They do not understand the connections between people and events and things. This person lacks understanding which is the ability to perceive these connections. There are companies where the workers would rather see their company go out of business than give wage concessions because of how they have been take advantage of. There have been many bosses who believe that they are friends and colleagues of the people they work with while they are despised and reviled. People notice when you consistently make decisions to gain for yourself at their expense. They also take notice when you put them ahead of your own needs; when you go out on a limb to help an employee or a subordinate. The hidden tenor of your life is known and will bring grief or support to you.
he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days
The phrase unjust gainis the word besa, which means profit, covetousness, unjust gain – personal advantage at the expense of another. This is the principle of the Triple-Win applied to leading, managing, and ruling – that the first job of a leader is to make sure that the people profit and gain and are successful. If leaders look for how their constituents will profit first, they will profit also. But there will be opportunities present to those in authority to gain while the employees lose – to personally profit while your customers get an inferior product; to increase your prestige or personal wealth at the expense of the people you represent or of which you are the leader. If you accept this type of corruption, it will undercut your leadership.
The key ingredient in unjust gain is that it is profit which requires others to lose. If the people I am leading must in some way lose for me to gain, then it is clearly unjust. Even if they will not find out about how they have lost. You, the leader, will know that you have gained at their expense. Be very careful of this type of corruption for there are other types of corruption that will come after this kind. Giving in here will cause you to make other poor decisions. Becoming selfish here will undercut your ability to lead in the future.
It is worth it to be a wise and righteous leader who looks out for the best for others. Many want to be in charge but are not ready for the new levels and kinds of temptations that come to those in positions of authority and power. Corruption is a powerful temptation which is why so many fall victim to its siren song.