Nehemiah: Studies on Leadership | Week 10

inGest: Competence and Spirituality

The initial verses of chapter 7 state that Nehemiah had completed his mission. Whereas in the previous chapter, the wall had been built but the doors had not been hung (6:1), now both were complete. The logistics of the wall and doors were over. Now that a mere administrative leadership was necessary for the upkeep of the structures Nehemiah delegated the task to others: Hanani and Hananiah (6:2).

Whether Hanani was a literal brother of Nehemiah is not surely known as relatives and kinsfolk were also referred to as brothers. The Bible continues to mention two prerequisite qualities to look for in a successor: competence (“for he was a faithful man”), and spirituality (“feared God more than many”). One could also include the prerequisite of having a burden for the work, which was likely shared with Hanani, whom Nehemiah initially met in 1:2.

In secular organizations, competence is measured by resumes, educational degrees, licenses, and certifications. Other metrics may be used, but the point is that competence and skill sets are the main criteria used in employment selection. Biblical leadership, however, goes one step further and includes the role of spirituality. Of course, this attribute is more difficult to measure, but the Bible interestingly says Nehemiah’s choice of successor “feared God more than many.” Rather than an objective quality, it is subjective and even comparative to those around. The point is not how much or even how much more, but rather, if the individual has a close relationship with God?

This latter quality may be laughed at by the secular world, but why would spirituality not be a key factor when it comes to spiritual work? For spiritual things are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:13, 14). Just as the description does not discount competence, neither does it disregard spirituality. Some in church and religious work assume that all you need is a relationship with God. But know-how, ability, skillfulness, and proficiency in the area at hand is just as necessary.