#182: Pride and Arrogance Lead to Demotion and Obscurity

Leadership Lessons from the Lesser Known

Leaders must remain faithful to God or suffer the consequences of their unfaithfulness. That was certainly true of Shebna. God gives us the story of Shebna as an example of someone who held great power but because of his pride and arrogance was demoted and ultimately resigned to obscurity in the history of Judah.

Pride Arrogance

Chronologically, we first meet Shebna in the book of Isaiah. Around 725 B.C., Isaiah issued a stern prophetic warning to Shebna who was second in command and in charge of King Hezekiah’s palace.

In Isaiah 25:15-19 Isaiah proclaims the prophetic word from God saying Shebna will be removed from his position and replaced by Eliakim, his wealth will be destroyed, and he will die in a distant land. The reason for this prophecy against Shebna is that at some point in his career he began to use his authority to advance himself rather than serve the people.

Isaiah called out two specific things Shebna had done to bring about this judgment from God. He was making a display of his wealth and power by driving around in “glorious horse-driven chariots” in violation of God’s command (Deuteronomy 17:16). He had also gone so far as to have an enormous tomb cut out of the rock on a high hill, elevating himself above even the kings of Judah.

Isaiah warns Shebna that the Lord is about to bring this judgment (Isaiah 22:17), suggesting there was time for Shebna to repent and avoid God’s wrath. But Shebna doesn’t repent.

The next time we encounter Shebna some 24-years later (701 B.C., 2 Kings 18:18) he had been demoted to court secretary. Court secretary was still an important job but a big step down from being second in command to the king. Shebna’s replacement, Eliakim son of Hilkiah, was exactly who Isaiah had prophesied.

Lessons for Leaders

The mantle of leadership in God’s kingdom is not to be taken lightly. Shebna had the great responsibility of serving the people of God under King Hezekiah in Judah. Rather than serving the people faithfully, he used his position and power to enrich himself and elevate his status in society.

When confronted with the prospect of God’s judgment, Shebna’s stubborn pride kept him from repenting. Even after he was demoted exactly as prophesied he still didn’t repent.

The Bible warns leaders over and over about the dangers of being a prideful leader.

  • Solomon wrote, A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor” (Proverbs 29:23).
  • Jesus warned his followers not to be like the Scribes and Pharisees who make a show of their power and position, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).

If you find yourself taking pride in your position as a leader, if you use your position for your own benefit rather than the people you are supposed to serve, stop! Reject pride. Reject arrogance. Humble yourself before the Lord and return to serving the people. If, in your stubborn pride, you refuse to humble yourself, rest assured there will come a time when your pride will cause you to be brought low.

Join the Conversation

As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you known and worked with someone like Shebna whose stubborn pride and arrogance cost them their jobs? How did their behavior impact the organization or you personally?

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Category: Personal Development | Values

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2 thoughts on “#182: Pride and Arrogance Lead to Demotion and Obscurity

  1. Ron- Your post is a great reminder about the need for and power of humility. People can always differentiate between leaders who care about them as opposed to leaders who are out for themselves. I keep returning to that great Tim McGraw song, which urges us simply to be “Humble and Kind.” Amen.

    • John,
      I had forgotten the lyrics so I to listen again to remind myself. Great song. Very appropriate for this discussion! I love the last stanza:

      Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you
      When you get where you’re going don’t forget turn back around
      And help the next one in line
      Always stay humble and kind