Ecclesiastes 8:2-4 – King Solomon’s Third Principle for Good Leaders

I wasn’t planning on posting two weeks in a row on King Solomon’s principles for good leaders but events have made it difficult to do anything else (purchasing a new computer unexpectedly changed my plans). That is fine though. I have enjoyed posting these principles a lot and they certainly are not a waste of time or effort.

The third principle is having a discreet mouth and Ecclesiastes 8:2-4 sets out rules for both the leader and the subordinate to follow. There are a lot of people who both have authority and are under authority at the same time so all of these principles apply to them. The rest of us need to take to heart the principles that apply to us now and remember the rest for future reference. From personal experience I have worked for bosses who expect complete, unwavering obedience from their staff but turn around and try and undercut their management if it suits them. It’s the old “tails I win and heads you lose” ploy and it isn’t biblical.

I can’t claim to be perfect when it comes to this either. I try to never undercut my supervisor’s authority at work but my wife sure gets an earful at times. I suppose I should work on that a bit.

As usual I like Pastor McLaughlin’s exposition on this passage and I think he does a good job wit. Oh well, you can make up your mind for yourself:


So here is the third characteristic of a good leader:

  1. A clear mind
  2. A cheerful disposition
  3. A discreet mouth

Ecclesiastes 8:2. “I say, ‘Keep the command of the king because of the oath before God.’”

Stay loyal to those in authority such as your boss. Do what he asks you to do and be faithful. Obey his commands, not just to avoid discipline, but because of your relationship with God.

Ecclesiastes 8:3. “Do not be in a hurry to leave him. Do not join in an evil matter [or insurrections or conspiracies against the leader or the boss], for he will do whatever he pleases.”

Don’t leave when the pressure gets put on those in positions of leadership. Arrogance causes people to react against any form of correction done by someone in authority. The person in charge may have a temper outburst or may have to become harsh in order to correct something in the organization. This verse says, “don’t jump ship by reacting in arrogance.” Receive the correction, remain in your position, and relax. Respond with humility and do what you’re supposed to do.

  • Ecclesiastes 10:4. “If the ruler’s temper rises against you, do not abandon your position, because composure allays great offenses.”

Ecclesiastes 8:4. “Since the word of the king is authoritative, who will say to him, What are you doing?”

There are some questions you don’t walk into your bosses’ office and ask. He has the authority, and when he tells you to do something, you shouldn’t question it. So the employee is to be faithful, loyal, trustworthy, and supportive.

What about the leader, those in positions of authority? Notice the references to the command of the king in verse 2 and the word of the king in verse 4. The major tool of leadership is the tongue. Verses 2 and 4 show us that leaders have a great responsibility with the use of their tongue. How a leader handles his speech is very important to his success.

  • Proverbs 18:21. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue,  And those who love it will eat its fruit.”
  • Proverbs 12:18. “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
  • Proverbs 15:2. “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, But the mouth of fools spouts folly.” A Wise leader not only knows what to say, but he also knows how to say it.
  • Proverbs 15:4. “A soothing tongue is a tree of life, But perversion in it crushes the spirit.”

You can actually destroy a person with your tongue, especially, if you have authority over them. The tongue is a powerful weapon for those in authority. What they say and how they say it can encourage those under their authority and keep them loyal. When they are loyal, they will stick with you and remain fair-minded and supportive. A leader who knows how to use his tongue properly will also be able to put down any conspiracy that may be developing under his authority.

Most of us need to develop tact and discretion in dealing with those under our authority. Tact is the ability to avoid needless offense and awareness of the other person’s feelings in a situation. Tact is also the ability to reconcile opposing viewpoints without giving offense or compromising principle. Then again, tact is the art of making guests feel at home when that’s really where you wish they were!

The Eight Experiments of Man: A Commentary on the Book of Ecclesiastes
Robert R. McLaughlin
pp 256-258

Explore posts in the same categories: Leadership and Authority

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