Original Research - Special Collection: Christian Leadership

The first shall be last… – A biblical inversion of leadership traps and pressure-cooker appetites for ambitious statuses

Jennifer Slater
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 2 | a5963 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i2.5963 | © 2020 Jennifer Slater | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 February 2020 | Published: 09 September 2020

About the author(s)

Jennifer Slater, Department of Philosophy, Practical and Systematic Theology, School of Humanities, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


As virtuous leadership appears to be under severe pressure in all areas of life, it is the aim of this article to determine whether this biblical axiom holds suitable and valuable guidelines to counter contemporary leadership traps and assist leaders not to succumb to ambitious leadership cravings. The article determines whether the biblical axiom, the first shall be last and the last shall be first (Mt 20:15–16), holds the capacity to invert the corrupt pressure-cooker drives for both religious and secular leadership ambitions. It examines the biblical and ethical wisdom of this teaching as well as the authoritative relevance it holds for leadership formation and practice. It determines whether a biblically infused value system still contains the moral capacity that contributes to the observance of resonant and ethical leadership capable of reversing pervasive situations of corrupt and incompetent leadership. In addition, the article contemplates the Christian weight of this biblical axiom to place those who are last, first in the service of leadership. In the same vein, it examines some of the ‘leadership traps’ experienced by persons who occupy lay, clerical, professional and secular positions. It endeavours to offer reflective biblical, moral and spiritual solutions that arise from the spirituality offered by Matthew 20:16 to current leadership demises.

Contribution: The theme of the Leadership conference where this article was presented was the biblical verse: ‘The first shall be last and the last shall be first’ (Mt 20:15–16). The article focuses directly on the implications of the biblical axiom and relate, as well as, translate it to leadership difficulties as experienced today.


Christological leadership; Superiority; Ethnocentrism; Aversion; Perversion; Spawning dissonance; Trapped leadership; Bottom-line-demands


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