Quite often, the leadership style of King Saul is compared to that of his successor, King David. There is much that can be learned from this comparison, but I once felt prompted to instead compare King Saul to another man named Saul: Saul of Tarsus, better known as the apostle Paul.
King Saul started out well, while the apostle Paul started out as a violent persecutor of the church. By the end of their lives however, you would have never known that each one had started the way they did. Saul turned into a demonized mad-man whose life ended in complete disaster. Paul had a radical conversion, and at the end of his life was able to say that he had fought the good fight and finished his race (see 2 Timothy 4:7).
Let’s compare these two leaders, drawing out their drastically different approaches to leadership.
The difference between King Saul and the apostle Paul can really be summed up in this one statement: Saul was consumed with the kingdom of Saul, while Paul was concerned for the kingdom of God. While Saul set up a monument to himself, Paul set out to glorify Christ and establish His kingdom. These realities can be seen more clearly when we compare how each one treated those entrusted to their care.
Saul told David he was too young. Paul told Timothy “let no one despise your youth.” Sauls patronize while Pauls authorize. Saul placed his armor on David which led to restriction. Paul placed his hands on Timothy which led to empowerment. Sauls have a way of putting a ceiling over those under their leadership. This keeps them from blossoming in their gifts and causes them to conform into something that does not really fit them. Pauls however activate people into their gifts and release them into their destiny.
Because of insecurity, Saul was threatened by David’s gifting and jealous of his accomplishments. Paul however constantly stirred up Timothy’s gifts and encouraged him to complete his God-given assignment. Therefore, Saul sought to murder while Paul sought to mentor. Saul chased David while Paul sent Timothy. Saul was known for throwing spears while Paul was known for shedding tears. Saul preyed upon David while Paul prayed for Timothy. Saul squeezed the life out of David while Paul poured his life into Timothy. Saul lorded like a pharaoh while Paul loved like a father.
Being in a position of authority is a tremendous responsibility and carries with it various temptations. Will you use your position to serve yourself or to influence and serve others? Will you tear others down or will you lift others up? Will you smother those you lead or will you empower them to thrive?
In whatever capacity you lead, will you lead like a Saul or will you lead like a Paul?
(Much of this article was adapted from Restoring the Ministry of Jesus)