Saint Augustine on the leader's accountability
From a sermon On Pastors (sermon 46, 1-2)
You have often learned that all our hope is in Christ and that he is our true glory and
our salvation. You are members of the flock of the Good Shepherd, who watches
over Israel and nourishes his people. Yet there are shepherds who want to have
the title of shepherd without wanting to fulfil a pastor’s duties; let us then recall what
God says to his shepherds through the prophet. You must listen attentively; I
must listen with fear and trembling.
The word of the Lord came to me and said: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds
of Israel and speak to the shepherds of Israel (Ezekiel 34.2). We just heard this
reading a moment ago, my brothers, and I have decided to speak to you on this passage.
The Lord will help me to speak the truth if I do not speak on my own authority.
For if I speak on my own authority, I will be a shepherd nourishing myself and not the sheep.
However, if my words are the Lord’s, then he is nourishing you no matter who speaks.
Thus says the Lord God: Shepherds of Israel, who have been nourishing only themselves!
Should not the shepherds nourish the sheep? In other words, true shepherds take
care of their sheep, not themselves. This is the principle reason why God
condemns those shepherds: they took care of themselves rather than their sheep.
Who are they who nourish themselves? They are the shepherds the Apostle
described when he said: They all seek what is theirs and not what is
Christ’s (Phil 2.21)
I must distinguish carefully between two aspects of the role the Lord has given me,
a role that demands a rigorous accountability, a role based on the Lord’s greatness
rather than on my own merit. The first aspect is that I am a Christian; the second,
that I am a leader. I am a Christian for my own sake, whereas I am a leader for
your sake; the fact that I am a Christian is to my own advantage, but I am a
leader for your advantage.
Many persons come to God as Christians but not as leaders. Perhaps they travel
by an easier road and are less hindered since they bear a lighter burden. In
addition to the fact that I am a Christian and must give God an account of my life,
I as a leader must give him an account of my stewardship as well.