The Search for a King, a Leadership parable


The Search for a King, a Leadership parable is a short story that explains how the Lord chooses His leaders.

“During my military career I discovered that the guy with the shiniest shoes was rarely the guy worth following and I’ve found that to be true in my church experience as well.

Long ago, in a kingdom far, far away, there was a magnificent King, whose reign was without precedence.  His wife, the Queen, had bore him many sons and with each kingdom that his army would conquer, he would crown one of his son’s as the ruler over that new land.  This continued until all of his sons were on the throne of their own kingdoms; yet even then his domain grew.

On this night the King’s palace was filled with the noise that accompanies a large celebration.  There was music, laughter, and occasionally boisterous shouts of joy.  Despite these festivities, the King’s personal servant (Thaddeus) noticed that the King was alone on the vast balcony adjacent to the Ballroom.  Though Thaddeus knew from the Kings’ posture that he was deep in thought, his affection for the King compelled him to interrupt.

He was not afraid to approach, as the King was always patient and kind with all of his servants.  As Thaddeus reached him, he bowed low and said, “Begging your pardon Sire, is all well with you?”  The Kings eyes remained fixed on the dimly lit horizon, but his face shifted into a shallow smile; “You are a faithful servant Thaddeus and I am thankful for your concern”, he said.  This response left Thaddeus in the awkward position of not knowing whether to dismiss himself or to wait for additional response; as Thaddeus was prone to, he chose to wait.

After a thoughtful pause, the King continued on, “I am pondering matters of the kingdom and I find myself with the need to speak of it”.  At that he turned to Thaddeus and looked him in the eyes.  “Would you be willing to serve me in such a way”, he said.  Thaddeus felt the blood rush to his face.  While the King had on occasion inquired of him on happenings within the household, he wondered what he could possibly contribute to a discussion on matters of the kingdom.  His voice broke slightly as he responded, “Sire I would endeavor to serve you in any way that you see fit, but wouldn’t the members of your court be better suited for such a dialogue”.  “Indeed that would often be true, but these matters concern them, thus it would seem imprudent in this instance”, he replied.  Thaddeus bowed his head and said, “Let it be as you wish Lord”.

The King began, “Today we celebrate the victory over still another foreign kingdom and yet for the first time I have not a son to crown as its king”.  After another thoughtful pause he continued, “Many suppose that I have bestowed each of my sons with his own kingdom as a gift to them, yet in truth I meant for each of my sons to be a gift to the people within those lands”.  “I know the hearts of my sons and had one of them not been true, I would not have entrusted him with a crown”.  “I have found that royalty is not passed through the bloodlines, but that it is carefully nurtured in one’s heart”.  “As I look out on the vast horizon, I must now distinguish the man whose heart is prepared to sit upon the throne of this new kingdom”.

Again the King paused and then thoughtfully said, “The heart of a man is not easily judged by the heart of another”.  Thaddeus could feel the weight of the King’s thoughts and in hopes of encouraging him, he said, “You are a good and wise King, surely you will find this man that you seek”.  The King smiled broadly, and with warmth in his face he asked Thaddeus, “Whom would you see that might be fit for the rule of a kingdom”?  Thaddeus felt unworthy to even ponder such a thing, but he was intent on serving his King; “Your court is filled with noble men Lord, surely one of them would be fit”, he responded.  “Speak freely Thaddeus, whom do you see”, said the King.

“I see Sir Fredric, the Governor of the southern province Sire”  “He seems to be a man of influence and persuasion; knowledgeable of the ways of government and diplomacy”.  “Surely such a man would make a fine King”, said Thaddeus.  “Indeed what you have said of Fredric is true, he is a very capable man and certainly well respected; but while he is knowledgeable in matters of the kingdom, he seems to lack an awareness of those closest to him; his own family suffers from his neglect of their most basic needs”.  “A man who fails to provide for his own family is not fit for the leadership of any other”, the King responded.  Thaddeus was embarrassed by the King’s quick dismissal of his suggestion and he wished that the King would simply dismiss him, but the King nodded for him to continue.

“What of your Scribe, Denard?  He is a man who knows your decrees and tenants well; a man who is knowledgeable in matters of truth”, suggested Thaddeus.  “Again my servant you have spoken well; Denard is a man who is knowledgeable of the truth, but alas his heart is full of compromise”.  “Many is the man who acknowledges the truth, but few are those who embrace it as their own”.  “A man who does not hold to the truth is like a ship without a rudder; he a vessel unworthy of being followed”, concluded the King.  Again Thaddeus yearned to flee from this dialogue; he was clearly not fit to speak of such things, but again the King nodded for him to continue.

“Sire, what of Sir Stephen, the Head of your Royal Guard?  He seems to be a man without fear; decisive and strong, a leader among men”; “Surely such a man could lead a kingdom”, asserted Thaddeus.  “Indeed Stephen is a valiant warrior and quite naturally a leader, but he is also a man of little mercy; and while that quality may serve on the battlefield, it is needful in matters of the kingdom”, said the King.  Exasperated, Thaddeus allowed his discouragement to spill onto his face, but the patient eyes of the King quickly calmed him.  “Go on”, said the King.

“Lord, what of the Sage, Philibus; he is a man of great wisdom and learning, even you look to him for counsel.  Certainly he would have the wisdom to guide a kingdom”, said Thaddeus.  “Indeed Philibus is a man full of wise words and I do value his counsel; but wise words are merely seeds, which will only blossom into wisdom when they find a fertile heart to act upon them”.  “Each person has been endowed with certain gifts, and to be sure Philibus is amongst the most gifted men in the kingdom; while the nature of a gift ought to breed humility, it has instead become vanity in Philibus”.  “He is a man of little discretion, blinded by his conceit and ambition”, said the King.

At this Thaddeus dropped his head, feeling as though he had failed in his service to the King.  The King sensed the frustration in Thaddeus and said, “Tell me Thaddeus, are you my slave or my servant”?  Thaddeus was surprised by the question and his eyes raised to meet the Kings’.  “I am your servant Sire”, he said.  “What do you see as the difference between the servant and the slave”?  “The servant is free to leave whenever he chooses”, he replied.  “Then what keeps you here Thaddeus”, asked the King.  “It is my honor to serve you my King”, he said.  “Do you despise your station as a mere servant”, asked the King.  Again surprised by the question, Thaddeus replied, “No my Lord, I believe that my service is virtuous”.  The King smiled broadly and said, “I believe that too”.

Thaddeus was confused by the King’s inquiries and again wondered if he should dismiss himself, but once again after a short pause the King began to speak, “Thaddeus, why shouldn’t I crown you as the King of this new land”?  Thaddeus was stunned by the King’s question and he stumbled to find words, “I am but a lowly servant”, he said.  “Do you believe that you are lowly by fate or by destiny”, asked the King.  Thaddeus had never considered such a thing and was at a loss to respond.  Before he could answer the King answered, “I believe it is by fate, but that you have been destined for greater things”.

“My Lord I am honored by your words, but what do I know of ruling a kingdom”, asked Thaddeus.  “You have been at my side for years, your understanding is deeper than you know and a heart that yearns to serve will always find a way to serve; it is the only heart that can be entrusted with the lives of the people”, responded the King.  Thaddeus stared into the compassionate eyes of his King and he felt hot tears streaming down his face.  The King reached down, placing his hand on Thaddeus’ head and said, “You shall now have a whole kingdom to serve”.

In the years that followed that fateful day, the wise judgment of the magnificent King was affirmed, as Good King Thaddeus served the people of his kingdom with humility, honesty, mercy and wisdom.

This story is simply a parable about what God values in leadership.  The King, who sits all of His sons on a throne, is of course the “King of Kings”.  He says that we are joint heirs with Christ and a “Royal” priesthood.  Like Thaddeus, there are many qualities that we’re impressed with and tend to view as vital for leadership; but God’s qualifications for leadership are much different than ours.  He says that we can be incredibly gifted and knowledgeable, but that if we don’t have love, we have “nothing”.  Jesus modeled humble servant leadership and Our Father is calling us to do the same.  Also like Thaddeus, we have a hard time seeing ourselves as leaders, but God has called His children to be leaders in this world.  As they say, God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

By Bryan Corbin