Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

The One Unseen Advantage of Great Leaders

  • Erwin McManus Author
  • 2019 26 Feb
The One Unseen Advantage of Great Leaders

Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, and he once saw wisdom so great that it astonished even him. He wrote in his annals, known as Ecclesiastes,

I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me:

There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it. Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man. So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded.

The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.

Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.

Why is it that here Solomon finds wisdom that astonishes him?

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Sometimes there is no visible advantage.

Sometimes there is no visible advantage.

Solomon is described as the wisest man who ever lived. But the one thing he was never able to know was what his wisdom would have looked like without his wealth and power and status. His wis­dom would always be seen through the vantage point of his stature.

Solomon understood the power of wisdom when combined with wealth and position and power. Here in this moment, he was able to see the power of wisdom stripped of any advantage. Here Solo­mon saw the power of invisible leadership.

Scripture tells us “There once was a small city with only a few people in it,” which means that it was a city very different from Jerusalem. It was not an epicenter of power and influence; it was an obscure city. In fact, it would be better described as a town. And in that city, there were only a few people.

An ominous, powerful king suddenly surrounded the small city, built a huge siege work around it so no one could enter and no one could leave, and eventually conquered the city and held it captive.

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Only one thing was available to this leader.

Only one thing was available to this leader.

It is un­likely that even this city fell without a fight. This had to be a mo­ment filled with loss and grief, with hopelessness and despair. Those young men who had trained all their lives to protect their city and its citizens had failed in their efforts. Their blood filled the streets. The weeping and wailing of widows and orphans must have created a deafening sound across the city gates.

Yet there lived in that city a man who was poor but wise. I am convinced this is what caught Solomon’s eye.

Solomon had never known what it meant to be poor. He always had access to every resource he could ever need or desire. But this man had nothing available to him—no wealth, no power, no status, no weapons, no army.

Only wisdom was available to him, and he saved his city by his wisdom.

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Unseen, unheard, yet undeniable.

Unseen, unheard, yet undeniable.

Can you imagine saving a city with nothing in your hand ex­cept the wisdom you’ve gained and stored in your heart?

What seemed to bother Solomon the most was that nobody remembered that poor man, which might explain why he remains unnamed.

Solo­mon probably used all his resources to try to uncover the identity of this one poor wise man who set an entire city free but who was re­membered by no one.

It’s almost as if he were invisible: no one saw him, no one heard him, but no one could deny what he had done.

From this, Solomon came to a profound conclusion that he could have never known from his own personal experience: wis­dom is better than strength. What Solomon was not doing here is creating a dichotomy between wisdom and strength. Wisdom is not the opposite of strength, nor is wisdom the absence of strength.

It might be fair to say that without wisdom, strength becomes a weak­ness. But what Solomon was discovering is that wisdom has its own power.

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Wisdom is a weapon that can save, resolve, and protect.

Wisdom is a weapon that can save, resolve, and protect.

For nearly ten years of my life, I worked in one of the most vio­lent districts in the United States. For years, my daily patterns put me near the world of drug cartels and some of the world’s most vio­lent people, yet never once did I carry a gun, or any weapon, for that matter.

I could not possibly begin to count the number of times I would be in the middle of an intense encounter between the police and those suspected of criminal activity. There were numerous times when gang warfare was avoided simply because we chose to stand in between the two parties.

All those moments needed in order to ex­plode was one person to lose their cool and pull the trigger.

In each of those situations, the environment was already un­stable, and violence was the norm. It would have been easy to ratio­nalize that I needed to protect myself and carry a weapon too, yet the only reason I am alive and writing these words right now is that all my weapons were unseen.

Even in the most volatile circum­stances, I was convinced that wisdom could bring peace, even if just for a moment.

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Wisdom doesn’t fight against people; but for them.

Wisdom doesn’t fight against people; but for them.

In a much less dramatic environment, I found this principle to be true as a husband and father. To stay married for thirty-five years takes more than love; it takes wisdom.

No matter how much you love someone, you will inevitably have conflict and disagreements. Wisdom understands that it is less important to win a fight or a point than it is to win the person.

Wisdom knows that you should never fight against people; you should fight for them.

What’s the point of winning a fight if you lose the person? When you love someone, the real fight is to keep winning that person.

This is the way of the warrior—not simply that wisdom is bet­ter than strength but that wisdom is our strength.

To strike a sword as a fool is only to add to the violence. Wisdom never seeks to wound except to heal. Wisdom never longs for war but for peace.

You can almost feel the tension that was tearing at Solomon’s soul. He heard about a poor man who set an entire city free by using only wisdom, while he was the son of King David, a man of war. In fact, the very reason Solomon was commissioned to build the tem­ple was that his father had blood on his hands.

All Solomon had ever known was a history of violence, but that violence was the very reason Solomon inherited a time of peace.

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God gives power with His wisdom, even if you feel empty-handed.

God gives power with His wisdom, even if you feel empty-handed.

We might wonder why God would involve himself in the wars of men, yet the reality is that this is the only history we have. Human history is a history of war. God intervenes in a broken world and steps into our violence, knowing only he can bring us peace.

As Solomon looked more carefully at the aftereffect of the poor man’s life, he realized that not only was the man forgotten but that after he secured his city’s freedom, the people despised his wisdom and no longer wished to hear what he had to say.

Solomon saw from this moment that wisdom is better than the weapons of war, though it was equally clear to him that wisdom brings no promise of fame, recognition, or even respect. The most dangerous thing in the world is to put weapons in the hands of fools, and the most powerful force in the world is the wisdom that makes us drop our weapons.

The quiet words of the wise that are more powerful than the shouting of a ruler of fools.

We have come to confuse the ability to make noise with the power of having a voice. The fool feels power­ful because they have a weapon in their hand; the warrior knows they are powerful when their hands are empty.

Though the way of the warrior is a way of peace, you will have many battles to fight. Each battle will require different skills and weaponry. 

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The one weapon you must always take with you is wisdom.

The one weapon you must always take with you is wisdom.

It is the one resource that is endless and without limit. If you take wisdom with you, you will always have everything you need. In that sense the wise are never impoverished.

One of the perplex­ing things about wealth is that if you take on a big enough chal­lenge, you will be overwhelmed by your sense of poverty.

When you pursue a great mission, you will inevitably feel that you don’t have enough resources for the task.

Wealth cannot secure your victory, and poverty cannot prevent it. There is no more powerful situation than to be poor with noth­ing but wisdom as you engage to save your city. A rich fool is not more powerful than a poor sage. Never let your lack of resources justify your lack of ambition.

Never allow the measure of your wealth to be the measure of your life.

Solomon was a man with both great wealth and great wisdom, but now he could see clearly that only great wisdom ensures the best future.

There was a time in our lives when Kim and I slept on the floor because we could not afford a bed, but this did not diminish our joy nor steal our intention. The scope of our dreams was not limited to the size of our income. In the same way, that lack of resources must not limit the battles you fight. You must not allow yourself to be paralyzed by what seem to be overwhelming circumstances.

History would tell us that one poor man could not set an entire city free.

Precedent would reinforce that this would be a ridiculous endeavor. Yet while the warrior is informed by the past, they are not formed by it.

The warrior is not formed by what has been done and what can’t be done; the heart of the warrior is formed by what must be done.


Erwin Raphael McManus is an iconoclast, artist, and cultural thought leader known for his integration of creativity and spirituality. He is the founder of MOSAIC, a church movement started in the heart of Hollywood with campuses across Los Angeles, Orange County, and Mexico City, and a global community that spans the world. Erwin is the acclaimed author of The Last Arrow, The Artisan Soul, Soul Cravings, and The Barbarian Way. His books have sold more than a million copies worldwide. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Kim.

This article was excerpted from The Way of the Warrior: An Ancient Path to Inner Peace. Copyright © 2019 by Erwin Raphael McManus. Published by WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

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