Sometimes what happens in a small town can grab the attention of the whole country. Such has happened in Tyndale, South Dakota, a town of just 1,067 residents. Despite its small size, Tyndale serves as the county seat for Bon Homme County. It became the epicenter for outrage across America.
So, what happened? All that happened was that the county sheriff, Lenny Gramkow fired his deputy, Mark Maggs, for unseating him in a recent election for that position. Gramkow, who was elected in 2014, will serve out his time as sheriff until January 1, 2019. But he wasted little time to fire his subordinate – just one minute after the polls closed. As a result, Mark Maggs, a father of four young children, lost both his job and health insurance.
Now, we can understand how Sheriff Gramkow might feel a sense of betrayal – that his subordinate attempted to take over his job. We can sympathize with his disappointment over losing the election – and his job. And we can forgive him for feeling jealous of his deputy’s popularity with the voters. The vote was quite lopsided – 878 votes to 331.
But elected officials and all public servants are expected to exercise a measure of professionalism in the execution of their duties. They are expected to do what is best for the good of the people they serve. They’re supposed to put aside their own petty feelings in order to accomplish the mission.
Sheriff Gramkow had an opportunity to assist his successor in preparing for the position. As awkward as it might be for Gramkow – helping someone who’s taking away his job, doing so would have benefited the county. Instead, the sheriff greatly impaired his law enforcement capability by discarding a key member of his team.
The Bible presents one of the greatest examples of how to respond well when your days are numbered and your glory days are fading. There was a time when John the Baptist captured the attention of thousands in Palestine. We read in Scripture that “Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan” was flocking to hear his soul-stirring preaching. Tens of thousands were confessing their sins and being baptized by John (Matthew 3:5-6).
Then came Jesus of Nazareth. John’s whole purpose in life was to prepare the way for Jesus’ coming and to point all of Israel to Him. Yet, Jesus also signaled the end of John’s ministry and popularity. In fact, the remnant of John’s followers complained to him that “everyone is now following Jesus” (John 3:26). John’s response was priceless. He simply said, “A man can receive nothing unless is has been given him from Heaven. … He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:27, 30).
In shameful contrast were the religious leaders of the day – the Pharisees and Sadducees. As the spiritual shepherds of the people, their mission in life was to also guide Israel in their expectations of the promised Messiah. Tragically, they viewed Jesus as a threat and were intensely jealous of His popularity with the crowds. Regardless of Jesus’ many miracles of healing upon the people – which only confirmed Him as the Messiah – they waged a war against Jesus. They did their very worst to mislead Israel and became instruments of the devil.
May God help all of us who are in positions of leadership to avoid such tragic failures! May He grant us grace and strength to subordinate our personal feelings to fulfill our God-given mission and do what is best for those we serve!
Dear Father in heaven, please help me to faithfully execute the duties of my leadership position. I acknowledge that I am here by Your divine appointment, not to serve myself but those I lead. Make me an instrument of Your peace, I pray. Amen.