I grew up with a love for sleek, “muscle” cars. I loved the power and sound of the V8 engines. I still do. There’s one particularly I like and point it out to my wife every time I see it. It isn’t something I need to have, but definitely want it. The truth is, I need a car that works and gets me places. What I don’t need is the muscle, power and monthly payment to do it. My old truck isn’t as exciting, but it’s paid for and provides me with the transportation I need.
I bring this up because a leader faces many decisions between needs and wants. We want many things, but not everything is necessary or timely. Leadership achievements are best determined by asking ourselves first, “Is this a need, or a want?” We live in a culture of instant gratification. If I wanted a muscle car bad enough to go into debt for it, I could drive it home today. But if I ask myself, “Do I need this, or want it?” the answer is clear.
A child wants candy, but needs vegetables. A soldier wants a battle, but needs training. An athlete wants the gold, but needs hours, weeks, months and years to prepare. There’s a price to pay for things we want, but we must choose the “necessary” things first. I need food, water, air, exercise and sleep—if I want health. I need a job—if I want clothing and shelter. I need education and training—if I want a career path. To reach any legitimate goal I must deny countless “wants” to get there.
King David was legendary in Israel. Everything he did, pleased the people. He slew Goliath, he loved God, wrote Psalms, enjoyed God’s ark in the tent near his house—24/7, other nations feared him, he had beautiful wives and children, and he possessed great financial security. David had no needs. He could have anything he wanted—with limitations of course. Yet, one night he looked down from the rooftop of his palace and saw Bathsheba bathing nearby. He decided he wanted her and had her brought to his palace. He didn’t need her. He had his own wives. But he justified this illegitimate “want” as a need and brought tragic shame and death upon his household.
Before the disciples were released into their world mission, they needed three years of hands-on training from Jesus. They wanted many things from him—and for themselves—but he gave them only what they needed. They wanted power and authority, they needed practice, humility and servanthood, first. They wanted to cast out demons, they needed to pray and fast, first.
Needful, discerning choices are on the menu for every successful leader. There are legitimate wants, yes, but not all are profitable. Paul said,
To determine whether a decision is beneficial or a long-term trap—I must ask myself, “Is this a legitimate need—or an ill–timed want?”
 1 Corinthians 10:23
 1 Corinthians 6:12