It is well known that through the squabbling of princes comes every affliction and harm. It is because of their dishonesty that grain, milk, and fruit are not plentiful.
- The Rule of Carthage, Irish, 7th century
Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child,
And your princes feast in the morning!
Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles,
And your princes feast at the proper time—
For strength and not for drunkenness!
- Ecclesiastes 10.16, 17
It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of having rulers whose first priority is the common good.
Difficult to overestimate, and, apparently, hard to attain.
Power in all its secular forms is corrupting, as Lord Acton reminded us. It must be checked by some means or another, or it will seek to bend everything to the autonomous self and its agenda.
We’ve seen so much self-interest and pandering to influence on the part of public officials in recent years, that we’ve come to believe this is just the new normal. And that’s the way it will always be – at least, so long as the law of sin, rather than the Law of God, dominates political decision-making. Rulers are established by God to serve the purposes of good – His good, not merely theirs or their party’s.
Has there ever been a time when political leaders acted solely on the basis of national interest and the common good? I’m sure there have been such times, or perhaps, such leaders; we just haven’t seen many of them of late, nor many public officials who set aside self-interest for larger ideals as the legacy of their tenure in office.
Self-denial doesn’t come naturally to politicians – nor to any of us, for that matter.
Our lawmakers, judges, and executive branch officials are just a projection into the public square of the basic character of the nation. It’s not just that we have childish rulers. It’s that we’re a childish nation, crying “Mine!” at the top of our lungs at every opportunity. We may lament and decry the sorry state of politics in this country, but we’re only indicting ourselves as a people.
Remember, the first words of our governing document tell us who’s to blame for the greed, corruption, self-interest, party spirit, and incompetence that are so firmly entrenched in the public square: “We the people...”
More honest, selfless, and responsible government will begin, if it ever does, with the governed. That’s what political polling is about. Politicians may not do what the polls indicate the people want, but they certainly talk as if they will. I wonder: If more of the electorate were outspoken for the priorities of Christ and His Kingdom, would politicians at least talk like that’s what they believed as well? If more of us were versed in the holy and righteous and good Law of God, and followed its life-giving teaching, would the policies and practices encoded there receive more attention? Be talked about more openly?
And might not some of that living, sooner or later, be reflected in public policies?
Believers are called to render unto Caesar what rightly belongs to him. Doing so as the Lord intends begins with the character we nurture within our own souls, character forged in the furnace of prayer and Scripture, where the heat of the Spirit and the iron of God’s Sword shape our malleable souls in the direction of righteousness, peace, and joy.
But rendering to Caesar what he is due means reminding him that he is a servant of God, not of self or party or ideology (Rom. 13.1-5). Unless candidates espouse policies that are good – as God in His Law and Word defines good – then they deserve our denunciation, not our support. But unless we understand how the Word of God applies to the great issues of the day, and commit to talking and acting on behalf of a Kingdom agenda, we can only expect more of the same old self-interest from our politicians.
Long-term political reform begins with short-term and ongoing spiritual reform in the hearts of the people – you, me, and our neighbors. You don’t even have to vote for it; God will grant it in response to your earnest pleading and faithful obedience to His Word.
But first we must plead and obey. Childish rulers will grow up as they observe and experience maturity in the electorate. When we grow up into Kingdom righteousness, our political leaders will take note, even if only to maintain their place in power (Ps. 81.15).
1. Do you agree that a more mature electorate would result in more mature political leaders? Explain.
2. How can Christians exert more positive influence in the politics of their nation?
Psalm 19.9-11 (St. Christopher: Beneath the Cross of Jesus)
The fear of God is cleansing, forever shall it last.
His judgments all are true and just, by righteousness held fast.
O seek them more than gold most fine, than honey find them sweet;
Be warned by every word and line; be blest with joy complete.
Lord, we know that with You it is not a man’s place or standing that matter, but his principles and life; let me be a person of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit, so that I may…
- Adapted from Columbanus, Letter V
How can you affect the world of politics and government?
We can’t just wash our hands of this distasteful political scene. Surely, Christians can make more of a difference than we are at present. Our book, The King’s Heart: The Kingdom of God and Civil Government, can prepare you for a more effective role in shaping the course of civil government in your country. Order your copy by clicking here. Or order several copies, and invite some friends to study with you.
Thank the Lord with us!
The Lord provides for the needs of The Fellowship of Ailbe by moving on the hearts of those who benefit from our work and believe in our mission. If that includes you, please seek the Lord in prayer concerning this opportunity. It’s easy to give to The Fellowship of Ailbe, and all gifts are, of course, tax-deductible. You can click here to donate online through credit card or PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.
T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Ó Maidín, p. 73.