Childish Rulers?

Who's to blame for self-centered rulers?

Woe to you, O land, when your king isa child,
And your princes feast in the morning!
Blessed areyou, 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 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[1]

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. It must be checked by some means or another, or it will seek to make everything flow to the autonomous self and its agenda. Whether it’s the power of position, personality, prosperity, or political office, those who put their stock in worldly power will exercise it primarily in the cause of self-interest, unless they are checked by powerful opposing forces of good.

Exhibit A: The recent round of presidential campaigning in the US. Political campaigns bring out the worst in all of us – candidates, party officials, supporters, the media, and the electorate. Political campaigns are rallying-cries to raise the banners of self-interest. You can say what you want, promise what you want, spin the facts however you please – anything goes, as long as it serves self-interest.

We’ve seen so much self-interest and pandering to influence on the part of public officials in recent years, that whatever the next such case may be, it won’t surprise us. And I suppose, in one sense, 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.

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 hallmark 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 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, 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 talked about 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 talk, sooner or later, find its way into real 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.

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 us be a people of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit. Adapted from Columbanus, Letter V

Men at Prayer
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T. M. Moore, Principal
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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.

[1]Ó Maidín, p. 73.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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