Many of the editorials published in the Carolina Messenger this year have focused on what the Bible teaches about government and its responsibilities. Any discussion about the biblical role of government cannot be complete without examining what Scripture reveals about the type of character and priorities God desires leaders in government to have. Americans have lately become selectively outraged over the moral, criminal, or ethical failings of their least-liked politician of the opposite party while overlooking or even defending the same or similar failings of their favorite politician in their own party. This fickle disapproval over the conduct and words of our leaders has trickled down from the pundits and politicians and has infected much of the populace and electorate, including many Christians. Satan uses such inconsistency to further his agenda in many ways. We take note of one such way when we see how the unrighteous character and conduct of some of our leaders over the past several generations have contributed over time to the political polarization and division of our country and society. This is not a good thing for the United States of America. How much better would our country be if we decided to put into place leaders who met God’s standards!
God said through Solomon’s pen, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). We see this truth illustrated in the few bright spots in Judah’s history in which she did not commit herself to idolatry were when she was ruled by righteous kings such as Josiah and Hezekiah. Since Proverbs 14:34 is proven true in this way, the ones who lead nations should be righteous themselves because any nation, or any organization, will go only where their leaders go. It would be ideal if the concept of good and just leaders would refer solely to New Testament Christians. Yet, it must also be remembered that the Bible gives a degree of righteousness and justness to non-Christians who fear God and act justly, as was the case with Cornelius (Acts 10:1-2). History shows that our nations has had decent, God-fearing, good men as leaders who were not Christians as defined by the New Testament. God willing, we will have them again one day.
For that to happen, we must allow God’s Word to guide us concerning the choices we make for our leaders. For example, Scripture reveals that our leaders must be truthful. Such men were recommended by Jethro to Moses to help him lead Israel (Ex. 18:21). God also said through Solomon, “It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, for a throne is established by righteousness” (Prov. 16:12), thus showing Jehovah’s desire for righteous men to sit on the throne. As David wrote under inspiration, “The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me: ‘He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God’” (2 Sam. 23:3).
The Lord also wishes for rulers to not listen to falsehood and instead be honest men and women (Prov. 29:12). He wants leaders who hate greed and would never rule simply for money alone (Prov. 28:16; 29:4). I’m reminded of Felix, who clearly recognized Paul’s innocence concerning the false charges brought against him by the Jews and yet kept him in chains because he was hoping for a bribe and desired to placate the Jews (Acts 24:26-27). Many nations, including America, have a problem on both sides of the aisle with this. Many politicians vote the way they’re told by whomever contributes the most money. We need people in power who don’t care about special interest groups, men and women of integrity who will vote for what is moral and right no matter how much money they’re offered to do otherwise.
We are often told during each election cycle about how the economy matters most of all, yet God told us something quite different through the Scripture which says, “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice” (Prov. 16:8). Solomon brought Israel so much wealth and prosperity, the most she would ever have in her history (1 Kings 10:14-29). Yet he turned to idolatry and thus did evil in God’s sight (1 Kings 11:1-6). He led Israel into ungodliness (1 Kings 11:7), so is it any coincidence that her economy got worse and worse over the years until it finally split apart (1 Kings 12:1-20? Let’s also not forget that because of Solomon’s ungodliness, the Lord “voted him out of office” (1 Kings 11:9-14). Which was more important to God? The fact that Solomon made Israel richer…or the fact that Solomon was immoral?
Scripture also teaches, “Take away the wicked from the presence of the king, and his throne will be established by in righteousness” (Prov. 25:5), and, “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Prov. 29:2), thus showing that we need leaders who surround themselves with wise counselors. The example of the mistake Rehoboam made with his advisers shows the truthfulness of these passages (1 Kings 12:6-15).
God also desires for rulers of nations to be tough on crime. “A king who sits on the throne of judgment winnows all evil with his eyes…A wise king winnows the wicked and drives the wheel over them” (Prov. 20:8, 26). During the present times in which we see continual rioting, looting, arson, and violence in many of our cities, the need to heed God’s guidance in these matters is very clear.
Scripture also says, “Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a poor people” (Prov. 28:15) and “If a king faithfully judges the poor, his throne will be established forever” (Prov. 29:14). The Lord inspired king Lemuel’s mother to advise him, “Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:9). Our Lord wants our nation’s leaders to not oppress the poor. The apostle wrote under inspiration, “…If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10), thus showing that God does not wish for governmental authorities to enable the lazy either. These are all factors we must consider when choosing our leaders at the ballot box.
Additionally, the Bible shows that God wishes for the leaders of the governments he put into place to respect human life and his plan for marriage. We must look for leaders who respect human life because God is the One who gives it (Ps. 139:13-16). Luke was inspired to use the same Greek word to describe a baby both in and out of the womb (Luke 1:44; 2:12). Paul was inspired to show that babies are innocent, citing how Jacob and Esau while “not yet born…had done nothing either good or bad” (Rom. 9:11-12). The prophet Ezekiel was inspired to write very clearly that children are not born in sin and do not inherit the sins of their parents (Ezek. 18:1-20). This is noteworthy because God hates hand which shed innocent blood (Prov. 6:16-17). Therefore, killing a baby inside the womb is just as much an atrocity as killing an innocent child outside of the womb. When innocent children in the womb are killed through the barbarism of abortion, the message sent to God is this: “You’ve made something that doesn’t matter to me, that I can discard whenever I want.” When the divine pattern for marriage is ignored or mocked, the message received by the Lord is this: “You’ve created an institution I believe to be foolish and irrelevant. My way is better.” Sadly, it was politically incorrect to condemn homosexuality and same-sex marriage even before Obergefell v. Hodges, and even more so now that same-sex marriage is legal and transgenderism makes up the current efforts toward societal legitimization. America’s early presidents and congressmen would have all unhesitatingly condemned these immoralities as sinful if asked, whereas today any politician from either party would be crucified if they gave their support to what Scripture teaches (Lev. 18:22; Matt. 19:4; Rom. 1:26-28; 1 Cor. 6:9-10). Yet the Bible remains the same. We must do our best to recognize and honor God’s wishes on not only these issues, but on the rest of what Scripture says he desires in the character and priorities of our leaders.
Fallible governments run by unrighteous men can and do abuse the power given to them by God at times. Indeed, most governments throughout history have oppressed people in varying degrees and ways. The Lord through Solomon had much to say about the injustices and imperfections of human governments. All of us, regardless of the government under which we live, can recognize throughout history as well as within today some of the follies committed by rulers which he describes. We often see wickedness and iniquity instead of righteous judgment from our governments (Eccl. 3:16). We often see the tears of those who are oppressed by those in power (Eccl. 4:1). We know well about the perversion of justice and the backroom deals (Eccl. 5:8-9). We’ve seen presidents and governors act foolishly, ruling to their own detriment, only to be forgotten; we’ve seen rulers persist in wickedness because their judgment did not come immediately (Eccl. 8:1-14). We’ve seen the undeserving in power while true statesmen are kept away (Eccl. 10:5-7). Nations have been shamed and impoverished due to childish, hedonistic leaders (Eccl. 10:16-20).
No wonder God warned us, not once but twice: “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes” (Ps. 118:9; 146:3). Indeed, the fact that so many, including many within God’s kingdom, fail to heed such warnings time and again is one way Satan furthers his goals.
Leaders in government can do much good and lead the nation closer to righteousness. Yet they will only do so if we unequivocally demand it of them. Let us seek God’s righteousness first and heed his wise guidance concerning the type of leaders we need.