Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
Since next Tuesday is Election Day, it seems appropriate to reflect on the Proverbs’ teachings on leadership. Of course, those in positions of authority would do well to consider all the wisdom in the book of Proverbs. But there are eight passages they would do well to contemplate that speak specifically to those exercising secular authority. Here they are in the order of their appearance.
If you don’t help the people you lead, you won’t be in charge for long.
“In a multitude of people is a king’s glory, But in the scarcity of people is a prince’s ruin” (Proverbs 14.28 NASB). This verse tells us two things: 1) You cannot be a leader if no one is willing to follow, and 2) Deprivation will make your constituency turn on you.
What you say will get greater attention, so carefully choose your words.
“A divine verdict is on the lips of the king; His mouth should not err in judgment” (Proverbs 16.10 NASB). This verse does not mean that leaders are infallible, as some interpreted in the past, but rather that people put more weight on a leader’s words.
You cannot turn a blind eye to evil.
“A king who sits on the throne of justice disperses all evil with his eyes. A wise king scatters the wicked, And drives a threshing wheel over them.”(Proverbs 20.8,26 NASB).
One of the reasons God gives men authority is to wield the sword against the evildoer (Romans 13.4). As a result, being lenient toward lawbreakers harms the dominion over which you exercise control.
Taxation should not be excessive.
“The king gives stability to the land by justice, But a person who takes bribes ruins it” (Proverbs 29.4 NASB).
Commentators agree that this speaks of excessive taxation. I doubt any of us would view paying taxes as equal to a bribe, but it speaks to the ruler’s greed. Do you recall what happened when Rehoboam took the wrong advice and increased the already excessive tax burden on the people? The ten northern tribes of Israel broke away and formed a new kingdom under King Jeroboam (1 Kings 12.6ff).
Avoid surrounding yourself with “yes-men.”
“If a ruler pays attention to falsehood, All his ministers become wicked” (Proverbs 29.12 NASB).
People in power often attract sycophants who may speak lies that the ruler finds favorable. If he is the type who delights in those stroking his ego, he might discover himself surrounded by those seeking to use him to accomplish their means.
Don’t forget that your constituency includes people who can’t help you.
“If a king judges the poor with truth, His throne will be established forever” (Proverbs 29.14 NASB).
A popular leader fights for fair treatment for all citizens, especially the poor unable to lobby their cause. If you’ll also note that type of character wins one re-election.
If you want to further your political career, stay away from scandal.
“Do not give your strength to women, Or your ways to that which destroys kings. It is not for kings, Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Or for rulers to desire intoxicating drink” (Proverbs 31.3-4 NASB).
Those in positions of authority are surrounded by more than just sycophants. Additionally, they have domestic and foreign foes. One strategy used by these foes involves the fairer sex. A honey trap is a name for this kind of strategy. Honey trapping entails luring a target into a romantic or sexual relationship to gain access to sensitive information. Recent history in the U.S. Congress reveals at least one Representative who fell victim to such a trap, having a relationship with an agent of communist China.
Persons in authoritative roles should never partake in excessive drinking. You may say or do something you will regret in a drunken state. People suspect one now-deceased politician murdered a political operative with whom he may have been having an affair while driving drunk in his car. His stature, however, protected him from even being arrested. While it did not end his political career, it derailed his chances of ever becoming President of the United States.
This list is not exhaustive. Further, Solomon discusses the proper way to interact with those in authority. However, the points I’ve made here appear particularly relevant during this election season.