Summary: Don't use your power to benefit yourself at others' expense; use it to benefit others at your expense.
Just a few years ago (2012), Paul Piff was researching the effect power had on people. So in one study, he had subjects play a two-person game of Monopoly in which power was intentionally skewed: one player was given a wad of cash and the use of both dice; while the other player received only half the cash and one die.
Within minutes, the subjects with more cash and dice (the “high-status players”) began acting noticeably different. They hogged the space at the table, made less eye contact, and took more liberties, such as moving the low-status players’ game pieces for them. They also made more noise when they moved their own pieces.
Everyone knew the game was rigged, and yet within a few minutes the roles crystallized and the high-status players started pushing people around and acting like they had real power and status. (Paul Roberts, The Impulse Society: America in an Age of Instant Gratification, Bloomsbury USA, 2014, pp 76-78; www.PreachingToday.com)
It’s amazing what power does to people, often subtly and imperceptibly. And it makes me wonder, “How has the little bit of power I have affected me?” After all, God made me a husband, a father, a grandfather, a pastor, an American, and someone with great wealth compared to most of the rest of the world.
Do you realize that those living at the poverty level in our country are considered extremely wealthy by most of the rest of the world? According to Forbes Magazine, “The typical person in the bottom 5 percent of the American income distribution is still richer than 68 percent of the world’s inhabitants” (Tim Worstall, “Astonishing Numbers: America's Poor Still Live Better than Most of the Rest of Humanity”, www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2013/06/01)
God gave us all a certain amount of influence and power, but are we using that power appropriately? Are we using that influence in the way God wants us to?
You see, it’s not wrong to have power and influence. We don’t have to feel guilty that we’re “rich Christians in an age of hunger”, but we do need to ask the question: What does God want me to do with all that power and wealth?
Nehemiah 5:1-2 Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers. For there were those who said, “With our sons and our daughters, we are many. So let us get grain, that we may eat and keep alive.” (ESV)
There was a famine in the land, and many were going without food.
Nehemiah 5:3-5 There were also those who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to get grain because of the famine.” And there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our fields and our vineyards. Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children are as their children. Yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards.” (ESV)
Their fields and vineyards were mortgaged to the hilt, and many of them were forced to sell their children into slavery just to pay their taxes and buy food. Sad to say, it was their own brothers – their own Jewish kin – who were taking advantage of them. The wealthy and powerful people in Jerusalem were loaning money to their poorer brothers, taking their lands and even their children as collateral for the loans. Then when the poor couldn’t pay, the rich would keep their lands and their children as slaves. This was nothing less than extortion!
Those with power in Jerusalem were exploiting their neighbors. They were abusing the poor, manipulating the situation to their own benefit, in a blatant violation of God’s law. God had made it very clear: No Jew could enslave another Jew (Leveticus 25:39-40); and no Jew could loan money with interest to another Jew (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36; Deuteronomy 23:19-20).
Those with power in Jerusalem had totally disregarded God’s Law, exploiting their brothers in the process, just to get rich. Instead of using their money and power to help others in a time of trouble, they used it to help only themselves. My dear friends, that’s an example of what NOT to do with your power.
DON’T USE YOUR POWER TO BENEFIT YOURSELF AT OTHERS’ EXPENSE.
Don’t exploit people. Don’t use your resources to abuse, misuse or manipulate people so you can get rich at their loss.