Summary: Esther, Pt. 3
THE POWER GAME (ESTHER 3)
I am highly suspicious of people in power and with power, from politicians to pastors. My low regard and utter disdain for power can be traced to the power game and the power struggle I have witnessed. The church I was a part of as a youth had a heartbreaking split every three years or so. The seminary I attended had a shameful power battle over the selection of a new president. I had also served in a church after the founder ran off with the pianist. I attended a board meeting where a power-grabbing board member threw a pencil on the table and scolded the senior pastor of being “mean, despicable, and classless卑鄙，賤格，下溜.”
Sadly the church is not much different from other organizations. Churches, boards, seminaries, organizations and ministries break up over the issue of who is in charge and who calls the shots. Power struggles happen in companies, churches, communities, cities, counties and countries. Often people claim they should have the power and be in charge since they have invested more treasures, spent more time, are more talented, have more troops for the task at hand. They wrest for control over policy, programs, projects, procedures, plans and people. The problem never ends. A church leader told me that once the power brokers are gone other people quickly fill into the power vacuum.
Unfortunately, the mighty are more admired than the meek. Some people are the nicest brother and the closest friend until power rests in their hands. Power corrupts princes, politicians, paupers, pastors, pals and people. Ironically, much of what I have learned in ministry comes from avoiding and shunning all the bad examples and practices.
The Jews peaceful existence in Babylon was shattered in a big way. The newly-promoted Haman the Agaite wanted to make the Jews pay for disrespecting him. He could afford to do that because he was acclaimed the second most powerful person in the country besides the king.
Does man’s power serve God’s purpose? How should Christians properly and sensibly use the influence and power over people in their hands?
Power Without Compassion is Distortion
3:1 After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. 2 All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor. 3 Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” 4 Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew. (Est 3:1-4)
One of the world’s richest and most powerful man and his wife, along with singer Bono, were the surprised recipients of Time magazine’s “Persons of the Year” award in 2005. The unlikely couple was Bill and Melinda Gates, co-founders of the world’s wealthiest charitable foundation. Bill and Melinda, the magazine notes, “spent the year giving more money away faster than anyone ever has.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed $750 million to improving access to child immunizations, accelerating introduction of new vaccines and strengthening vaccine delivery systems. The foundation focuses on education, global health, improving public libraries and supporting at-risk families. They awarded grants to schools in Texas, Colorado and Massachusetts, as well as the Lutheran World Relief program, which received $640,000 to help nomadic communities in Niger avert food crises.
According to Wikipedia, the Foundation has also pledged over $7 billion to its various causes, including $1 billion to the United Negro College Fund; and as of 2005, had an estimated endowment of $29.0 billion. Gates has spent about a third of his lifetime income on charity. A 2004 Forbes magazine article, Gates gave away over $29 billion to charities from 2000 onwards.
Power must be tampered with compassion. Jesus said, “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matt 23:11). People with power but no compassion have a distorted view of their worth, their abilities and their contribution. Christians do not talk about power, they talk about responsibility. Power is nothing without compassion.
Like most power-hungry people, Haman confused the power of the person with the power of the office. Power to him was about recognition, respect and reward. Note that Haman’s power was entrusted, given or bestowed (v 1), but he was caught up with consolidating his position, enjoying the praise and receiving the perks. People like Haman get easily offended and outraged when their role and right are challenged.
Haman did not see that his power was relative; he had a seat (v 1) above all the nobles but still it was just a seat. There is nothing special about the seat. He had a hot seat, not a royal seat, which properly belonged to the king (Est 3:1, 5:1). This word “seat” occurs three times in the book, twice referring to the king’s throne (1:2, 3:1, 5:1). Haman’s seat was just a regular chair, if you may, not a throne. One day that chair will be given to another. By the end of the book, Mordecai would surpass Haman in greatness (Est 10:2).