Summary: What does the wisdom of Proverbs tell us regarding authority? A 4th of July Sunday message.
In life, we must deal with the matter of authority. Sometimes we find ourselves in positions of authority, like president, boss, or parent; but mostly we find ourselves submitting to authority as citizen, employee, or child. Wisdom regarding authority is too often lacking among those in positions of authority or those who are under authority. On this Sunday before Independence Day, I want us to think together about what we are told in Proverbs the proper role of authority and our proper response to authority with respect to governing authorities.
1. The proper role of authority.
“A just king gives stability to his nation.” - Proverbs 29:4a (NLT)
“Why do authorities exist? It is because we live in a sinful and fallen world, and without authority everyone would do ‘what is right in his own eyes,’ resulting in chaos. Those who will not be constrained from within by the living presence of Jesus Christ, must be restrained from without by the state, acting under God’s ultimate authority, in order to ‘promote the general welfare,’ in the words of the Constitution’s preamble.” - Cal Thomas, Syndicated Columnist
“The better we understand the seething evil of the human heart that is ready to break out where there is no restraint, the more thankful we will be for government.” - John Piper
“For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” - Romans 13:1b (NLT)
We understand the proper role of governmental authority, but what if sinful, imperfect, corrupt people are in positions of authority? This seems to happen too often. What are we to do?
Pastor Jack Hughes, in a sermon, “The Sovereignty of God in an Election Year” said this in response to the question: Why would God put an evil ruler in power?
1. All men are evil so there are no good candidates to choose from.
2. Nations that work hard to reject God deserve bad rulers.
3. No matter how bad our rulers may be they are never as bad as the hell we deserve.
4. God uses evil rulers for good and righteous ends.
“The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it whichever way He wishes.” - Proverbs 21:1 (Amplified)
“The kind of trust that we are called to give to our fellow imperfect humans in this life . . . can never finally be earned. It must be given as a gift – a gift in faith, in trust more of the God who gives than of the leaders He has given.” - Mark Dever
With all this being said, how can one in a position of authority, best fulfill their role? Especially if I find myself in such a position?
A. Recognize your accountability before God.
“A divine decision [given by God] is on the lips of the king [as His representative]; His mouth should not be unfaithful or unjust in judgment.” - Proverbs 16:10 (Amplified)
Revelation 20:12 says “I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne.” No one is exempt from God’s judgment.
B. Seek wise counsel.
“Remove the worthless things from silver to make it pure, and a worker can make something beautiful. Take the evil advisors away from a king, and goodness will make his kingdom strong.” - Proverbs 25:4-5 (Easy to Read)
“Good leaders cultivate honest speech; they love advisors who tell them the truth.” - Proverbs 16:13 (The Message)
You may remember the fall from grace of former head of the PTL TV network, Jim Bakker. He was convicted on 24 charges of fraud. One main contributor to his downfall was that he replaced board members who didn’t agree with him with folks who would agree with him. He then was enabled to make poor, dishonest, and even sinful decisions because he had surrounded himself with a bunch of “yes men.”
That’s something a wise leader seeks to avoid.
C. Choose what is right and refuse what is wrong.
“When the king sits and judges people, he must look carefully to separate the evil from the good.” - Proverbs 20:8 (Easy to Read)
“Like a farmer who separates wheat from the chaff, a wise king will decide who is wrong and crush them.” - Proverbs 20:26 (Easy to Read)
Good leaders don’t look to do the easy thing; but the right thing.
D. Be a servant leader.
Servant leadership is a concept as old as the Bible, but the phrase was coined in modern days by Robert Greenleaf in 1970.
“The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.” - Robert Greenleaf