A quick look at social media in the aftermath of the election suggested that a lot of Christians had a lot of strong feelings about the result. Talk of ‘fleeing the country’ and ‘a betrayal of Christian values’ on one side of the spectrum and ‘the beginnings of what will be a great era in our nation’s history’ on the other, both seemed a little overstated. Perhaps more troublingly though they also spoke of an over-reliance and over-expectation that have developed in a lot of people’s thinking when it comes to our view of government. What would the author of 1 Samuel say to all of this?
Even the best leaders can only take
As we saw on Sunday evening in 1 Samuel 8:11-17 God warns the people about what a ‘King like the nations’ will be like. The repeated point was that he will ‘take’ and ‘take’ and take.’ But here’s the thing: I don’t think God is saying he will take because he’s nasty and thieving. He’s saying that because that’s all human leadership can ever do. Think about it. Can a government produce food and wealth and health? They can try and govern so as to encourage the growth of those things, but can they produce them? No. All God is saying is that rulers will tax you. Some will do it harshly, others more reasonably, but that’s all they can do. They can’t give you more. They haven’t got anything to give…without taking it first!
Now don’t hear me wrong. Good government is a great gift from God (Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17) and their role in security and economics is not irrelevant. But if we were hoping to elect someone who could produce and provide all we need to live in peace, harmony and prosperity we were hoping for too much. The increasing tendency, even among Christians, to expect the government to sort out all the problems is to give them a burden they just can’t carry.
Only God can give and give and give
Time and again the Bible describes God as being extremely generous and giving. He just loves to give. And so if we see an upturn in our economy, increased security levels and an increased sense of well-being that will be because God in his grace has over-ruled in our infinitely complex world to make it so. He’s the only one who can genuinely produce prosperity, however much elected officials might like to take the ultimate credit!
If on the other hand things take a turn for the worse we can know that the Lord is behind that too. Whilst he might not have been as prudent as he should have been it has always seemed a bit harsh to me to land the blame for the credit crunch at Gordon Brown’s door! God is sovereign and he knows and does what is right.
But here’s the great news. Even if things to go down the pan for us as a country we do have a ruler who loves to give and give and give. Just like King David shares all his spoils of war with his followers (1 Sam 30:16-31) so too our King promises to share every good thing with us in his new creation and no-one is going to be voting him out of power any time soon.