There’s an old saying, “Don’t whip a dead horse.” I was reading an online article recently that stated the best strategy to follow when you find you are riding a dead horse is to dismount. However, those in government are often found to employ different strategies, which include:
- Buying a stronger whip;
- Changing riders;
- Saying things like, “This is the way we have always ridden this horse”;
- Appointing a committee to carry out a study to find the best way to ride dead horses;
- Arranging visits to other sites to see how they ride dead horses;
- Harnessing other dead horses together for increased speed;
- Providing additional funding to increase the horse’s performance;
- Rehashing the standards for riding dead horses;
- Promoting the dead horse to a different department.
We often hear fun being made at the government’s expense, but when people say these sort of things, they usually aren’t really in a joking mood. No one is perfect, including those in authoritative positions. Even if the policeman, judge, or politician is honest and upright, they still have their faults and limitations.
Interestingly, the Bible recognises this, when it states in Psalm 146.3: “Do not put your confidence in powerful people, for they cannot save you.”
Consider what Paul states in Romans 13: “Everyone must submit themselves to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
Established by God? I thought governments were established by the candidate who has the largest campaign purse, the best election promises, the most convincing debating skills, or being skilled at downing their opponents.
Additionally, there is more to Paul’s quote than space allows, but further on, he states that these God-appointed authorities are “God’s servants”. We often hear political figures being referred to by all manner of terms – some unrepeatable for this column – but “God’s servants” isn’t usually one of them.
Wasn’t Paul aware of bribe and corruption? Didn’t he know about police brutality, and criminals who are caught red-handed being allowed to go free on a technicality?
Yes, Paul did know about these things, because the government of his day was the Roman government. In his day, there were no elections, slavery was taken for granted, life was cheap, and taxpayers’ money was spent on gladiator sports where the loser ended up dead – all for spectator entertainment.
The tax-collectors made a living by lining their pockets, and much of this occurred during the reigns of Caligula and Nero, both of whom were sexual perverts and cold-blooded murderers.
The only thing worse than a bad government is no government at all. We’ve seen this in some countries where bad governments have been toppled, only to give way to anarchy and destruction. C.S. Lewis once said, “No arrangement of bad eggs can make a good omelette.”
For a government to have any measure of success, there is a need for its citizens to play their part, and to uphold their responsibilities.
A government can do all in its power to make a country great, but it can’t create a perfect society out of imperfect people. It can’t get its subjects to believe in a religion, for example; that is not its role, and bad things have happened when this has been attempted. Political force cannot change human hearts, or lead them to God.
When it comes to elections, the best decision we can make is not which candidate am I going to vote for, but who is going to be the Lord of my life. The Bible says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord, than to depend on human leaders.” (Psalm 118.9)
Our happiness and well-being doesn’t depend on who are our authorities; ultimately, our happiness depends on who is controlling our lives. Authoritative figures come, and they also go, but God’s authority is all the time. Do you allow him to control your life?