Does the private life and moral character of a leader matter?
We live in a world in which people are under fairly constant scrutiny. As in the case of Andrew Weiner, private text messages can be put into the public domain and cause huge problems for one’s political career. The News Of The World was closed after a number of scandals related to what should have been private information. Clearly, there is not very much privacy to be had by anyone.
Public figures are under this kind of scrutiny every single day. Does it matter?
God takes the behavior of leaders very seriously. Consider these words from the book of Micah:
Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they lean upon the Lord and say, “Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us.” Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.
The character of leaders is of importance to God. What is obvious here is that the leaders would cause the people to suffer through their own failures. There is much to be learned here!
Politicians, Priests and Prophets
The common error of all three of these kinds of people was the love of money. Micah, speaking as he was inspired by God, made it clear that the failure of each of these offices was due to the corrupting influence of money. Is money evil? Of course not! Rather, the love of money is the root of evil.
Politicians who are corrupted by money cease to govern with a singular focus on the good of the governed. Their attention is inexorably drawn towards their own pocket. The cause of the wealthy becomes the squeaky wheel which gets the grease. Are we in danger of this kind of trouble? I think it would be fair to say that in America, and in the UK, a lot of money is spent each year by groups whose sole purpose is to divert the attention of politicians. Is every special interest group a corruption of the morality of politics? Perhaps not. Yet the general effect must be to move the concern of the government away from the governed and towards only certain segments of the nation’s affairs.
Are there priests who are only looking out for themselves? Assuredly this is the case. There is a definite pattern in the Bible which requires humility and frugality from priests. As the biblical priest relied upon the people for his sustenance, so modern church leaders rely on the church for their wages. When money becomes a motivating factor what happens? Leaders get drawn away from the truth.
Recently I was speaking to a young woman who is very wary of church. I asked her what a church could do that would be unacceptable to her. Her response was that a church should just accept people like they are and not try to change them. My question in response was simple: What if they need to be changed? When the church must exercise discipline and look to change people for their own good and for God’s glory then money can complicate things. The scenario of the church leader who is too concerned about offending a large donor to correct them is a very real possibility.
What can we understand about prophets and how they function today in view of Micah’s words? Well, I think, very simply, that Micah understood the role of the prophet to be to convey the message of the Lord to the people so that the people knew when they had strayed from the truth. If the priest was there to teach people the truth then the prophet was there to tell people about the disaster coming for those who left the truth behind.
The quotation is telling. When money becomes involved the easy response is “No disaster will come upon us.” Because people like to be told good news the prophet is tempted to tell people good news in return for money. The problem is that God speaks most often through prophets to warn people about bad news. The involvement of money then obscures the message of God.
Politicians, priests and prophets should all consider their relationship to money very carefully. The most important thing is not the office but the officer. God is not a respecter of persons. This means that God will not give a politician an easy pass into heaven. The priest will not be let into heaven through a special side door. Prophets will not be whisked away to heaven by a special angelic welcoming committee. Faithfulness to God above all else – especially money – is the only thing which will ensure a place in heaven for anyone.
The Failure Of The People
Is it fair for the people to be punished for the failure of their leaders?
In short, yes it is.
People often get the leaders they deserve and keep the leaders they tolerate. The financial problems in America and in the UK are prime examples of this. There is no way to justify the growing national debts of these countries. The math involved is simple. No organisation is best served by operating at a continual deficit. The cause of the deficit, the amount of the deficit and the way to reduce the deficit are all lesser points. The main thing which must be accepted first is that no organisation is best served by operating at a continual deficit.
Yet we elect politicians who plan to run governments that borrow money.
We deserve them.
People pick churches based on the smile of the pastor, the quality of the music or the wealth of children’s activities on offer. Then they wonder why they are not growing spiritually or why the church seems to have lost something of its focus on mission, prayer and faithfulness to God.
The pastor is only responding to the pull of the people’s money.
We deserve them.
This is the failure of the people: to allow leaders to continue in their office even after they have been corrupted by money and sin.
The hard work is to remove these leaders even at great personal cost.