Godly Character: The Key to a Nation's Well-Being

Hi friends,

What does God say about godly character for the well-being of a nation?

It’s an important question for us, but I was unsure where to go in the Scriptures to think more carefully about this topic.

Then, the liturgical reading for this week pointed me to 1 Samuel 8:1-21!

A few observations:

  • In 1 Samuel, the prophet Eli and his sons failed to honor God. Instead, they took advantage of their roles to benefit themselves at the expense of others. God held them accountable and appointed Samuel as his prophet.

  • When Samuel grows old, instead of seeking God’s guidance for selecting the leaders, he makes his own decision. He chooses nepotism, appointing his own sons as judges, even though they had “turned toward dishonest profit, took bribes, and perverted justice” (1 Samuel 8:3).

  • The elders of Israel see this as a problem, so they go to Samuel and ask for a different solution: “Appoint a king to judge us the same as all the other nations have.”

  • Through Samuel, the Lord warns the elders that the king will oppress the people. It will get so bad that God warns them: “When that day comes [when the king makes you his servants], you will cry out because of the king you’ve chosen for yourselves, but the LORD won’t answer you on that day” (1 Samuel 8:18).

  • Nevertheless, the people insist on having a king to rule them so they can “be like all the other nations” (verse 20).

It’s a striking and disheartening consistency: everyone is looking out for themselves and seeking their own advantage, disregarding the wisdom of the Lord, and ignoring the importance of godly character.

What happens? God gives his people what they deserve: King Saul.

Samuel then warns the people what is at stake (1 Samuel 12:20-25):

Samuel replied, “Don’t be afraid. Even though you have committed all this evil [asking for a king], don’t turn away from following the LORD. Instead, worship the LORD with all your heart. Don’t turn away to follow worthless things that can’t profit or rescue you; they are worthless. The LORD will not abandon his people, because of his great name and because he has determined to make you his own people.

“As for me, I vow that I will not sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you. I will teach you the good and right way. Above all, fear the LORD and worship him faithfully with all your heart; consider the great things he has done for you. However, if you continue to do what is evil, both you and your king will be swept away.”

As we know from the rest of the Old Testament, the people continued to do what is evil, and Samuel’s prophecy came true: they and their kings were swept away into exile.

By the time the church is established, there’s no sense that the scattered, small, and sometimes persecuted followers of Jesus will be able to influence Caesar’s rule.

Peter advises the church how to navigate this challenge in 1 Peter 2:11-17,

Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and exiles to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits.

Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. Submit as free people, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but as God’s slaves. Honor everyone. Love the brothers and sisters. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

The key emphasis? It’s the same: Fear God, avoid evil, do good, and live honorably.

Peter doesn’t unduly praise the civil authorities: he knows they are accountable to God. Insofar as their authority is for good purposes, Christians are to obey and honor their governmental authorities. Yet fundamentally, we are to live as ‘strangers and exiles’, because we are citizens of God’s kingdom.

Throughout every generation, self-interest and pursuit of power often motivate us more than honoring God and developing godly character.

But the church is to be different. We are to be a light by remaining faithful to God, prioritizing His will, and actively praying for our leaders and nation.

This will look like a betrayal to those who are motivated by power. Saying that character matters will threaten those who only care about themselves.

Yet the Scriptures tell us that it is in obedience to God that we best promote the well-being of our society.

As we navigate the challenges of our time, may we remain steadfast in our devotion to God and committed to upholding godly character in all aspects of our lives.

A few questions to spark discussion:

  1. The Israelites demanded a king so they could be like other nations, despite God’s warnings. When are you most tempted to ignore God’s wisdom to fit in or be accepted by others?

  2. How would you define “godly character”? What do you think are some of the most important character qualities for Christian leaders to demonstrate?

  3. Why do you think godly character in leadership is so important for the well-being of a nation? What impact do you believe it has?

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Amen! These are great principles to follow whether we are talking about a nation, an organization, a church or a bible study. We could fall prey to attitudes of envy, judgementalism, complaining, divisiveness, strife etc. that oppose God’s work in us (Gal 5:17). We could resort to our own solutions perhaps out of impatience, a lack of wisdom, or other needs like security, control, approval and power. This topic is a great reminder to reflect where our hearts are as we partcipate in the societies we live in.

There are many ways we can be tempted to ignore God’s wisdom and our drift away from God’s plans may be quite subtle, and we may not even realize that we have missed the mark until the damage is already done! When we dont place our confidence in God and trust our own abilities, we can either be overconfident or lack confidence. Overconfidence with a selfish interest for power, will lead us to yield to the popular opinion for more favor, whether there is wisdom in it or not. Similary, when we lack confidence, if things are not going right in our organization/group, its tempting to trust the wrong people who promise hope but do not deliver, who may be naturally talented and charismatic but lack the love of God and people. Another example of a poor leader that comes to mind is Aaron, who listened to the selfish and misguided interests of the Israelites instead of following God (Exodus 32). What I have learnt through my own experiences is that godly concern for the purposes and people of an organization are very important in determining who we turn to for help. This discernment may come only through prayer, a willingness to follow God, and through seeking godly counsel.

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