Proverbs 29:11-14

“A fool gives full vent to anger, but the wise quietly holds it back.
If a ruler listens to falsehood, all his officials will be wicked.
The poor and the oppressor have this in common: the Lord gives light to the eyes of both.
If a king judges the poor with equity, his throne will be established forever.”
Proverbs 29:11-14

Imagine my surprise to see this passage of Proverbs assigned to today. How timely! Millions of people around the world watched Monday night’s presidential debate. Such debates have a long history and have been a staple throughout my lifetime. This one has left me baffled.

Everyone agrees about the importance of the office of the presidency. Most say it is the most important job in the country. I understand why we say that but Mondays are garbage days at our house and I don’t know where we would be if our garbage collectors took a few weeks off in a row. Every job is important in God’s economy.

But the stakes are certainly higher for the presidency.

Leadership is always a function of community. Teams need coaches to play their best. Someone has to bear the responsibility of leadership at every level of human life. Leaders emerge. But leaders without followers are just taking a walk. So Monday night’s debate gave us a chance to see two of the four people that our political system (read: the system that has evolved to help us get things done as a nation) has chosen, one of whom will be elected president.

At this point we do well to remember that, in the Old Testament, there came a time when the people of Israel demanded that God give them a king like everybody else had. It was a bit insulting to God and God warned them that it wasn’t going to work out as neatly as they imagined it would. You can read God’s thoughts on the matter in 1 Samuel 8:10-18. But full disclosure demands that we also note that theocracies aren’t all they are cracked up to be either.

The earliest democracies were those of Greece and Rome. They weren’t perfect systems then any more than ours today is a perfect system. Imperfect people cannot construct perfect systems.

Monarchies dominated Europe for a long long time. Various forms of authoritarian dictatorships have always been around. The democratic experiment of the United States of America truly was a revolutionary movement at the time; I trust we all feel fortunate that we are still working to keep it going now.

So today, again, we hear a few verses from Proverbs which offer some wisdom when it comes to governmental leadership. They offer some thoughts on the temperament issue that came up on Monday night: “A fool gives full vent to anger, but the wise quietly holds it back.”

They remind us that the people a potential leader surrounds him or herself with is very important to their capacity to lead: If a ruler listens to falsehood, all his officials will be wicked.
They remind us that how we look at things has much to do with the perspective we bring: The poor and the oppressor have this in common: the Lord gives light to the eyes of both.
And they remind us of those for whom the king bears special and unique responsibility: If a king judges the poor with equity, his throne will be established forever.

So it was the we saw two of the four people vying for the highest elective office in our land. And we, the followers, get to choose. Everybody gets one vote. The result will say as much about us as the leader we choose.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we pray for all people who are running for elected office this season. We pray for honesty, integrity, capacity, and devotion to a life of service from them all. We pray for wisdom and discernment among those who cast their ballots. And we pray that you help us follow well whomever is ultimately elected. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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