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Corrupt Government Should Not Be Surprising

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8If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. 9But this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields.
(Ecclesiastes 5:8-9 ESV)


All throughout Ecclesiastes King Solomon speaks openly and honestly about the troubles that afflict people on earth. That includes not being amazed at seeing the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness. When we choose to live life without God, such things are to be expected.

People are corrupt. That includes the people reading this and the person writing this. None of us are good [Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10]. Therefore, no one should be surprised when we act in ways that look out for our own interests at the expense of the interests of others.

As we’ll see in the next few verses over the coming days, the rich often oppress the poor. But oppression can also come from business and even government. Many would like to think otherwise, but government, being comprised of sinful people, is not without its corruption even in a democracy.

And while government is supposed to prevent and punish such abuses it often does not because of its inherent nature. One official reports to a higher one who reports to yet higher ones. Governments are bureaucratic. And that, Solomon notes, is the problem.

Higher officials are more likely to cover up what happens within their own organizations lest they be held accountable. They will protect those below them who break laws in order to protect themselves. This makes it difficult to expose and punish corruption. We cannot, therefore, expect justice from government.

Verse 9 is a difficult verse to translate into English so Solomon’s meaning isn’t quite clear. But based on context of the preceding verse it appears that he is saying that, despite the negatives of government just expressed, it is better to have a government than to not have one.

In life we have to take the bad with the good when it comes to people. None of us are without our faults. This includes our leaders. The alternative to having leadership is having anarchy and that certainly wouldn’t make life better.

Unfortunately, too many people put their hopes in government leaders. But this can only lead to disappointment.

I once had the privilege of attending a presidential inauguration. As I stood on the National Mall in the freezing cold that January morning people around me were weeping tears of joy as the candidate they obviously supported took the oath of office. They were confident that a new, more hopeful, era had dawned upon America. That was many years ago. And yet, America still has the same problems and, frankly, many worse ones.

Rather than putting our hopes in human leaders we are to put our hope in God who will not let the guilty go unpunished [Numbers 14:18]. All leadership comes from God [Romans 13:1-2]. And I firmly believe that God often promotes evil people into leadership to teach us that trusting in human beings is futile. It’s a lesson we’ve been slow to learn.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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