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Written by Jim Jordal   
Monday, 06 February 2012

SOME BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES FOR GOOD GOVERNMENT

By Jim Jordal

 Judges and officers shall you make you in all your gates, which Yahweh your God gives you, according to your tribes; and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not wrest justice: you shall not respect persons; neither shall you take a bribe; for a bribe does blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous. That which is altogether just shall you follow, that you may live…

God gives Moses three principles for good government, Deut. 16:18-20a, WEB, (emphasis mine)

If you’ve been following the debate in Congress over federal deficits, taxes, debt limit increases and cuts in government expenditures, you’ve possibly reached the conclusion that something is seriously wrong when reason and justice have no chance against greed, arrogance and entrenched political beliefs. If you think the political/economic system is fragmented almost beyond repair, you may just be correct.

We are at a national tipping point where we could tilt into long-term economic and political paralysis, as leaders become unable to put aside party differences in favor of the public good. The probable result of this political gridlock would be a takeover of the reins of power by those waiting for such a default—those favoring deregulation, slashing of public safety nets, destruction of environmental controls and a return to government by the rich for the rich.

The other possibility—remote as it seems now-- is to accept God’s way of sacrifice, justice, equality and social responsibility. I think, however, that we’ll have to suffer considerably more before we become willing to do it God’s way. What is not a viable possibility is the choice that most Americans seem to want, but which appears to be gone forever—a return to business as usual.

Why not a return to "normalcy"? Because God is fed up with the rampant debasement of decency and denials of justice that now rule the land. There no longer seems to be (at least in most of Congress and the big corporations) any concept of sacrifice for the common good, or even that there is such a thing as the common good. Nothing is beyond destruction: not the earth, or people, or representative government or the American way of life, or anything decent and wholesome.

We can, however, prepare for the eventual day when national leaders become willing to listen, not to what their party wants, but to what God clearly says. God’s principles for good government can be found several places in Scripture; but the one that seems to fit the present situation in Congress is found in God’s instructions to Moses concerning governmental principles for the new Israel nation.

The first principle is that judges (including all political figures in all branches of government today) should "not wrest judgment." To "wrest" judgment is to twist the meaning and application of laws so as to benefit persons of power and privilege and to reduce or even eliminate influence upon the political process by people of low social or economic status. If you think that all Americans are equal under the law you need to wake up and pay attention to what’s now transpiring in politics and economics.

The second is that leaders should "not respect persons" in judgment. In biblical language, this means that political leaders should not treat people differently based upon social standing, wealth or ability to bring power to bear upon the situation. Translated into modern terms, that would mean genuine representative democracy, or the "one person, one vote" principle.

The third is that political leaders should "not take bribes" of any sort. Direct bribery of elected officials is rare in America. Unfortunately, what has replaced it is not rare. Consider the influence of campaign contributions upon the legislative process and you’ll realize that the system now responds far more to the wishes of big campaign donors than to the will of the people. This is especially true for large corporations that now have the same right as private citizens to apply their almost unlimited financial power to subvert the political process.

While it would not be accurate to describe the system as riddled with bribery of officials, it sure comes close. Money translates into power, as it always has. One possible way around this would be public support of elections, with each candidate receiving a certain amount of public money, with prohibitions against any other source of campaign funding. It wouldn’t be perfect, but it certainly would improve on what we have now. Think about it.