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Opening Up Proverbs (Session 10)

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Chapter 12 of the book covering Wisdom for Leadership

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Opening Up Proverbs Chapter 12: Wisdom for Leaders

12 Wisdom for leaders

The book of Proverbs was written primarily by a king (Solomon) to impart wisdom to future rulers. Chapter 31 begins with words of wisdom taught to King Lemuel by his mother. The books of Kings and Chronicles show how the principles of Proverbs are worked out for good and ill in the lives of the kings of Israel and Judah.

A manual for leadership

Now that there is no longer a theocracy under the New Covenant, how do these principles of leadership apply to us today? The essential teachings of Proverbs about the duties of rulers apply to all nations. Earthly rulers are still to reflect the righteous character of God and are accountable to him. Furthermore, in democratic societies we have the privilege of participating in choosing our leaders and making laws. The principles of Proverbs should be applied by us as we exercise our political rights, seeking to choose leaders who will act wisely and make good laws. Also, the principles about leadership in Proverbs apply to others who are in authority—in the church, in a business, and in the family.

A wise leader reflects God’s holy character

Politicians of every political stripe often invoke the name of God in their speeches. On whose side is God? Or better still: Which rulers are on God’s side.

He is righteous

Some people claim that it doesn’t matter how a ruler lives so long as he or she governs well. But wisdom proclaims that character counts when it comes to leadership: ‘It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness’ (16:12). If a politician wants to have a positive impact on the nation, he or she must live well. If a father wants his children to be righteous, he must set a godly example. Most of the qualifications for leadership in the church deal with moral character, which is more important than charisma or giftedness (1 Tim. 3:1–7).

He is not greedy

‘The king gives stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it’ (29:4). Those in power are often in a position to enrich themselves. There are extensive warnings in the Old Testament against this vice (Deut. 17:16–17; 1 Sam. 8:10–18). One of the qualifications for a leader in the church is that he be ‘free from the love of money’ (1 Tim. 3:3b). The early church was polluted by some leaders who tried to use their positions for financial gain (1 Tim. 6:5; 2 Cor. 2:17).

He is not enslaved to substance abuse

‘It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong drink, for they will drink and forget what is decreed, and pervert the rights of all the afflicted’ (31:4–5). Substance abuse impairs judgement and makes a leader unfit to carry on his or her responsibilities. The wise man is sober, alert, and self-controlled. Inebriation often leads to other sins, such as fighting, sexual immorality, and blasphemy (20:1). Those who abuse substances suffer physically and financially.

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?

Who has contentions? Who has complaining?

Who has wounds without cause?

Who has redness of eyes?

Those who linger long over wine,

Those who go to taste mixed wine.

Do not look upon the wine when it is red,

When it sparkles in the cup,

When it goes down smoothly;

At the last it bites like a serpent

And stings like a viper.

Your eyes will see strange things

And your mind will utter perverse things.

The heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty

(23:29–33, 21).

King Belshazzar lost his throne on the night he held a drunken party (Dan. 5). It is required that church leaders are not addicted to wine (1 Tim. 3:3) or other intoxicating substances.

He does not give his strength to strange women

‘Do not give your strength to women, or your ways to that which destroys kings’ (31:3). The law warned that the king must not ‘multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away’ (Deut. 17:17a). Solomon’s heart was led astray by his foreign wives (1 Kings 11). Sexual sin undermines a ruler’s moral authority (2 Sam. 12). In the same way, a church leader must be faithful to his wife (1 Tim. 3:2b).

He has personal integrity

Opening Up Proverbs Chapter 12: Wisdom for Leaders

12 Wisdom for leaders

The book of Proverbs was written primarily by a king (Solomon) to impart wisdom to future rulers. Chapter 31 begins with words of wisdom taught to King Lemuel by his mother. The books of Kings and Chronicles show how the principles of Proverbs are worked out for good and ill in the lives of the kings of Israel and Judah.

A manual for leadership

Now that there is no longer a theocracy under the New Covenant, how do these principles of leadership apply to us today? The essential teachings of Proverbs about the duties of rulers apply to all nations. Earthly rulers are still to reflect the righteous character of God and are accountable to him. Furthermore, in democratic societies we have the privilege of participating in choosing our leaders and making laws. The principles of Proverbs should be applied by us as we exercise our political rights, seeking to choose leaders who will act wisely and make good laws. Also, the principles about leadership in Proverbs apply to others who are in authority—in the church, in a business, and in the family.

A wise leader reflects God’s holy character

Politicians of every political stripe often invoke the name of God in their speeches. On whose side is God? Or better still: Which rulers are on God’s side.

He is righteous

Some people claim that it doesn’t matter how a ruler lives so long as he or she governs well. But wisdom proclaims that character counts when it comes to leadership: ‘It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness’ (16:12). If a politician wants to have a positive impact on the nation, he or she must live well. If a father wants his children to be righteous, he must set a godly example. Most of the qualifications for leadership in the church deal with moral character, which is more important than charisma or giftedness (1 Tim. 3:1–7).

He is not greedy

‘The king gives stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it’ (29:4). Those in power are often in a position to enrich themselves. There are extensive warnings in the Old Testament against this vice (Deut. 17:16–17; 1 Sam. 8:10–18). One of the qualifications for a leader in the church is that he be ‘free from the love of money’ (1 Tim. 3:3b). The early church was polluted by some leaders who tried to use their positions for financial gain (1 Tim. 6:5; 2 Cor. 2:17).

He is not enslaved to substance abuse

‘It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong drink, for they will drink and forget what is decreed, and pervert the rights of all the afflicted’ (31:4–5). Substance abuse impairs judgement and makes a leader unfit to carry on his or her responsibilities. The wise man is sober, alert, and self-controlled. Inebriation often leads to other sins, such as fighting, sexual immorality, and blasphemy (20:1). Those who abuse substances suffer physically and financially.

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?

Who has contentions? Who has complaining?

Who has wounds without cause?

Who has redness of eyes?

Those who linger long over wine,

Those who go to taste mixed wine.

Do not look upon the wine when it is red,

When it sparkles in the cup,

When it goes down smoothly;

At the last it bites like a serpent

And stings like a viper.

Your eyes will see strange things

And your mind will utter perverse things.

The heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty

(23:29–33, 21).

King Belshazzar lost his throne on the night he held a drunken party (Dan. 5). It is required that church leaders are not addicted to wine (1 Tim. 3:3) or other intoxicating substances.

He does not give his strength to strange women

‘Do not give your strength to women, or your ways to that which destroys kings’ (31:3). The law warned that the king must not ‘multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away’ (Deut. 17:17a). Solomon’s heart was led astray by his foreign wives (1 Kings 11). Sexual sin undermines a ruler’s moral authority (2 Sam. 12). In the same way, a church leader must be faithful to his wife (1 Tim. 3:2b).

He has personal integrity

‘Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool; much less are lying lips to a prince’ (17:7). A kingdom is founded upon truth and faithfulness to God’s moral law. ‘Loyalty and truth preserve the king, and he upholds his throne by righteousness’ (20:28). When we vote for our leaders, we should ask ourselves, ‘Do these people keep their promises?’ One way to test this commitment to truth is to see how faithfully such men or women have kept the vows of marriage. Rulers of the church, likewise, must be above reproach (1 Tim. 3:2a).

He fears God

‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge’ (1:7). A wise ruler recognizes that God sovereignly appoints and brings down rulers (Dan. 2:21). Such rulers acknowledge that they are under God’s authority. They do not become proud or set themselves up as saviours but look to God for security (21:31). When the nation enjoys victory in war or economic prosperity, the wise king does not take credit but realizes he is but a channel of God’s blessings to his people (21:1). Because he fears God, he doesn’t fear men (29:25) and isn’t afraid to alienate the powerful in the cause of righteousness. Pilate is an example of a weak ruler who compromised justice because of the fear of men. Likewise, leaders in the church are to recall that the Lord owns the flock (Acts 20:28b). They are not to lord it over those allotted to their charge but are to prove to be godly examples (1 Peter 5:3).

He earnestly seeks wisdom

Wisdom declares, ‘By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice’ (8:15). The kings of Israel were required to write out a copy of God’s law (Deut. 17:18). While our nations are not under the Mosaic Law, God’s Word still provides the basis for righteous human government. Without revealed moral absolutes, nations plunge into anarchy. ‘Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law’ (29:18). The ‘vision’ spoken of here is not that from the politician’s platform but rather revelation from God. The Bible teaches the rule of God through the law of God. Even the king is subject to the law (see 1 Kings 21). A wise ruler doesn’t ‘shoot from the hip’ but takes the time to fully understand the issues of the day: ‘the glory of kings is to search out a matter’ (Prov. 25:2b; see also 18:17). Such rulers surround themselves with wise and righteous advisors (11:14; 16:13) and purge their cabinets of the wicked and self-serving (29:12). Rehoboam lost most of his kingdom when he listened to wicked counsellors (1 Kings 12). We as citizens advise our rulers when we vote or contact our elected officials. The church also is dependent upon infallible and authoritative revelation from God. Many churches and denominations are ignoring God’s revelation and governing themselves according to the arbitrary whims of men. Without the authoritative revelation of Scripture, the people of God perish (Prov. 29:18). Within the church, the leaders are to be experts in God’s Word and able to teach and counsel others and to refute those who are in error (Titus 1:9). Wise church leaders thoroughly investigate major decisions and seek wise counsel.

He governs justly

‘The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous, but is terror to the workers of iniquity’ (21:15). While private individuals are not allowed to take revenge on those who wrong them, leaders act on God’s behalf when they punish the guilty (Rom. 13:4; 1 Peter 2:14) and are accountable to him for faithfully carrying out this task. ‘He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD’ (Prov. 17:15). Good rulers are passionately committed to righteousness and do not let the guilty go free. ‘A king who sits on the throne of justice disperses all evil with his eyes … A wise king winnows the wicked, and drives the threshing wheel over them’ (20:8, 26). Such a king is concerned for the rights of the victims of crime. He does not give preference to the rich and powerful: ‘If a king judges the poor with truth, his throne will be established forever’ (29:14). Nor does such a king rob the rich to gain the votes of the poor: ‘Nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute’ (Exod. 23:3). He opposes moral evils, which in our day would include the killing of unborn babies and the promotion of homosexuality. ‘He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,” peoples will curse him, nations will abhor him’ (Prov. 24:24). In the same way, church leaders are responsible for maintaining righteousness in the church. They are to exercise discipline among the members of the church (1 Cor. 5). They may be called upon to serve as impartial mediators in disputes among believers (as in 1 Cor. 6).

He protects the rights of the righteous and shows compassion to the helpless

Wise rulers respect the property rights of their people: ‘Do not move the ancient boundary or go into the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; He will plead their case against you’ (23:10–11). They honour productive citizens (22:29; see also 1 Peter 2:14). They guard the rights of the poor and exploited: ‘Do not rob the poor because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate; for the LORD will plead their case’ (22:22–23); ‘the righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, the wicked does not understand such concern’ (29:7). They protect those who cannot protect themselves: ‘Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy’ (31:8–9). These verses have often been quoted in the pro-life (anti-abortion) movement because the unborn are the most helpless among us. In the context, we see that leaders have a particular responsibility to defend the afflicted and oppressed. In the past, leaders such as William Wilberforce spoke out for the afflicted by fighting to abolish the slave trade. Church leaders also have a significant responsibility to care for those in want. A major part of their ministry in the early church was benevolence towards widows and those suffering from famine (Acts 6; 2 Cor. 8–9; Gal. 2:10; James 1:27).

Leaders have an impact on the people

In 1 and 2 Kings, the fortunes of Israel and Judah rise and fall according to the quality of their rulers. ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people’ (14:34). A good ruler is a channel of blessing from God: the people enjoy prosperity (29:2a) and the nation enjoys security. ‘The king gives stability to the land by justice’ (29:4a). Corrupt leaders are a curse: ‘When a wicked man rules, people groan’ (29:2b). We see many examples in the current day of corrupt rulers who exploit and oppress their own people who often become refugees in neighbouring nations. ‘Like a roaring lion and a rushing bear is a wicked ruler over a poor people’ (28:15). The lack of justice at the top causes evil to spread: ‘When the wicked increase, transgression increases’ (29:16a). God often gives us the rulers we deserve (28:2a). Spiritual leaders also have an impact on God’s people. When they set a godly example, people follow (1 Peter 5:3b). When they are immoral, the leaven of corruption spreads (1 Cor. 5:6). The New Testament makes provision for the removal of unqualified leaders for the sake of the purity of the church (1 Tim. 5:19–20; Acts 20:28–31).

Act wisely towards those in authority over you

We are to respect and obey those in authority over us: ‘My son, fear the LORD and the king’ (24:21a). ‘The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion; he who provokes him to anger forfeits his own life’ (20:2). The New Testament reminds us that we are to obey those in governmental authority because God has put them in authority over us (Rom. 13:1–7), with the only exception being when we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). Proverbs encourages us to deal wisely, gently, and discreetly with those in power, as Daniel and Abigail did (Prov. 16:14; 23:1–3; 25:15). Elsewhere, the Bible reminds us to pray for our rulers (1 Tim. 2:1–4; see also Ps. 72). We are also to honour those who are over us in the church so that they will find joy in their labours on our behalf (Heb. 13:17).

Jesus Christ is the ideal king

Everything which Proverbs teaches about the ideal ruler can be said of Christ. His character is perfect in righteousness and wisdom. His administration is just. He successfully implements his agenda because he is in complete control of all things. He will judge with complete righteousness and will establish a perfect and everlasting kingdom (Isa. 9:7; 11:1–5; Dan. 2:44; Rev. 21:1–5). He shows great compassion on all who humbly turn to him. ‘Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen’ (1 Tim. 1:17).

FOR FURTHER STUDY

1. How are the principles for political leaders applied differently under the Old Covenant compared with under the New Covenant? (See Rom. 13:1–7.)

2. If our nations are not ‘Christian’, from where can our leaders obtain the moral absolutes by which they are to govern? (See 1 Peter 2:14.)

TO THINK ABOUT AND DISCUSS

1. What is the role of government in helping the poor? (See Prov. 29:7; Dan. 4:27.)

2. Why is it wrong for us to take personal revenge but right for the government to punish evildoers? (See Rom. 12:19; 13:1–4.)

3. Do you pray for your political leaders? How should we pray for them? (See 1 Tim. 2:1–4.)

4. What role should the church have in selecting and influencing political leaders? Are there things individual Christians can and should do that the church should not do?

5. Why does God sometimes allow wicked and incompetent people to rule? (See Jer. 27.)

6. Do you pray for the leaders of your church? How do you pray? (See Eph. 6:18–20.)

7. Think of two things you can do to encourage and support your church leaders.

8. How does Jesus fulfil all of the requirements in Proverbs for an ideal king?

Wisdom for Leaders

Opening Up Proverbs Chapter 12: Wisdom for Leaders

12 Wisdom for leaders

The book of Proverbs was written primarily by a king (Solomon) to impart wisdom to future rulers. Chapter 31 begins with words of wisdom taught to King Lemuel by his mother. The books of Kings and Chronicles show how the principles of Proverbs are worked out for good and ill in the lives of the kings of Israel and Judah.

A manual for leadership

Now that there is no longer a theocracy under the New Covenant, how do these principles of leadership apply to us today? The essential teachings of Proverbs about the duties of rulers apply to all nations. Earthly rulers are still to reflect the righteous character of God and are accountable to him. Furthermore, in democratic societies we have the privilege of participating in choosing our leaders and making laws. The principles of Proverbs should be applied by us as we exercise our political rights, seeking to choose leaders who will act wisely and make good laws. Also, the principles about leadership in Proverbs apply to others who are in authority—in the church, in a business, and in the family.

A wise leader reflects God’s holy character

Politicians of every political stripe often invoke the name of God in their speeches. On whose side is God? Or better still: Which rulers are on God’s side.

He is righteous

Some people claim that it doesn’t matter how a ruler lives so long as he or she governs well. But wisdom proclaims that character counts when it comes to leadership: ‘It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness’ (16:12). If a politician wants to have a positive impact on the nation, he or she must live well. If a father wants his children to be righteous, he must set a godly example. Most of the qualifications for leadership in the church deal with moral character, which is more important than charisma or giftedness (1 Tim. 3:1–7).

He is not greedy

‘The king gives stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it’ (29:4). Those in power are often in a position to enrich themselves. There are extensive warnings in the Old Testament against this vice (Deut. 17:16–17; 1 Sam. 8:10–18). One of the qualifications for a leader in the church is that he be ‘free from the love of money’ (1 Tim. 3:3b). The early church was polluted by some leaders who tried to use their positions for financial gain (1 Tim. 6:5; 2 Cor. 2:17).

He is not enslaved to substance abuse

‘It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong drink, for they will drink and forget what is decreed, and pervert the rights of all the afflicted’ (31:4–5). Substance abuse impairs judgement and makes a leader unfit to carry on his or her responsibilities. The wise man is sober, alert, and self-controlled. Inebriation often leads to other sins, such as fighting, sexual immorality, and blasphemy (20:1). Those who abuse substances suffer physically and financially.

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?

Who has contentions? Who has complaining?

Who has wounds without cause?

Who has redness of eyes?

Those who linger long over wine,

Those who go to taste mixed wine.

Do not look upon the wine when it is red,

When it sparkles in the cup,

When it goes down smoothly;

At the last it bites like a serpent

And stings like a viper.

Your eyes will see strange things

And your mind will utter perverse things.

The heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty

(23:29–33, 21).

King Belshazzar lost his throne on the night he held a drunken party (Dan. 5). It is required that church leaders are not addicted to wine (1 Tim. 3:3) or other intoxicating substances.

He does not give his strength to strange women

‘Do not give your strength to women, or your ways to that which destroys kings’ (31:3). The law warned that the king must not ‘multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away’ (Deut. 17:17a). Solomon’s heart was led astray by his foreign wives (1 Kings 11). Sexual sin undermines a ruler’s moral authority (2 Sam. 12). In the same way, a church leader must be faithful to his wife (1 Tim. 3:2b).

He has personal integrity

‘Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool; much less are lying lips to a prince’ (17:7). A kingdom is founded upon truth and faithfulness to God’s moral law. ‘Loyalty and truth preserve the king, and he upholds his throne by righteousness’ (20:28). When we vote for our leaders, we should ask ourselves, ‘Do these people keep their promises?’ One way to test this commitment to truth is to see how faithfully such men or women have kept the vows of marriage. Rulers of the church, likewise, must be above reproach (1 Tim. 3:2a).

He fears God

‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge’ (1:7). A wise ruler recognizes that God sovereignly appoints and brings down rulers (Dan. 2:21). Such rulers acknowledge that they are under God’s authority. They do not become proud or set themselves up as saviours but look to God for security (21:31). When the nation enjoys victory in war or economic prosperity, the wise king does not take credit but realizes he is but a channel of God’s blessings to his people (21:1). Because he fears God, he doesn’t fear men (29:25) and isn’t afraid to alienate the powerful in the cause of righteousness. Pilate is an example of a weak ruler who compromised justice because of the fear of men. Likewise, leaders in the church are to recall that the Lord owns the flock (Acts 20:28b). They are not to lord it over those allotted to their charge but are to prove to be godly examples (1 Peter 5:3).

He earnestly seeks wisdom

Wisdom declares, ‘By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice’ (8:15). The kings of Israel were required to write out a copy of God’s law (Deut. 17:18). While our nations are not under the Mosaic Law, God’s Word still provides the basis for righteous human government. Without revealed moral absolutes, nations plunge into anarchy. ‘Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law’ (29:18). The ‘vision’ spoken of here is not that from the politician’s platform but rather revelation from God. The Bible teaches the rule of God through the law of God. Even the king is subject to the law (see 1 Kings 21). A wise ruler doesn’t ‘shoot from the hip’ but takes the time to fully understand the issues of the day: ‘the glory of kings is to search out a matter’ (Prov. 25:2b; see also 18:17). Such rulers surround themselves with wise and righteous advisors (11:14; 16:13) and purge their cabinets of the wicked and self-serving (29:12). Rehoboam lost most of his kingdom when he listened to wicked counsellors (1 Kings 12). We as citizens advise our rulers when we vote or contact our elected officials. The church also is dependent upon infallible and authoritative revelation from God. Many churches and denominations are ignoring God’s revelation and governing themselves according to the arbitrary whims of men. Without the authoritative revelation of Scripture, the people of God perish (Prov. 29:18). Within the church, the leaders are to be experts in God’s Word and able to teach and counsel others and to refute those who are in error (Titus 1:9). Wise church leaders thoroughly investigate major decisions and seek wise counsel.

He governs justly

‘The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous, but is terror to the workers of iniquity’ (21:15). While private individuals are not allowed to take revenge on those who wrong them, leaders act on God’s behalf when they punish the guilty (Rom. 13:4; 1 Peter 2:14) and are accountable to him for faithfully carrying out this task. ‘He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD’ (Prov. 17:15). Good rulers are passionately committed to righteousness and do not let the guilty go free. ‘A king who sits on the throne of justice disperses all evil with his eyes … A wise king winnows the wicked, and drives the threshing wheel over them’ (20:8, 26). Such a king is concerned for the rights of the victims of crime. He does not give preference to the rich and powerful: ‘If a king judges the poor with truth, his throne will be established forever’ (29:14). Nor does such a king rob the rich to gain the votes of the poor: ‘Nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute’ (Exod. 23:3). He opposes moral evils, which in our day would include the killing of unborn babies and the promotion of homosexuality. ‘He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,” peoples will curse him, nations will abhor him’ (Prov. 24:24). In the same way, church leaders are responsible for maintaining righteousness in the church. They are to exercise discipline among the members of the church (1 Cor. 5). They may be called upon to serve as impartial mediators in disputes among believers (as in 1 Cor. 6).

He protects the rights of the righteous and shows compassion to the helpless

Wise rulers respect the property rights of their people: ‘Do not move the ancient boundary or go into the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; He will plead their case against you’ (23:10–11). They honour productive citizens (22:29; see also 1 Peter 2:14). They guard the rights of the poor and exploited: ‘Do not rob the poor because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate; for the LORD will plead their case’ (22:22–23); ‘the righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, the wicked does not understand such concern’ (29:7). They protect those who cannot protect themselves: ‘Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy’ (31:8–9). These verses have often been quoted in the pro-life (anti-abortion) movement because the unborn are the most helpless among us. In the context, we see that leaders have a particular responsibility to defend the afflicted and oppressed. In the past, leaders such as William Wilberforce spoke out for the afflicted by fighting to abolish the slave trade. Church leaders also have a significant responsibility to care for those in want. A major part of their ministry in the early church was benevolence towards widows and those suffering from famine (Acts 6; 2 Cor. 8–9; Gal. 2:10; James 1:27).

Leaders have an impact on the people

In 1 and 2 Kings, the fortunes of Israel and Judah rise and fall according to the quality of their rulers. ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people’ (14:34). A good ruler is a channel of blessing from God: the people enjoy prosperity (29:2a) and the nation enjoys security. ‘The king gives stability to the land by justice’ (29:4a). Corrupt leaders are a curse: ‘When a wicked man rules, people groan’ (29:2b). We see many examples in the current day of corrupt rulers who exploit and oppress their own people who often become refugees in neighbouring nations. ‘Like a roaring lion and a rushing bear is a wicked ruler over a poor people’ (28:15). The lack of justice at the top causes evil to spread: ‘When the wicked increase, transgression increases’ (29:16a). God often gives us the rulers we deserve (28:2a). Spiritual leaders also have an impact on God’s people. When they set a godly example, people follow (1 Peter 5:3b). When they are immoral, the leaven of corruption spreads (1 Cor. 5:6). The New Testament makes provision for the removal of unqualified leaders for the sake of the purity of the church (1 Tim. 5:19–20; Acts 20:28–31).

Act wisely towards those in authority over you

We are to respect and obey those in authority over us: ‘My son, fear the LORD and the king’ (24:21a). ‘The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion; he who provokes him to anger forfeits his own life’ (20:2). The New Testament reminds us that we are to obey those in governmental authority because God has put them in authority over us (Rom. 13:1–7), with the only exception being when we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). Proverbs encourages us to deal wisely, gently, and discreetly with those in power, as Daniel and Abigail did (Prov. 16:14; 23:1–3; 25:15). Elsewhere, the Bible reminds us to pray for our rulers (1 Tim. 2:1–4; see also Ps. 72). We are also to honour those who are over us in the church so that they will find joy in their labours on our behalf (Heb. 13:17).

Jesus Christ is the ideal king

Everything which Proverbs teaches about the ideal ruler can be said of Christ. His character is perfect in righteousness and wisdom. His administration is just. He successfully implements his agenda because he is in complete control of all things. He will judge with complete righteousness and will establish a perfect and everlasting kingdom (Isa. 9:7; 11:1–5; Dan. 2:44; Rev. 21:1–5). He shows great compassion on all who humbly turn to him. ‘Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen’ (1 Tim. 1:17).

1. A Manuel for Leadership

2. A wise leader reflects God’s holy character

a. He is righteous

Proverbs 16:12 ESV
It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness.

b. He is not greedy

Prov. 29:4
Proverbs 29:4 ESV
By justice a king builds up the land, but he who exacts gifts tears it down.

c. He is not enslaved to substance abuse

Proverbs 20:1 ESV
Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
Prov. 20:1

d. He does not give his strength to strange women

Prov. 31:3
Proverbs 31:3 ESV
Do not give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings.

e. He has personal integrity

Proverbs 17:7 ESV
Fine speech is not becoming to a fool; still less is false speech to a prince.
Prov. 17:7

f. He fears God

Prov. 1:7
Proverbs 1:7 ESV
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

g. He earnestly seeks wisdom

Prov. 8:15
Proverbs 8:15 ESV
By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just;

h. He governs justly

Prov. 21:15
Proverbs 21:15 ESV
When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.

i. He protects the rights of the righteous and shows compassion to the helpless

Proverbs 23:10–11 ESV
Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; he will plead their cause against you.
Prov. 23:10-11

3. Leaders have an impact on the people

Proverbs 14:34 ESV
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.
Prov. 14:34

4. Act wisely toward those in authority over you

Proverbs 24:21 ESV
My son, fear the Lord and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise,
Prov. 24:21a
Prov. 24:21

5. Jesus Christ is the ideal King

1 Timothy 1:17 ESV
To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
FOR FUTHER STUDY
TO THINK ABOUT AND DISCUSS
1. How are the principles for political leaders applied differently under the Old Covenant compared with under the New Covenant? (See .)
2. If our nations are not ‘Christian’, from where can our leaders obtain the moral absolutes by which they are to govern? (See .)
TO THINK ABOUT AND DISCUSS
TO THINK ABOUT AND DISCUSS
What is the role of government in helping the poor (See ; .)
Why is it wrong for us to take personal revenge but right for the government to punish evildoers? (See ; .)
Do you pray for your political leaders? How should we pray for them? (See .)
What role should the church have in selecting and influencing political leaders? Are there things individual Christians can and should do that the church should not do?
Why does God sometimes allow wicked and incompetent people to rule? (See .)
Do you pray for the leaders of your church? How do you pray? (See .)
Think of two things you can do to encourage and support your church leaders.
How does Jesus fulfill all of the requirements in Proverbs for an ideal king?
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