Knowing God and Wielding Power
Political power is not good or bad; political power simply IS. What we do with it; how we wield it becomes good or bad. God calls all of us to be good stewards of the power and influence at our disposal, whether we are elected officials, community leaders or voting citizens.
The prophet Jeremiah spoke biting words to King Jehoiakim about the abuse of power. He launched his scathing sermon, “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness…” Someone has said that “Woe to him” could be translated “Shame on you!” Evidently, the monarch was building an imposing addition to the palace in Jerusalem. Jeremiah accused Jehoiakim of building his house and upper rooms by injustice (v 13). In other words, the king was advantaged at the expense of the poor. He forced neighbors to “work for nothing,” withholding their wages. With biting sarcasm, Jeremiah asked, “Are you a king because you know how to pick out the most stylish wood trim or the correct sitting room decor?” (v 15). There is more to governing than looking out for ourselves and people like us!
How do we who are privileged identify with the poor and exploited among us? Perhaps the quickest way is to simply ask questions which begin with “What would it feel like to…?” What would it feel like to live on $294 per week (Missouri’s minimum wage)? What would it feel like to hold a baby who is burning up with fever, knowing I had no healthcare options? What would it feel like to be enslaved to two payday loan companies at the same time, paying 500% interest?
Jeremiah emphasized that knowing God is not about preserving our own privileges. Knowing God is about the way we care for the people who are “poor and needy” (v 16). We are all tempted to use a few pet phrases or our occasional church attendance as proof that we know God. No, true knowledge of the Living Lord is most evident by our stewardship of power: how we help the least, the last and the lonely.
Reverend Dr. Doyle Sager, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church in Jefferson City