Power over nations is exercised by governemnts. In the west, we have been able to elect our goverments for 200 years or so. Democratic principles are still spreading, as we have seen in the Near East and North Africa. Christians need to be involved in political life – by living in the world under a governement we are all living in a political relationship with the state. To say that we are not involved in politics is a denial of reality. A choice not to vote, not to pay taxes, and not to speak about the governement is a political stance on political issues.
In biblical times the most enduring form of governemnt was monarchy. The Bible gives us lots of advice about how to behave in political situations. Ecclesiastes 8 recommends a cheery disposition and compromise when dealing with a despotic monarch. It recognises that, although a governemnt figure may see themselves as all-powerful, they will live and die and probably be forgotten. We answer primarily to God and so we become engaged in politics as much as we are called to do. Ecclesiastes 8, though, has particular advice for those who might find themselves in Washington or a national seat of power. The advise is to play the game. I do not think that the line is crossed into immorality or deceitfulness. It is more in line with Paul’s advice, “As much as it is up to you live at peace with everyone” (Rom 12). Do not look to flatter or enrage powerful people. Look to do God’s work and take political opportunities as they arise. Remember, every four years the political landscape in Washington shifts. God does not get re-elected. God endures and he will do his work through you in his own time.
1 Who is like the wise?
Who knows the explanation of things?
A person’s wisdom brightens their face
and changes its hard appearance.
2 Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God. 3 Do not be in a hurry to leave the king’s presence. Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases. 4Since a king’s word is supreme, who can say to him, “What are you doing?”
5 Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm,
and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.
6 For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,
though a person may be weighed down by misery.
7 Since no one knows the future,
who can tell someone else what is to come?
8 As no one has power over the wind to contain it,
so[a] no one has power over the time of their death.
As no one is discharged in time of war,
so wickedness will not release those who practice it.
9 All this I saw, as I applied my mind to everything done under the sun. There is a time when a man lords it over others to his own[b] hurt. 10 Then too, I saw the wicked buried—those who used to come and go from the holy place and receive praise[c]in the city where they did this. This too is meaningless.
11 When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong. 12 Although a wicked person who commits a hundred crimes may live a long time, I know that it will go better with those who fear God, who are reverent before him. 13Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow.
14 There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. 15So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.
16 When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labor that is done on earth—people getting no sleep day or night— 17 then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.
- What practical advice does Qoholet give to those who must deal with a monarch in politics?
- What corruption in politics does the author observe?
- What does the author commend in light of a corrupt political system?
- On a scale of 1-10 how corrupt would you say your political system is?
- Describe how a Christian might work in the White House or Downing Street and be true to their faith.