Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, NC, a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. His books are available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com
“I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority…” Lord Acton, 1887.
The one famous phrase in that lengthier quotation, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” is reasonably well known. Lesser known, though, is the greater content and context, especially Acton’s assertion that even when the power held is that of influence and not necessarily office, the axiom still applies.
I was musing over this truth recently as I both watched the news and scrolled social media, checking out earth-changing events in multiple areas of human existence. Mind you, there really isn’t much going on out there other than open borders and millions of unvetted people simply walking into our country, vaccines du jour, war in Ukraine possibly leading toward World War III, fast and furious printing of money with seemingly little thought of the future disaster such policy breeds, climate hysteria, governments everywhere clamping down on free speech, culture wars, political arrests, and congressmen pulling fire alarms.
Other than all of that, things are pretty calm.
If I sound a tad bit skeptical, I unashamedly admit that I am. Not just because a reasonably intelligent man like Lord Acton said what he said about power, but because from Scripture itself, I am quite familiar with the fact that mankind craves power above all else and will do anything to gain it.
A short list of people in Scripture who unjustly killed or tried to kill others to gain or maintain the throne is Saul, Zimri, Ahab, Shallum, Menahem, Pekah, Hoshea, Hazael, Herod the Great, and, proving that a woman run world would be no better, Jezebel, and also Athaliah, who arguably outdid all of the above by murdering all of her own grandchildren (save one who was secretly rescued) in order to become queen.
In another shock, many people in Scripture lied to gain or maintain power. Names that come to mind there are Jacob, Laban, all of the brothers of Joseph, Pharaoh, Herod the Great (he pretty much covered the gamut when it came to power-grabbing), Absalom, Adonijah, Ahab, Jezebel, and many others.
Herod murdered nine of his wives and several of his sons to maintain his power. Annas, the High Priest, along with his equally corrupt son-in-law/High Priest Caiphas, turned the Temple into an extortion racket second to none and then arranged the murder of a pretty well-known gentleman who flipped over his tables for so doing.
Acton was right. And that is why it is not a radical thing at all to maintain a healthy sense of skepticism toward politicians, government agencies, lawyers, judges, journalists, academicians, companies, scientists, singers, actors, athletes, and even (are you ready for this?) the clergy. The day we should all implicitly believe what we are told by “experts” and influencers will never come until Christ Himself sits on the throne and He is the only one being listened to.
This is also why anyone who truly cares about this precious thing called freedom, regardless of which side of the political aisle they sit on, should be aghast at how powerful we have allowed government to become. If every single election is now “the most important election in our lifetime,” then simply electing “the right people” this time around is not the answer; making government far less powerful to begin with and codifying term limits for all into law is the answer.
Retraining our thinking toward the power of social influencers is also going to be a necessity. In every “earth-shattering crisis” we hear about, an immediate question in our minds needs to be, “Who stands to gain power from this?” It is just a logical question to ask based on thousands of years of human history.
Please do not misunderstand; there are a lot of good people in all of the above-mentioned categories. But here is the key: good people do not mind natural skepticism or hard questions or even fair criticism. But in any area of power/influence, a person or people who view themselves as too important to be questioned and whose actions and pronouncements undermine liberty should be viewed with more skepticism than ever.
Leviticus 25:10 says to “proclaim liberty throughout all the land.” And yet historically, freedom has been pretty hard to come by. Let’s make sure our children and grandchildren have it rather than just hear about it.
Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at email@example.com, and his books are available by clicking the “Store” link above.
Feature photo by Pastor Bo Wagner