Tag Archives: 1 Samuel 8

The “Human” Problem

The "Human" Problem (CaD 1 Sam 8) Wayfarer

But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”
1 Samuel 8:19-20 (NIV)

As a youth, I was always involved in student government. I served regularly from junior high and into my college years. There was a period of time in those years that I dreamed of running for elected office as an adult. A few years ago I ran into one of my high school classmates at a coffee shop. As we enjoyed a casual conversation and caught up on each other’s lives she asked me if I still thought about running for office. I told her that the desire left me a very long time ago. She graciously teased me about reconsidering. It was kind of her.

Along my life journey, I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem with any human government is the fact that humans are involved. It has been famously observed in history that power corrupts, and it is true. Even with all the checks and balances the founders of the United States placed in the Constitution to diminish the possibility, an objective glance at Washington D.C. reveals all kinds of waste, fraud, and abuse that result from corruption at all levels.

In today’s chapter, the Hebrew people come to Samuel, who was leading the tribes as a Judge, and demand that he appoint a king and establish a monarchy. This didn’t come out of nowhere. It’s been brewing for some time.

What I found fascinating in today’s chapter was the fact that what brought the issue of national governance to a head was the fact that Samuel’s own sons, whom Samuel had appointed as his successors, were corrupt, just as the sons of Eli had been corrupt in the time of Samuel’s childhood and youth. I don’t think it is a coincidence. It’s a pattern and a very human one, just as it is tempting to believe that another form of human government will be better than the one under which you’re living. But I cannot escape the “human problem” on this earth. I can discuss the relative merits and downsides of every form of human government that’s ever been tried in the history of civilization, but there are always downsides to every system of government because human beings are involved and no matter how much I want to believe that humans can be good and altruistic history has proven that at some point the one(s) in power take advantage of their power in the system to personally benefit.

This is what God tells Samuel to remind his fellow Hebrews. Having a king will bring certain benefits, but the monarchy is also going to have negative consequences that the people and their descendants will experience acutely. This is correct. The rest of 1 Samuel and the next five books in the Great Story (2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, and 2 Chronicles) are a testament to the truth of Samuel’s words.

As I ponder these things I am reminded of the Apostle Paul who was, himself, a citizen of Rome and took full advantage of the exclusive rights and benefits that came with it in his day. He also reminded Jesus’ followers in Philippi that they were citizens of God’s heavenly Kingdom. In that same vein, I consciously consider myself as having dual citizenship with the rights and responsibilities that come with both U.S. citizenship and citizenship in God’s eternal kingdom. One of those citizenships will end at some point while the other will not.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Governing Observations

The dome of the US Capitol building. Français ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So Samuel passed on the Lord’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. “This is how a king will reign over you….” 1 Samuel 8:10 (NLT)

This morning’s chapter was about ancient Israel’s desire for a new system of government. They were frustrated with the way things were having lived for generations under a theocracy in which God raised up a “judge” to lead the people at different times. The book of Judges is a chronicle of Israel’s history during this time. It was a messy form of government, to be sure. The grass looked so much greener on the other side of the border. Their neighbors with their centralized authority (a.k.a. a king) seemed so much cleaner and easier than the theocracy they’d been attempting to live out for hundreds of years. Despite Saul’s warnings of the flaws inherent in a monarchy, the people continued to demand it until they got their way.

As I read this morning I found myself pondering our continual frustration with government, which seems to be universal wherever you go. As I have sojourned in this life, I have observed and have come to some personal conclusions about human government. Looking at things on a macro level, here are my observations:

  • Governments rarely, if ever, shrink (unless by force or implosion), they only expand.
  • Most who reach places of governmental power and authority will do all that they can to retain and expand that power and authority (so that they can do “more good,” of course).
  • Those in government who make rules for others quite regularly exempt themselves from those rules our make loopholes for themselves, friends, and or loved ones.
  • Politics is a performance played out in sound bytes, tweets, posts, press conferences, and public addresses. Public words cloak personal motives.
  • There is no system of government on the face of this earth which is not given to corruption, waste, fraud, and abuse.
  • Every one of us live under a corrupt system of government because we are all governed by human beings marred by the human condition.

What then shall we do? I continue to ponder that as well. I have no great revelation nor answers to share. Personally, I find myself continually returning to what Jesus asks of me as a follower.

Seek God. Love others. Press on.