At this time in history, both nations and church organizations are concerned about government. What form should it be? Is one-man rule too abusive? Is democracy ineffective because too many people play politics?
What form of government does the Bible prescribe for humans to use?
We do find voting in the Bible. The Greek cheirotoneo literally means “raising the hand” and is translated “vote” in the Weymouth Bible and Young’s Literal Translation. The KJV translates it “ordain” in Acts 14:23 and “choose” in 2 Corinthians 8:19. Some scholars claim that the word changed to mean “appoint” during the apostle’s time, but if voting was an abomination to the Eternal, why did the Bible author’s choose a word used for “vote” in historical documents?
Obviously, many Biblical decisions were made without voting. The Bible contains no simple statement such as “the right form of government is...” or “men should govern like...” We do find a statement about what government should not be: “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever desires to be first shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:42-44).
Furthermore, we find that the righteousness of people and leaders is more important than government form: “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov 14:34). “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan” (Prov 29:2).
“Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua” (Josh 24:31). Yet under the same form of government, Israel sinned greatly (see Judges). The Eternal gave them a king in his anger (Hos 13:11). About five kings were righteous, and dozens were bad (see Kings and Chronicles). Even the New Testament congregations had true and false brethren (see Rev 2 & 3). It was not the system, but personal righteousness that was emphasized.
Playing politics is the art of convincing those with power to support a specific person or cause, even though it may not be good for the majority. Is “playing politics”confined to one type of government? No! In a government with voting, a politician expends much energy trying to convince the voters that he and his causes are right. He builds up himself and puts down others to get votes. He often does not care if he has to lie to the voters, as long as he gets the votes and does not “get caught.”
In an autocratic top-down government, a politician tries to convince the leaders that he and his causes are right. He builds himself up in the sight of leaders, and puts down others in order to get favor and promotions. The more leaders and the higher the rank of leaders that a politician can endear himself to, the better off he is. If he can stop others from gaining access to leaders, so much the better for him. He often does not care if he has to lie to people or suppress those under him, as long as the leaders like him and he does not “get caught.”
From the politicians in the book of kings, to Haman in Esther, to Ananias and Sapphira, to Diotrephes, to the false apostles in Revelation 2, to the many “Church of God” groups in our day, there have been politicians at work. Self-seeking sin is the biggest problem, not the form of government. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Is 66:2). If you would like to learn more about government from the Bible, write for our article: How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans?
— Norman S. Edwards