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By Stephen Green. (First published in Christian Voice: May 2009)
Ex. 18:17 And Moses' father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good.
18 Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone.
19 Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God‑ward, that thou mayest bring the causes unto God:
20 And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.
21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:
22 And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.
The question of the leadership of the Conservative Party came up when I was a guest on BBC Question Time in September 2005. Kenneth Clarke was one of the Parliamentary guests, along with Simon Hughes and Patricia Hewitt. Janet Street-Porter made up the panel.
My answer to the question of who should lead the Conservative Party was to quote Exodus 18:21 above, a reply which brought groans from the audience and incomprehension from the panel.
So let us look more closely at Jethro's advice to Moses. He identifies five pre-conditions for the honour of leadership in
, and by extension, anywhere at any time.
LEADERS MUST BE ABLE
Firstly, leaders must be able. It would be no use having incompetent men in leadership. There is a theory (the 'Peter Principle') that everyone is promoted to their level of incompetence. For example, a good tool-maker is promoted to foreman, and is so equally good at that he is made works manager. Sadly, bringing together all the skills on the floor proves beyond him, but as no-one has the stomach to demote him back to where he would be happier and more productive, there he stays as an incompetent manager. Possibly the man who took his job is also not as good a foreman as he was a tool-maker. And as for the man promoted from works manager to production director... But they both stay there as well.
In politics this may mean that someone who is a very good Member of Parliament becomes a minister's aide, a PPS or Parliamentary Private Secretary. After impressing at that he is appointed to the Whip's Office, to keep the troops in order. After doing well there, he could be made a minister. It may take two or three years before it is discovered that he has made a complete mess of that job. At least in politics useless ministers may be sacked, but unlike the works manager, his decisions may have ruined the lives of millions.
Make no mistake, filling a ministerial post is arduous, and it would be no surprise to find an entire Cabinet filled with men and women who cannot quite do it. Barack Obama was recently reported to have been overwhelmed by the amount of material crossing his desk and the speed with which a President of America is expected to make decisions. It is a job which would be beyond most ordinary men.
LEADERS SHOULD BE MEN
Secondly, a little-noticed requirement is that the leaders should be men. In a society totally conditioned by feminism, this seems a shocking requirement. It is however, consistent with the Eden Ordinance to Eve: 'Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee' (Gen 3:16). The judgments given there, as the Lord's covenant with Noah, are binding on all mankind thereafter. Many men, sadly, are unwilling to take up the responsibility of leadership, and are quite happy for a woman to do it instead. But the Scripture states and everywhere assumes that men are to be the leaders.
So we have Godly Deborah feeling obliged to take on the role of leader (or judge) in Israel, and complaining that the whole place was a complete shambles until she arose, 'a mother in Israel' (Judg 5:7). We can have little doubt that the men around her felt suitably chided by those words. Deborah was raised up in the Lord's timing to fill a power and authority vacuum. Moving forward some three thousand years, it was said of Margaret Thatcher that she was 'more of a man' than the rest of her cabinet. That is a savage indictment on the men in suits, but it indicates that deep down in our human soul, even though there may be exceptions, we expect men to be leading.
LEADERS SHOULD BE GOD-FEARING
Thirdly, leaders should be God-fearing men. In church meetings around fifteen years ago, I was often asked how many Christian MP's there were. I always used to reply that the better question would be how many God-fearing MP's were there. The two sets of MP's overlapped, obviously, but some who professed the name of Christ did not fear the Lord. They were Christian in name, but they had a secularist world-view, not a Christian one. They did not place Jesus Christ in His rightful place as the risen, ascended, glorified King of kings, Lawmaker, Judge and Redeemer of nations.
The sort of men who say 'The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil,' (Zeph 1:12) are according to Scripture worthy of punishment, not high office. Those who would rule over others should recognise that they do so because they are themselves men under authority (Luke 7:8) and that all authority comes from God in Christ alone (Eph 1:20-21). Then every Minister of the Crown - and the Queen herself rules in our Constitution under the authority of God - or indeed a minister in any and every jurisdiction in the world, can see himself as Scripture describes him, 'a minister of God' (Rom 13:4,6).
It follows that rulers should pass laws in accordance with the Laws of God revealed in Holy Scripture. To the extent that they do not, when they pass laws taking the death penalty away from the guilty, properly convicted, by the state and impose it via the Abortion Act on the innocent within the family, when they pass laws exalting the depravity of homosexuality and persecuting those who disagree, or any other of a raft of injustices against God's righteous statutes, they are not God-fearing men.
LEADERS HAVE TO BE MEN OF TRUTH
Fourthly, they have to be men of truth. It sounds so obvious, and yet the fact that such a quality is stated perhaps means that those in authority become susceptible to telling lies. We have sad memories in this country of the Dodgy Dossier, in which Tony Blair's administration invented reasons to go to war in
. The same Prime Minister lied to Parliament over how tobacco sponsorship in Formula One was exempted from the advertising ban. He lied over how much the Government knew about Abu Ghraib prison. Ministers have lied about checks made (or not made) on entrants to the UK, about the timing of resignations, about plans to merge the Scottish Highland and Lowland Brigades, about anything, really, that they can thought they could get away with and where the truth would have put them temporarily in a bad light.
LEADERS MUST NOT BE GREEDY
Lastly, those who rule must hate covetousness. It almost seems unnecessary to say any more on this particular topic in the wake of the MP expenses scandal, but just for the record, this is where certain MP's of all parties milked the House of Commons expenses system for all it was worth. One Government minister 'flipped' her first and second home three times in a year to fund improvements and make massive capital gains at the tax-payers' expense. Others funded embarrassing expenses like gardening costs, repairs to a pergola, a pipe under a tennis court, decorations and furniture for second homes. At the time of writing, MP's were starting to volunteer to repay some of the money, which they nevertheless insisted had been claimed 'within the rules.' They seemed devoid of the moral compass which would say that just because something was 'within the rules' it might also be deeply unethical.
All the lies, the spin, the cover-ups, the greed, the sleaze, the smears, where ministers lie to discredit their opponents, have resulted, in
at least, in a feeling of complete and utter distrust of politicians.
JETHRO GOT IT JUST RIGHT
I have lost count of the number of times a politician has lied to a wife or husband over affairs, and when found out, their apologists have asked, 'Does it matter, if he/she is a good politician?' So what is 'a politician'? What are the qualities which mark one out? Is one of them an ability to lie and cheat in a more accomplished way than the rest of us?
The Bible tells us the qualities of a leader. They do not just apply to MP's. We could mention judges, captains of industry, leaders of churches, ordinary husbands and fathers, those in any kind of authority, and say that these Godly characteristics should apply. It is easy for the ungodly to mock those qualities, but as we look at our elected representatives in the cold light of day, the more open-minded among us may well conclude that Jethro, that man who acknowledged the greatness of the Lord God Almighty and spoke on His authority, got it just right.