“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” —Edmund Burke
The first thing that God did after creating humans was bless us with a command (because, when God commands us to do something, He insinuates that He’ll be giving us the authority and provision to carry it out. That’s a gift!). “Be fruitful…”, He said, “…multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…” In other words, He wants us to bear good fruit, over generations (Right? I mean, “subduing the earth” has to happen over generations), and to rule well, like He does. Like father, like son (and daughters!).
THE CONCEPT OF RULING IS FOREIGN AND, IN FACT, ODIOUS TO MOST OF US.
Particularly in western, democratic societies, the idea of being a ruler just seems WRONG. Due in large part to the abuses of ruling that we’ve seen in history, at work, or even in our families, we distrust rulers and rulers-to-be. Anyone who actually wants to rule must be power hungry megalomaniacs, they must want to abuse people and glorify themselves… right? You know the saying: Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. And that’s ALWAYS true. Right?
BUT GOD DESIGNED US TO RULE.
From the very beginning, God was thinking, “I’m making a ruler for this planet. It’ll be mankind.” Ruling in and of itself is NOT evil. Sit with that for a moment: It’s no more evil than the color of one’s hair or which state you live in. It’s simply a designation. We, though, have become convinced culturally that we have nearly a moral obligation to rebel against all leaders. In reality, though, leaders are not our enemies. In fact, the opposite is true: ruling may be the most beautiful mission we have… at the very least, it’s the first distinctive of how man is different from everything else in creation.
In Isaiah 32, God paints a picture of a glorious future:
Behold, a king will reign righteously
And princes will rule justly.
Each [prince] will be like a refuge from the wind
And a shelter from the storm,
Like streams of water in a dry country,
Like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land.
Then the eyes of those who see will not be blinded,
And the ears of those who hear will listen.
The mind of the hasty will discern the truth,
And the tongue of the stammerers will hasten to speak clearly.
No longer will the fool be called noble,
Or the rogue be spoken of as generous.
For a fool speaks nonsense,
And his heart inclines toward wickedness:
To practice ungodliness and to speak error against the Lord,
To keep the hungry person unsatisfied
And to withhold drink from the thirsty.
As for a rogue, his weapons are evil;
He devises wicked schemes
To destroy the afflicted with slander,
Even though the needy one speaks what is right.
But the noble man devises noble plans;
And by noble plans he stands.
The Bible is very clear about the destiny that God wants us to enter into. It is… (you ready for this? It’s a significant term)… it is… NOBILITY. Jesus will be King, yes, but He doesn’t rule the world solo. That’s not how He does things. He’s a generous, magnanimous, community-builder, and a delegator. He molds people into His image, then He gives them real authority in His court. He will rule His Kingdom through noble princes. They are under-shepherds to Him, but they really are on His Kingdom’s heirarcy. Does this ring a bell at all?
We are… Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were
making His appeal through us. 2 Corinthians 5:20
I content that this life is all about letting God transform us into noble sons and daughters–then handing us the Kingdom. “Nobility” (along with other words like ruling, subduing, dominion, etc.) is a word most typically associated with aristocracy. Basically, extremely wealthy people who subjugate the poor and walk on the downtrodden. But I’ll say it again: there is a good kind of nobility. It really is possible for selfless, noble men and women to lead and, while doing so, work for the peace and prosperity of all.
Jesus addresses the concept of nobility and ruling in his story of the talents (read: money). Jesus says to one of the men who invested well:
“Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.”
Many of us in Western Societies probably wouldn’t see ruling ten cities as a reward. We’d almost certainly prefer a paid week in Hawaii. If God gave any of us this reward, we might say something like: “Uh, thanks for the cities and everything, but… is there another reward option, perhaps? A new car, maybe? Hmm? Or I’d even take new appliances…” Ruling ten cities sounds like a lot of work (and it absolutely is. It would be an endless combination of problem-solving, decision-making, communication, discernment, relational complexity…). Being noble is the opposite of lazy; it’s NOT about luxuriating in a palace and making others do your work for you. Jesus assumed that his audience, though, would be amazed at this reward of amazing trust and generosity. It shows how much we’ve lost over time.
In the same parable, to another man he says,
“You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed… therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.”
This is a very clear picture of nobility and ignobility. Because of the fall, we have a natural propensity to not want to be noble. Our fallenness leads us toward the avoidance of responsibility, and the temptation to isolate ourselves from exposure and risk. (Researchers tell us that for every decision an organizational leader makes, it receives 40x back in complaints. “The burden of leadership” is not a myth!) It’s really captured in this saying:
Every peasant wants to be a king, but every king wants to be a peasant.
A peasant wants the benefits of kingship (riches, lands, etc). The king (when he’s lazy) pines for the freedom from responsibility that the peasant enjoys every day. The peasant sees injustice, but can’t do anything about it. The king sees injustice… and can address it. It’s the king’s burden. And it’s the burden God wants us to shoulder as His princes, His nobility. His court.. It’s the destiny God wants us to yearn for.
The pursuit of the Christian life, in my mind, is the pursuit of true nobility in all aspects of life. Not just preaching the Gospel, but learning how to rule well. There is a way in the world, a wicked way, that leads to the destruction of all things. We see this with government, marriage, food, business, music, family, church, all around us. Corruption and wickedness everywhere. The wicked way is easy, impersonal, quick, abusive, destructive.
The noble way is hard, connected, slow, expensive and life-giving. Like gardening, it requires much attention over a long stretch of time, to produce beautiful order and fruit where there was none. Nobility is about embracing more responsibility and bringing heaven to earth. Let’s go back to Isaiah 32 one more time:
But the noble man devises noble plans;
And by noble plans he stands.
Christians should be the most noble of all. When the kingdom of God comes, nobility is increased in the world. More people devising noble plans for restoring God’s original intent of integrity, wholeness, equity, honor, love and peace to the earth and its families and communities.
Yes, there ARE ways to rule badly, but there are ways to rule well, too. And that’s what we should be focused on: “How can I rule well?” Every single person has dominion over something in their life right now, however small in its scope. And there are ways to rule our domain in wisdom and goodness! So as you consider your place as a ruler today:
- GROW YOUR AMBITION. Stop thinking, “If only I could sit on the couch all day.” That’s not your destiny. Make your ambitions agree with God’s purposes. Repent for thinking anything less. Raise up your sights to God’s plans for you, you Prince-in-the-making, you.
- RULE AT HOME. This doesn’t mean standing on your balcony and shouting decrees. Er… no. It means taking responsibility for your scene. Is there garbage in your back yard, along the fence? (I don’t care whether you’re renting or not,) Take some dominion over your space and be a good prince. Make your bed and clean your room and bring peace and order. Is there too much screaming in your house? Usher in a new era of calm negotiation. Are your finances all over the place? Be the leader of the realm and start putting together a budget (there are two kinds to consider, so say us). Be faithful where you are. God will see it. Speaking of which:
- FOCUS ON CHARACTER. Don’t run out and try to take control of everything, everywhere. “I’M A PRINCE! PUT ME IN CHARGE!” is not a strong pitch. Instead, be the kind of man that God can trust with other people. Be a man of integrity. Stop gossiping. Get up when you intend to. Pay ALL your taxes. Stand up for yourself. If you act like a leader, even with you’re technically not, I’ve got it on good authority that you’ll be noticed by God and elevated. It’s how His Kingdom works.
Seen any wins in your realm? Or are you struggling with thinking of yourself as nobility? How does the concept of being a prince hit you? Let us know in the comments-