Gods of This World: Power
One of the great desires and passions that has existed throughout time is the lust for power. History books are full of stories of people who were drunk upon the desire for power and were willing to go to the ends of the earth to build empires and conquer nations.
But when we think of ourselves, we rarely consider how much we enjoy power. In our minds, if we are not actively seeking some kind of political office, or greater control at work, or some such thing, we are more likely to think of ourselves as without power than desiring it. But what would happen if, all of a sudden, your boss, your spouse, or your government began to micro-manage you and dictate for you every little thing that you could or could not do? Odds are that you would chafe under such conditions. If nothing else, we enjoy our freedoms, and freedom is just another word for having power and control over our decisions.
Power need not be a bad thing. God the Father is the source of all authority (2 Chronicles 20:6, Romans 13:1). He has granted all authority to the Son (Matthew 28:18, Revelation 2:26-27). In turn, God delegates authority to various people and institutions for various functions, including earthly governments (John 19:11, Romans 13:1-5), the Apostles in the Kingdom (Matthew 18:18, 2 Corinthians 13:10), husbands in the household (Ephesians 5:22-33), and parents over children (Ephesians 6:1-4).
Since the forces of darkness even have power (Acts 26:18, Ephesians 6:12), and therefore God must, if nothing else, allow it to be. Even if a person does not have a lot of authority or power in any other aspect of life, the fact that they are free moral agents, empowered to choose to obey or to rebel, indicates that God has granted them at least that much power over their own lives (cf. Romans 6:12-22).
All of us, then, have some measure of power or control in life. Power, in and of itself, is not the evil. The difficulties come when one makes power–getting power and maintaining power–their overarching, all-consuming passion. When power is made out to be a god, abuse is almost surely soon to follow.
This does apply to governments and those who run them. According to Paul, God has given authority to government to praise good behavior and to punish wicked behavior (Romans 13:1-5). Unfortunately, all too often, people seek political power in self-seeking ways. Their concern is first and foremost with themselves and their companions. They often have no regard for the people over whom they are ruling; it is all about them, the money and prestige they can obtain, and the power accumulated. This was (and is) the way of the Gentiles, and Jesus says that it should not be so among His disciples (Matthew 20:25-26)!
The drive for power, however, is not limited to those in governments. It can be manifested in any circumstance in which a person has some level of power and control. A man may be power-hungry in his marriage relationship and seek to control and dominate his wife (and, at times, vice versa). Parents can enjoy their authority over their children too much at times. In the church an elder or elders may become domineering over a flock, getting a power rush from the office (cf. 1 Peter 5:3). When children actively rebel against their parents once given a measure of independence, or, for that matter, when we rebel against God and sin, we are likely displaying inordinate desire for power.
Power, therefore, easily becomes another one of the desires, like desire for money or goods, sex, or fame. Power can be seductive, alluring, and quite intoxicating. As one of the lusts of the flesh it must be disciplined and channeled properly lest it overcome us and we are overthrown (cf. 1 John 2:15-17).
There is a proper way to handle power. We must understand that power and control is not something that should intoxicate us but represents a level of stewardship and responsibility. Whatever power we have is not from ourselves; it comes from God, and it must be used to His glory. Earthly rulers are to remember their Creator, reward good conduct, punish evil conduct, and work for the welfare of the ruled (Romans 13:1-5). Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church and suffer loss for them (Ephesians 5:23-29). Employers are to treat employees well (Ephesians 6:5-9); parents are to use the authority granted them to raise their children in the discipline and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-4). We are all to use our free moral agency to reject the evil and choose the good, to live our lives no longer for ourselves but for Christ and the glory of God (Romans 6:12-22; 12:1-2, 9, Galatians 2:20). We either can make power our god and serve its lusts or we can be the master of the power granted to us and use it for God’s glory. Let us treat power as responsibility and serve God to glorify Him!
Ethan R. Longhenry