The list is endless: John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Baker, Bernie Madoff, Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno. Powerful people with fatal character flaws.
Is it the seduction of power that has lead to their downfall? Did they sacrifice their principles in order to reach their positions?
Our eyes are teased into leering at the headlines on papers and magazines at checkout lines that purport the latest scandal involving someone sleeping with someone else’s spouse.
An honest confession: I haven’t watched t.v. news in probably a year. I got tired of it sounding like the latest episode of Rush Limbaugh or Jerry Springer. Do I really need all the dirty little details of people’s lives? Maybe it’s because in my line of work I hear those sorts of things regularly that I don’t feel the urge to perk up my ears at the latest popular figure whose clay feet have been exposed.
Oh, I do keep up with what’s going on in the world. I’m not a hermit. But I limit it to online news – CNN and USAToday. I look at the title of articles and then decide what if I want to read further. (My one concession to “paper” newspaper is my town’s weekly newspaper, The McKenzie Banner. It’s full of good news about people in our community.)
I’m afraid that a malaise has spread so thickly on us that we’ve come to believe (and accept) no one can live a good life. It has permeated our moral fiber. So why even try?
The other horn of the devil’s twist on truth is that good people can’t get ahead. “If you want to be successful (i.e. wealthy and powerful), you have to cheat.”
As is often the case the older I get, what I believe runs contrary to popular opinion. I believe we can live an upright life and be wealthy and powerful.
The oldest book in the Bible, the book of Job, describes its main character in these words. “This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”
Let me quickly clarify that “blameless and upright” doesn’t mean he was perfect. Only one person who lived on earth was perfect and there hasn’t been another since. (I apologize to all you narcissistic readers for bursting your bubble.)
Job was a man who made good choices. Serving God and pleasing him were his main goals in life. He tried hard to resist temptation. He battled Satan toe-to-toe and did not cave into his demonic efforts to get him to turn his back on God.
Job had moral fiber.
But not only did he have moral fiber, he was wealthy and powerful. Listen to this description: “He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.”
The phrase “had a large number of servants” may qualify as one of the biggest understatements in the Bible! Can you imagine how many servants it took to manage his herds, then the number of servants it took to feed those servants, then the number of servants it took to raise the crops to feed everyone, then the number of armed servants it took to protect the people, livestock and property from marauding armies?!
In a time when wealth was determined by who and what you owned, Job was rich beyond measure.
It is not money that corrupts, nor is it power that corrupts. It is the love of either that makes the drink poison.
I don’t think it is coincidental that the description of Job as one who fears God was mentioned before the evidence of his wealth and power was listed.
If serving God comes first in our life, then whatever comes after that will not shake us or destroy us.