Whereas “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” says the wisest man who ever lived in Proverbs 14:34. Accordingly, sin— both in the lives of governmental leaders and the citizens— is, according to the Bible, the greatest weakness in any nation. Ultimately, to the degree sin is curtailed, a culture prospers; but sin can overthrow the whole system when it proliferates.
Herein we will examine the book of Proverbs pertaining to what Solomon instructed his son Rehoboam regarding righteousness in governmental leadership. Akin and in contrast is what Solomon teaches about sin; what follows is a topical study from the book of Proverbs on sin as well.
Sin is the most fundamental weakness of any country. When sinful ways dominate the lives of individuals, it quickly unravels a culture. Wall Street, the medical industry, transportation, the food industry, to name only a few, all operate and depend on the ethics of their industries’ leaders and members in order to function properly.
Laws and rules do little if the hearts of leaders are shady.
All of what I have said seems so fundamental and obvious, but I think it is often overlooked. The question then becomes how a nation most effectively silences sin, or how a country and its citizens should attempt to impute righteousness into the culture. The answer to how that is accomplished is critically important since it is paramount to the overall course of things.
One answer is a police state, but no one wants to live in a police state (and it’s expensive too). Another answer is a strong church, in which individuals are grown in personal righteousness within themselves—self-governed—through their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In a composite, not sacerdotal, societal structure as in the genius of America, church and state are separate institutions that respect each other’s God-ordained purposes.
Option number two herein is the answer. All of America is critically dependent on scripturally-driven strong pulpits in strong churches in order to manufacture righteousness in a nation’s citizens. This is the only way to quell sin and preserve the heritage that is ours, lest sin disgrace us too. Personal righteous convictions in our hearts are borne by way of our knowledge of the Holy One: Realizing that the all-seeing omniscient God of the universe will someday personally judge my behavior is a motive to live in a way that is pleasing unto Him.
Biblical knowledge borne in the citizen’s heart from a strong pulpit produces conviction and restraint in the public square.
Fundamentally, every culture is no better than the sum total of its individuals. To use a parallel from my basketball days, I noticed early on that the coaches who spent time developing the individual skills of their players (versus a corporate coaching emphasis only) tended to field much stronger teams than the latter. That’s to say an emphasis on the growth of an individual’s character in society is more important than laws—as important as they are to the fabric of society. What follows are four truths regarding sin and its affect, not only on the individuals of a nation, but even more importantly, and related to our focus in the capital, sin’s affect on governmental leaders and their affairs.
Herein is the sum total of all pertaining to sin that Solomon, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, instructed his son Rehoboam, whom he was preparing to lead the nation.
II. A BIBLICAL SHORT COURSE ON SIN
Before delving into the specifics, it is important to understand a biblical overview of sin. The Scriptures are clear that even though man was created in God’s image, he is separated from God due to his sin. The most elementary student of the Bible knows that sin entered the world in Genesis chapter 3, when Adam and Eve rebelled and disobeyed God’s most simple of commands. The Greek word for sin is hamartia and it means “to miss the mark.” “All have sinned” states Romans 3:23. And sin leads to eternal separation from God, who, because of His absolute holiness and righteousness, can have nothing to do with sin whatsoever (cf. Romans 6:23). Furthermore, because we are sinners, until we repent and receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord by faith alone, we remain in the state in which we were physically born: “dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1–4). This means we cannot think biblically, nor be expected to perform righteous actions by our own doing (and when we seemingly do, it is out of prideful selfish motives versus God’s glory). To be dead in our sin is the natural state of every individual; it is the reality and consequence of the Fall. Until we are regenerated in Christ, we are walking corpses in terms of our spiritual life. Lastly, sin dominates the unsaved and they are addicted to its fruit. Galatians 5:19–21 lists these characteristics of sin:
“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Note how the habitual presence of these characteristics disgraces a nation. When the unregenerate increasingly dominate a society, as is the case in our country, these fruits soon become its downfall.
As listed in Scripture, these are the general fruits of sin manifest in the lives of every unsaved individual. The following are four critical truths regarding the realities of sin in leadership from the book of Proverbs:
III. SIN WILL LEAD TO YOUR DOWNFALL
A. DOWNFALL VIA ADULTERY
“His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin” (Proverbs 5:22).
This Proverb is in the context of adultery. Solomon spends chapters and chapters warning about the leader’s need to guard against sexual fulfillment outside of wedlock. In this particular passage he is stating a sobering principle: When a person gets caught up in the sensual appetite of sexual fulfillment of any type outside of his spouse, he soon becomes locked in an immoral straitjacket that can forever rule over his life. Nothing in the world can match the level of enticement and excitement that an illicit affair can afford an individual—and the power one holds by virtue of elected office is an aphrodisiac toward that end. Accordingly, sexual sin can be quickly habit forming and addictive. This sin has cords that can hold you to it. Proverbs 29:6 further speaks to this insight: “By transgression an evil man is ensnared.” Fleshly lust must be mortified and strictly barred by anyone who would lead. When a leader’s familial integrity is destroyed through infidelity, he or she will have nothing to offer the public—nor will they possess the stability stemming from a solid home life that the job requires. Oh, how we oft experience the truth of this Proverb as it repeatedly plays itself out in the capital! Keep in mind too, that the contentious woman mentioned in Proverbs 21:9 is quite frequently man-made.
In summary of this first point, the writer of Hebrews (12:13) has this to say about guarding your life relative to sexual temptation: “and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” Establish constructs in your life that eliminate the alignment of three planets: privacy, accessibility, and passion.
B. DOWNFALL VIA PRIDE
“He who loves transgression loves strife; he who raises his door seeks destruction” (Proverbs 17:19).
The second form of sin that often besets political leaders is pride. When Solomon writes raises his door he is employing a Hebrew idiom (an expression established in the usage of the language that is not discernible from the conjoined meaning of the elements). This particular idiom relates to pride. To raise your door was the practice of building a home that was ostentatious with an ornate entry. The principle of the Proverb is that when one possesses pride, he is in essence, preparing his way for destruction. The first of the Proverb indicates the same truth, wherein the subject and the verb can be interchanged in the Hebrew translation so as to better understand the meaning: He who loves strife loves transgression. Prideful people tend to find delight in quarreling because they are deluded into thinking they are always right. The problem, however, is that such prideful behavior often leads to broken, transgressed relationships. A leader has enough legitimate problems regarding offending people because of the tough policy decisions he or she must make in office, let alone offending people by personal lack of character, in this case, arrogance.
Nothing smells worse in the hallways of the capitol office buildings than the stench of self-importance.
Pride can be your downfall. Proverbs 27:2 states, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” There is an old hymn titled, “How great Thou art.” Keep in mind the “Thou” is in reference to God. Always deflect the praise afforded you to God.
C. DOWNFALL VIA POWER
“He who sows iniquity will reap vanity, and the rod of his fury will perish” (Proverbs 22:8).
The third form of sin that too often besets leaders is the want of power. The phrase the rod of his fury represents the evil he has inflicted on another by the abuse of power. Like a baby in want, he gets angry when his will is thwarted. This Proverb is talking about the brandishing of power (brandish: to exhibit or expose in an ostentatious, shameless, or aggressive manner). And even though the wicked will sometimes prosper for a season bullying their way through their misuse of power, generally and eventually their injustices will find them out.
The Hebrew word for iniquity as used here means “perversion, a twisting aside from the path of righteousness.” When a leader perverts the process or the policy from doing what is right and just, when he or she bends the rules, the end will be vanity—all for naught.
In our democratic system, this often happens quickly. The Hebrew the word for perish means “to fail.” The abuse of power will ensure disappointment sooner or later. All of this is in opposition to the wise leader who “sows bountifully” and “reaps bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). Being power hungry will lead to your downfall.
D. DOWNFALL VIA ANGER
“An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression” (Proverbs 29:22).
The fourth sin that Solomon warns political leaders about is the sin of anger. In the Hebrew language the man spoken of here is literally “a man of nostrils” referring to a hot-tempered man who flexes his nose muscles during his oft-recurring rages. This is not a reference to righteous indignation, which is an honorable characteristic (Ephesians 4:26) when it comes to defending God’s honor and His explicit precepts. Rather, this Proverb refers to one being given over to anger. Such is sin. Fuming and gnashing of teeth will most assuredly cause strife (the state or condition of distrust or enmity: often bitter sometimes violent conflict or dissension) within your marriage, family, staff, caucus, and colleagues. Learn to not quarrel over trifles. There is no reason for so much transgression when scriptural principles are not the issue; it is better to simply be gracious in such instances. Instead, choose to die on the hill defending biblical truths. Your ideas, apart from scriptural truths, are really not all that important or eternal in nature. Proverbs 19:11 states “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” People who are selfish tend to be people who are prone to anger because anger is the emotional response to not getting one’s way. Solomon is warning his son that his anger could lead to his downfall; may that not be the case with you either.
E. DOWNFALL VIA SLANDER AND GOSSIP
“A man who is laden with the guilt of human blood will be a fugitive until death; let no one support him” (Proverbs 28:17).
The leader’s fifth besetting sin per Solomon has to do with the practice of slander and gossip. Wherein this Proverb relates to not assisting a guilt-burdened murderer, it therefore seems almost totally non-applicable to the capital community. But keep in mind what Jesus taught in Matthew 5:21 and 22:
“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ … But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court … and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”
Jesus is saying that it is the thought, not the act, that indicates one’s sinfulness: To slay someone in your heart or with your words is as evil as a man who is [outwardly] laden with the guilt of human blood. In full application of this Proverb, not only should you abstain from murdering others with your words, but you must shun as well those given to slandering others. Let no one support those who are given to a habit of making repeated false and disparaging comments about others. In line with the principles of Matthew 18:15–20, encourage those who have a problem with another, “show him his fault in private.” These principles for dealing with the murderous sin of gossip and slander are especially important for leaders to observe and enact. Keep in mind that when you slander another, you grant permission for those around you to do the same to you! Remember the biblical principle, that, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough” (Galatians 5:9). To change metaphors, you will soon reap what you have sown. Slader and gossip could lead to your downfall.
IV. PREMEDITATED SIN IS THE WORST KIND
“One who plans to do evil, men will call a schemer” (Proverbs 24:8).
“The devising of folly is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to men” (Proverbs 24:9).
Giving lodge to sin is the definition of a mischievous person. Herein is the schemer. The Hebrew word for schemer can be better translated, “lord of plans.” It is a picturesque description. While this person may be deceived into thinking he hides his evil, others know his character. These are the inventors of the latest evil thing, the masters of new modes of sinning, ways of trickery and deceit. These are those who are closest to Satan himself and devising to do evil is what energizes their service unto him. This kind of person or leader is an abomination to society. He or she, too, will be term limited in an eternal sense—unless they repent. States Proverbs 21:4, “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, is sin.” The premeditated planning and devising of evil against another is the worst kind of sinner. An American public servant is similar to an Islamic terrorist if and when he devises folly.
V. SIN WARPS THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM
Proverbs has much to say to leaders about the relationship of unchecked sin relative to the justice system of a nation. We have seen repeatedly in our past topical studies of Proverbs that the sensitivity toward societal justice appears repeatedly in much of Solomon’s preparedness of the nation’s next leader. Why? It is not that justice is the end goal of Solomon’s instruction (as liberal theologians have proffered) but rather, since the primary purpose of God’s ordination of government is “for the punishment of evil doers” (1 Peter 2:13, 14), the execution and dispatch of that task must be done carefully, properly, professionally, and obviously, justly. It follows then that Solomon, since he is instructing on how to be a statesman, would have much to say about the dispatch of justice as a part of effective public service. Notice the two following Proverbs relative to societal justice:
A. PROVERBS 19:28
“A rascally witness makes a mockery of justice, and the mouth of the wicked spreads iniquity.”
The fact that American witnesses are sworn in to, “tell the truth and nothing but the truth so help me God” is a good thing: oaths serve to bind the conscience. The oath of a witness is meant by our founding fathers as a preventative for perjury … and the truth of this Proverb. The Hebrew word for spreads is bala and means “to talk freely.” A sinning-by-lying witness destroys our judicial system. Wicked witnesses, states this Proverb, lead to inequality in society and an ineffective ability to accurately and appropriately “punish evil doers” (1 Peter 2:13–14).
It follows that any lawmaker whose career or legislative agenda is to heighten the penalties for perjury, performs a service near to the heart of God and dear to the prolongation of a nation. Theirs is a wonderfully good agenda. Note the second Proverb in this regard:
B. PROVERBS 21:15
“The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous, but is terror to the workers of iniquity.”
The truth of this Proverbs of contrast is self-evident: We need more attorneys, lawmakers, judges, police officers, lobbyists, and staff members who invest their dignified careers in the execution and protection of our judicial system, lest sin corrupt this sacred establishment.
In summary and reiteration, if sin is the greatest weakness in our culture, and government is called primarily to repress it, and the proper form of repression is the execution of justice, then the curtailment of perjury in the judicial system is precisely in line with God’s will for any and all governmental leaders! To the contrary, those workers of iniquity who distort our judiciary system need be terrorized by those of you who would make it better! Keep up the good work! Terrorizing the workers of iniquity is a good thing! God applauds you!
VI. SIN MUST BE REMEDIED
For a country to continue to prosper, sin must be dealt with. As mentioned earlier, such dealing can be remedied outwardly by the moral causative force of the state as well as inwardly by the pulpit of an evangelistic church. Notice these in respective order.
A. BY THE STATE: PROVERBS 14:9
“Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is good will.”
A fool, according to this passage, is one who mocks at sin. Such mockery is also present when Scripture states, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God.’” What is meant in these passages, what a fool bellows in both instances, is how stupid he is (cf. Psalm 14:1)! Their remedy for their fallen nature is not to repent from their wicked ways, but rather to resist and suppress the testimony of creation, conscience, incarnation, and construct (the Word of God). Unlike the upright who fear God and His coming judgment and who as a result do good will, they do evil. They mock at sin. Their remedy is wrong, and their fruit is that of the fallen. Their compunction to do good is not self-motivated, but rather and only the moralizing force of the state: the sword of the state (cf. Romans 13:4). Conversely:
B. BY CONVERSION: PROVERBS 20:9
“Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin’?”
Solomon, in the context of this Proverb, is asking a rhetorical question, demanding a negative answer: no one can pronounce himself or herself as morally pure. This Proverb supports the doctrine of man’s depravity as outlined at the beginning of this study and taught throughout the whole of the Word. Man’s depravity demands an atoning Savior. The ultimate remedy for sin in any society is the indwelling Holy Spirit wrought in and by a Christ-regenerated heart! The conversion of the soul is the best remedy for sin in any nation. No one can say I have cleansed my heart [by myself ] and I am pure from my sin.
As well, personal regeneration as a remedy for sin is depicted in and by the nation of Israel. Here is a nation in a time prior to the coming of the Messiah. Notice Proverbs 16:6 in the context of the point I am making:
“By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.”
The faith of the Old Testament (OT) saints is in view here as evidenced by their fear of the Lord. The OT saint looked forward to the atoning work of Christ: that day when the Messiah would come into the world. In contrast, the New Testament saint looks back to atoning work of Christ. The point is this: both before and after the time of Christ, Proverbs indicates that the hope and remedy for personal sin is the atoning work of the Messiah—and indeed it is! Faith in Him breeds righteous behavior and is a remedy for sin: i.e., one keeps away from evil states this insightful and summary Proverb.
Furthermore, Solomon goes a step further in Proverbs to state the personal benefits that inure to the righteous-living individual. Notice Proverbs 28:13 in this regard:
“He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.”
The unrepentant sinner will not prosper, states Solomon. The heart of anyone who in his pride resists confessing and forsaking his sin and clinging to the coming Messiah will incur the wrath of Almighty God.
These four Proverbs display in an OT way, the necessity of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, for the atonement and remedy of personal sin. This should come as no surprise since Jesus Christ is portrayed in some way in every book of the Bible: both in the Old and New Testaments. Without Him, my friend, you will continue to be lost in your sin, both now and forever. Do you mock at sin? Do you think you have a pure heart? Do you fear God’s coming judgment? Are you concealing or denying your sin? Remedy yourself today by coming to Christ in repentance, lest you perish in your sin and rejection of the Savior!
Your sin must be remedied in a personal sense and political leaders must remedy sin in a national sense.
“When the wicked increase, transgression increases; but the righteous will see their fall” (Proverbs 29:16).
The sins of leaders and the sins of citizens disgrace our country with increasing frequency and profundity. As more and more wicked people become empowered to lead in our country, wicked individuals who do not walk according to the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, the Indwelling Word, the Holy Spirit and the Inerrant Word, the Holy Scriptures, our nation suffers increasingly and proportionately. But the good news that Solomon communicated with Rehoboam and ostensibly all of us is that the righteous will see their fall.
As certain as the physical laws of the universe are the inexorable moral laws of God in the lives of individuals. “Your sin will find you out,” states God’s Word in Numbers 32:23. Sin will ultimately be remedied by God, but it is incumbent on the wise public servant to know how to deal with it in a nation in the meantime.