There are two basic elements that will collapse any organization, be it a family, a business, a church, or a government. Number one: consolidating power in the hands of too few people. Th at ignores the warning in the classic statement that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Number two: a people abdicating personal responsibility in order to remove any risk to and for themselves.
Our founders were brilliant in deciding that power would be constitutionally distributed carefully among the states, leaving the federal government very limited in its boundaries. Every amendment in the Bill of Rights expressly tells the government what it is forbidden to do. Not one of them explains what the people can't do.
Just as there are the two elements that will collapse any organization, so there are two results that will predictably come from making asingle leader solely responsible for the national interest without any sharing of responsibility. First, the cowardice of the people will be revealed, because they simply do not want to be held accountable. Second, the corruption of the leader will become apparent. You can count on this: When leaders want those in their charge to become more dependent rather than less so, they are defi nitely moving toward corruption.
Back to Abimelech's schemes: His youngest brother, Jotham, saved the day with a very clever story about three diff erent types of trees (an olive tree, a fi g tree, and a vine tree) that were offered the position of king of all trees. All rejected the idea and all, signifi cantly, are productive bearers of fruit. But the bramble bush, a weak and pesky plant that produces nothing useful, wanted the post. Jotham's point was that the weakest, rather than the strongest, feels the urge to dominate others. But real leadership is about risk, not self-gratifi cation. Jotham could be talking about politics today. I've oft en said, "If you don't like the sight of your own blood, then don't get involved in political battles; just buy a ticket and watch from the stands!" It is a full-contact sport; those of us who choose to participate all leave the fi eld bloody, bruised, and scarred.
Further, as I've thoroughly outlined in a previous book, Do the Right Thing, the very best form of government is self-government. It's the goal that every honorable leader should seek to implement for his or her followers. In the family, a good parent builds independence in his or her children, not dependence. I can't imagine that a parent would feel successful if a forty-year-old child was still living at home and was unable to balance a checkbook, wash his own laundry, clean up his own room, drive himself to do errands, or responsibly find a job or income in order to pay his part of the freight. The idea of a child's remaining permanently dependent on parents is heartbreaking. By the same token, the idea of pastors' making parishioners solely dependent upon the church ministry is the antithesis of New Testament Christianity. Instead, the Scriptures make clear that the pastor's role is to equip the saints or the parishioners to do the work of ministry as individuals.
A church that provides only a forum for the pastor's ideas and encourages worshippers to follow him or her without becoming directly and personally involved in some type of genuine, living ministry to others is not even close to the biblical norm of the purpose of church.
Finally, when politicians encourage people to become increasingly dependent upon them and the government programs they create, they've violated those people's sovereignty and autonomy as individuals. You will recognize this theme throughout this book, for I firmly believe that such abandonment of personal responsibility can lead to the destruction of our nation. We must be on guard: Whether we are talking about parents, pastors, or politicians, the goal should never be to create dependence on a leader or a government program; the aim should be to nurture independence that will empower and equip, not enslave.