By justice a king builds up the land, but he who exacts gifts tears it down. Proverbs 29:4
Obviously the principle elucidated here does not apply only to kings, else we would be left considering this only with regard to figurehead royalty in Great Britain and Luxembourg. Anyone who governs or rules over others in public policy would ostensibly fall within the polarities expressed here.
Tyrants? Yes. Dictators? Yes. Parliaments? Yes. Trifurcated government branches in a constitutional republic? Absolutely.
In the U.S., critics of government frequently focus their ire on the president alone, but in our system, it is the President, Congress and the Supreme Court who together constitute the “king” who can either build up or tear down. And, lest we too readily distance ourselves from the waywardness of government officials, we should remember that in our day of town halls, incessant polling, and the vox populi, it might just be we who are either demanding justice or “exacting gifts”.
One problem is determining what constitutes “justice.” In a courtroom, justice is appropriate punishment for a crime committed, or restitution for a wrong suffered. In biblical terms, justice for a king means doing what is right for the nation, not necessarily individuals who comprise it. Favoring a part over the whole, whether favor is shown to individuals or groups of them, is not justice, for one man’s “justice” could very well be another’s injustice.
And we consider ourselves far removed from the ugly picture of open bribes, and thus safe from the danger of “exacting gifts.” But in an era of billion-dollar fundraising campaigns, political lobbyists, and uncritical party loyalty, can we truly say that those in power are not exacting gifts from the rest of us?
We tend to suppose that monarchies are inherently inferior to democracies or republics. But in our system, the people must keep track of a total of 545 constitutional government officials, rather than 1 king. And this doesn’t begin to consider the vast number of cabinet members, “czars”, bureaucrats, administrators, and other politicos who have all been granted some measure of power t0 either mete out “justice” or to “exact gifts.”
We are commanded to pray for those who rule over us (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Pray for our “kings” to do justice and build up.