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Power and corruption

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    Power and corruption

    You have probably heard this statement, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” No doubt you can think of examples of people who acquired power and used it in a corrupt manner. The ones I think of first are Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Hitler was responsible for the Holocaust which killed 17 million people, including almost 6 million Jews. Stalin’s policies resulted in the deaths of millions and after World War II the Soviet Union seized control of many nations in Eastern Europe. The lives of these two are clear evidence that possession of power leads to corruption and a rejection of traditional standards of right and wrong.

    Their lives would be evidence of this except for one fact. God possesses absolute power. That means he should be absolutely corrupt, but in fact we see that God is absolutely free of corruption. That shows that it could not have been the acquisition of power that led Hitler and Stalin to commit the evil they were responsible for.

    Perhaps the truth is not that power corrupts but that it frees people to express the corruption that already exists in their natures. Someone without power can possess the desire to do evil but be unable to express that desire openly because of fear of the consequences. He may be forced to live a life that is outwardly moral when in fact he would commit terrible acts if he could get away with it. What kind of lives might Hitler and Stalin have lived if they hadn’t become dictators of their countries?

    In his early years Hitler wanted to become an artist and applied for admission to the Vienna Academy of the Arts and was rejected. What if he had been accepted? Perhaps he would never have become involved with the Nazi party and if he were well known today it would be as an artist.

    Stalin was once a student in a Russian Orthodox seminary, studying to become a priest. He also began writing poetry at this time. Perhaps if he had graduated he would have spent his life as a priest and been known to everyone as Father Dzhugashvili. (Dzhugashvili was his original name. He later adopted the name Stalin, which means “man of steel”.) Or he might have continued to write poetry and become famous for that. Either way he wouldn’t have acquired the reputation for evil that he has today.

    If Hitler and Stalin had not acquired political power it is likely that they would not have been considered evil by those who knew them. But how would God have viewed them at their final judgment?

    But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
    1 Samuel 16:7 ESV

    If God judges by our hearts rather than by our actions, isn’t it possible that many of the people we encounter may be much worse than Hitler and Stalin but have never had the power to express the evil in their hearts for fear of the consequences? And isn’t it also possible that we are just as evil but have never expressed this evil in our actions because we have lacked the power to do so? When I consider some of thoughts I have entertained I believe that if the circumstances of my life had been different I could have become a Hitler or a Stalin. God has kept me from that fate first by not allowing me the power to put my thoughts into action, and then by allowing me to hear the gospel and to repent and put my faith in Jesus Christ. As a result of my faith in Christ all my sins have been forgiven and I have been born again as a member of God’s family.

    Consider your own lives. What would you be like if you possessed the power that Hitler and Stalin did and no one could stop you if you decided to do something that was evil?​​​​​
    Clyde Herrin's Blog

    #2
    There's a test that is often suggested to young women when they are first dating: if he treats the waiter badly, don't date him. It is a surprisingly good way to see how a someone acts when they have power over someone else, and a former manager of mine used a variant as a hiring criteria. Likewise hiring firms wouldn't remind candidates to be nice to the receptionist if some weren't. But on the other hand some people are naturally good in the same situations. It is a matter of character.

    The people I have seen who are not corrupted by power are the people prepared to give it up. They tend to view power as a heavy responsibility or duty they have been entrusted with, rather than it being something they seek or have a right to, and never that having power is a sign they are better than others.

    To get the power that Hitler and Stalin had, they had to do evil acts just to get it, so since I'm not prepared to do those acts it's very unlikely I would ever have that power! If I did end up being given it outright the first thing I'd do would be to start putting in as many checks and balances as possible. Even if I stayed sane, there's no guarantee my successors would.
    Comment>

      #3
      Originally posted by theophilus View Post
      Consider your own lives. What would you be like if you possessed the power that Hitler and Stalin did and no one could stop you if you decided to do something that was evil?
      That's a difference between us and Hitler or Stalin. We are subject to Christ Jesus, and with our knee bent and tongue confessing Him Lord we persevere to the very end. Any great person in power whether king or president will still be subject to the Lord and His precepts. If a king or president searches for any kind of help, if not to Jesus, then to who? Will they turn towards themselves or their cabinet? Still reeks of secular humanism, does it not? That's something that Stalin and Hitler have in common, along with Mao and Pol-Pot.

      God bless,
      William
      Comment>

        #4
        Well said everyone. Yes, through the lens of Jesus, everything changes. Personally, I wouldn't want to have control over different aspects of so many people's lives. I would much rather influence them for the better with Christ's love.
        Comment>

          #5
          Strangely, we often have power whether we want it or not and whether we realize it or not. I work as a Project Manager in the Civil Engineering Department of an Architecture, Engineering and Land Planning company that specializes in large, corporate clients and commercial projects. I am a relatively small cog in a big machine, but I am entrusted with making decisions that involve up to millions of dollars of other people's money.

          One day I realized that what I did had a tremendous rippling impact. It was during an economic downturn and I was permitting two large Auto Dealerships on a commercial site. Whether or not I obtained the permits one week or not meant a one month delay in the start of construction. The General Contractor desperately needed that job to keep his people in the office and in the field working. On top of that, over a hundred people from all of the subcontractor trades would work or not that month based on whether that job started on time.

          Even after the project would be completed, when the stores opened meant about 1 month of unemployment for 60 people who would work in those dealerships. All those lives and all of their families would be impacted ... for better or worse ... based on a phone call that I was making to get an issue resolved so a permit could be approved in this month's permit cycle rather than next month's.

          All I do is draw site plans and make phone calls, but my actions have impact on a lot of people's lives. Ever since that day, I view those permits not in terms of the $10,000 per day of the construction loan that some client is paying, but in terms of somebody waiting to start work who really needs that job to take care of his family.

          We do have power.
          (Sometimes, we just don't see it).
          Comment>

            #6
            Originally posted by atpollard View Post
            We do have power.
            (Sometimes, we just don't see it).
            Your actions have an influence over others but that isn't the kind of power I spoke of in my post. If you fail to exercise your influence in a way that helps your employer you could be fired. Hitler's actions ruined Germany but there was no way the German people could remove him from his job. Some of them tried to assassinate him but their efforts failed.
            Clyde Herrin's Blog
            Comment>

              #7
              Originally posted by ChatterBox
              There's a test that is often suggested to young women when they are first dating: if he treats the waiter badly, don't date him. It is a surprisingly good way to see how a someone acts when they have power over someone else, and a former manager of mine used a variant as a hiring criteria. Likewise hiring firms wouldn't remind candidates to be nice to the receptionist if some weren't. But on the other hand some people are naturally good in the same situations. It is a matter of character.

              The people I have seen who are not corrupted by power are the people prepared to give it up. They tend to view power as a heavy responsibility or duty they have been entrusted with, rather than it being something they seek or have a right to, and never that having power is a sign they are better than others.

              To get the power that Hitler and Stalin had, they had to do evil acts just to get it, so since I'm not prepared to do those acts it's very unlikely I would ever have that power! If I did end up being given it outright the first thing I'd do would be to start putting in as many checks and balances as possible. Even if I stayed sane, there's no guarantee my successors would.


              your second paragraph mirrors my feelings on the subject completely
              Comment>
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