Democratic societies fervently promote their favorite candidates at election time yet are almost always disappointed when they fail to come through on their promises. Why does it seem this never changes? What's the fundamental problem with human government?
New York City has long had a problem with United Nations diplomats who park wherever they want and claim diplomatic immunity when ticketed for breaking the parking laws. In one recent five-year period, diplomats racked up more than 150,000 unpaid tickets resulting in over $18 million in unpaid fines.
Here we see a microcosm of how human governments are often weak and inefficient and what is essentially wrong with human governments.
Raymond Fisman, research director of the Social Enterprise Program at Columbia Business School, and Edward Miguel, associate professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote an illuminating book about economics and governments titled Economic Gangsters: Corruption, Violence, and the Poverty of Nations.
In their book they observe: "The central lesson from New York City's parking travails with diplomats is that reformers of government institutions—whether local officials or World Bank hotshots—must be aware that values and social norms can undermine their attempts at change.
"In other words, altering the law is unlikely to be sufficient in the presence of a pervasive culture of corruption. Corrupt behavior is deeply engrained in culture and no small matter to root out" (2008, p. 120, emphasis added throughout).
Another sobering assessment of human governance comes from Dr. George Friedman, founder and CEO of Stratfor, one of the world's leading private intelligence and forecasting firms. In his 2009 book The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century, he states: "What I have tried to do in this book [is] to sense the twenty-first century with geopolitics as my primary guide. I began with the permanent: the persistence of the human condition, suspended between heaven and hell" (pp. 250-251).
Human government at its best begs for wisdom from above. The ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires, like many human governments before and since, all fell—and for good reasons.
The history of the world is largely a chronicle of failed human governments. What is the common denominator to the fall of human governments? Just what is wrong with human government?
Do we need government?
Government has been with us in some form or another since the beginning. When Adam and Eve walked in the Garden of Eden with God, He was their government. Adam and Eve then bore children, starting with Cain and Abel. While the children were being raised, their parents constituted their immediate government.
From Genesis to Revelation you always find government—poor government in the hands of men, good government when administered by God.
The Bible also shows that, when speaking of human government, a system promoting self-government within law is best—at least when based on true guidance from the Bible (1 Corinthians:11:31). If all governed themselves based on God's laws, human governments would not only run smoothly, but they could last for centuries.
The Bible's record about government describes God governing Israel as its king until the Israelites demanded a human king like the nations around them (1 Samuel:8:4-7; 12:12). God gave them what they asked for, but He strictly warned them what they would face with human government—its inherent weaknesses, its capricious control of them and its extravagant ways (8:11-22).
Jesus instructed His disciples about human leadership: "You know that in this world kings are tyrants, and officials lord it over the people beneath them" (Mark:10:42, New Living Translation). The rulers of that day—like today—loved to dominate, manipulate and control their subjects.
Study the monarchical governments of Israel and Judah in the Bible. You'll find that very few were acceptable to God. It all depended on the human leader or king.
In a few cases the kings were righteous, such as David, Hezekiah and Josiah. During their rule, the people lived in relative peace and prosperity—though there were still major problems.
But the vast majority of the leaders were evil, such as Ahab and his cruel queen, Jezebel. Under such rulers the people suffered abuse and oppression. In fact, godly people had to literally hide themselves to avoid persecution and even martyrdom (1 Kings:18:4; compare Proverbs:29:2).
Throughout history, self-serving and abusive rulers have been far more common than those devoted to the good of the governed. In light of this sad record, would societies be better off with no government?
Can societies exist with no government?
Government must exist, if for no other reason than to avoid anarchy (the lack of any form of order and cohesion). However, government is more than an absence of anarchy. It provides, or at least should provide, services to and for its constituents, the people it professes to serve. Dictatorships, autocratic leaders and even oligarchies provide governance, but they can make life miserable for the people.
At the end of the book of Judges, God says that everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges:21:25). There was no human king in Israel at that time, and people abused the personal freedom they had. Indeed, personal freedom within a society can be harmful if it is not balanced by maintenance of order for the common good.
The fact is, human societies need government. Government exists for our benefit (1 Peter:2:13-15), and it will benefit us most if it's oriented to service and sacrifice.
God, knowing human tendencies and weaknesses, instructed Israel in how its kings were to exercise righteous leadership. He said of each:
"When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy these laws on a scroll for himself in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep this copy of the law with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of this law.
"This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. This will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel" (Deuteronomy:17:18-20, NLT).
God directed Israel's leaders to lead His people based on His holy, liberating laws. He knew that if they failed to learn and follow good leadership instruction, they would act as the kings of the nations around them did—as selfish, self-serving autocrats.
What's the underlying problem with human rule?
So what is it that causes human governments to fail?
"Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one." Such was the assessment of the early American political thinker and revolutionary Thomas Paine.
A major problem with human government is its human ness. When people remain ignorant of their own humanity, they remain blinded as to why human governments fail. Most people see nothing beyond their human nature and they assume, erroneously, that their human nature is good.
Jesus Christ, speaking of the people of His day, addressed this universal problem: "And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull.
"'Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them'" (Matthew:13:13-14).
Incredibly, the 6.8 billion people on this planet do not grasp the answer to what's wrong with human beings. And we have suffered for this lack of knowledge for millennia.
Human nature, the Bible reveals, is a mixture of good and evil. Jesus knew the hearts of human beings, stating: "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Luke:11:13).
The apostle Paul revealed why human beings could not, on their own, love God or obey His laws, His Ten Commandments: "For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God's law, for it is unable to do so" (Romans:8:7, Holman Christian Standard Bible).
Starting from the human side, there is no way to bridge the gap between God's will, His way and His laws and the human way of thinking and acting. Only God can initiate and bring about such a connection. It is God the Father who calls human beings to His Son Jesus Christ, and Jesus then works with those whom the Father calls (John:6:44).
Until God works with us, drawing or calling us to Christ's help to overcome predominantly evil ways of thinking and acting (Jeremiah:17:9), we will continue in our evil ways (Romans:1:20-25).
This is precisely and specifically what's wrong with human beings who make up human governments. It's our nature—our selfish, self-serving, shortsighted human nature—that brings on the downfall of nations.
God foretold problems of human leadership
When the ancient Israelites demanded a king, God made clear through His prophet Samuel that this would lead to serious consequences:
"'This is how a king will treat you,' Samuel said. 'The king will draft your sons into his army and make them run before his chariots. Some will be commanders of his troops, while others will be slave laborers. Some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, while others will make his weapons and chariot equipment.
"'The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own servants. He will take a tenth of your harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants.
"'He will want your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but the Lord will not help you.'
"But the people refused to listen to Samuel's warning. 'Even so, we still want a king,' they said. 'We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will govern us and lead us into battle.'
"So Samuel told the Lord what the people had said, and the Lord replied, 'Do as they say, and give them a king.' Then Samuel agreed and sent the people home" (1 Samuel:8:11-22, NLT).
A huge problem with human government is that human beings run it. But another factor is at work here that few understand.
Behind the scenes
"As long as there are sovereign nations possessing great power, war is inevitable," wrote the brilliant physicist Albert Einstein. Why is this so? Why do human governments so regularly lead their nations into war?
The Bible reveals that subtle and mysterious invisible powers are at work on this earth. Read it yourself in Ephesians:6:12. Since people are blinded to this invisible spirit world, they assume that all problems arise from natural human motivations.
The Bible paints a very different picture. It reveals that Satan the devil, leader of these evil unseen spirit forces, is so powerful that Scripture calls him "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians:4:4). He is the one the world unknowingly bows before. The Bible also calls him "the mighty prince of the power of the air ... the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God" (Ephesians:2:2, NLT). As such, he powerfully influences mankind to do evil.
Jesus Christ knew human nature and what is behind it. Notice how He rebuked His self-righteous accusers: "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it" (John:8:44).
The world does not know what lies behind human nature and our many resulting problems. If people did, this article would be unnecessary! But one day all people will come to understand this, when God's Kingdom is established on earth and Jesus Christ transforms their thinking (Hebrews:8:10-12; Romans:12:2).
Would God's government be an improvement?
"The best government . . . desires to make the people happy, and knows how to make them happy," wrote the English abolitionist and member of Parliament Thomas Babington Macaulay in 1824.
So who could do a better job at this—God or human politicians?
We've all seen the track record of human governments. How, then, would government differ under God? First, God's government would be far better for us because God is perfect (Matthew:5:48)—no more relying on badly flawed human beings!
Second, God truly cares for us. He deals with human beings from a position of godly love, of outgoing concern for us (1 John:4:7-10). He did, after all, give His only Son to die for humankind that we may live; He didn't send Him to condemn us (John:3:16-17).
Third, with God at the helm of human societies, He will deal fairly with human beings, without partiality and with no biases. Isaiah:11:2-4 says of Jesus Christ, the coming head of God's government on earth, that "He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth."
Jesus Christ, having lived and died as a human being, understands all that we go through because He has experienced it Himself (Hebrews:4:15). For this reason the Father "has entrusted all judgment to the Son" (John:5:22, New International Version).
Fourth, the world will be governed according to God's perfect "law of liberty" (James:1:25), called that because it truly sets mankind free from the suffering, pain and sorrow that results from sin. King David said that this law "is perfect, converting the soul" (Psalm:19:7). Obeying it will transform our lives.
We could go on and on, but you get the picture. God's government on the earth over humanity would be an infinite improvement over any government formed by human beings. God and Christ Jesus aren't political. Remove politics, add God's righteousness, wisdom and perfection, and you have the formula for a government that will truly transform the world.
How human government will be replaced
We now know why human government will be replaced. Human governments are made up of human beings who are inherently selfish, deceitful and lustful for power. Put two or more human beings together running government and often it only magnifies the problem exponentially.
God says we should not put our trust in human beings, all of whom have flawed human nature: "Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help" (Psalm:146:3). People can build some limited trust with us. But only God can be completely trusted. We certainly should not be so naive and gullible as to believe everything human politicians promise.
No human governments can properly administer sound, beneficial governance that works for the good of everyone. This is why God the Father will send Jesus Christ His Son as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to transform government on earth forever (Revelation:19:16).
At Christ's return, He will dispatch the governments of the earth, their end-time leaders, and the great confederation of armies that will mass in the Middle East.
First He will gather them to Armageddon (Revelation:16:14, 16)—the area surrounding the hill of Megiddo in northern Israel—and there allow Satan and the demons to lure them to Jerusalem "to the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (verse 14; compare Joel:3:9-16). Christ will defeat these gathered forces. And then Satan and his demons will themselves be removed from the scene (Revelation:19:19-20:3).
This is how the forces that oppose God will be taken out, clearing the path for Christ's glorious reign of peace and prosperity.
A perfect government to be established
God shows that His government will not be left to human beings: "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (Daniel:2:44).
It will stand forever because it will be a perfect government. Remember the famous prophecy of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, in Isaiah:9:6-7: "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the
government will be upon His shoulder . And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
"Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."
Human nature, which is today patterned after Satan's selfish nature, is what's wrong with human government. Because we are selfish, deceptive and untrustworthy, it shouldn't surprise us that our governments turn out to be the same. But that will change, for God promises to transform our nature with our full cooperation to one of following His loving government of peace and prosperity (Micah:4:1-7). May God speed the day when His perfect and transforming rule over all nations will finally begin! GN