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 1 Corinthians 11:31For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
American King James Version×). 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 1 Samuel 8:4-7 4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel to Ramah,
5 And said to him, Behold, you are old, and your sons walk not in your ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed to the LORD.
7 And the LORD said to Samuel, Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you: for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
American King James Version×; 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 Mark 10:42But Jesus called them to him, and said to them, You know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority on them.
American King James Version×, 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 1 Kings 18:4For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.)
American King James Version×; compare Proverbs 29:2 Proverbs 29:2When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked bears rule, the people mourn.
American King James Version×).
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 Judges 21:25In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
American King James Version×). 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 1 Peter 2:13-15 13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
14 Or to governors, as to them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
American King James Version×), 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 Deuteronomy 17:18-20 18 And it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:
19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:
20 That his heart be not lifted up above his brothers, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the middle of Israel.
American King James Version×, 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 Matthew 13:13-14 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which said, By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive:
American King James Version×).
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 Luke 11:13If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
American King James Version×).
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 Romans 8:7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
American King James Version×, 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 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
American King James Version×).
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 Jeremiah 17:9The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
American King James Version×), we will continue in our evil ways (Romans 1:20-25 Romans 1:20-25 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. 24 Why God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
American King James Version×).
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 1 Samuel 8:11-22 11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.
12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.
13 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.
14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your olive groves, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.
15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.
16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your best young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.
17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and you shall be his servants.
18 And you shall cry out in that day because of your king which you shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.
19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, No; but we will have a king over us;
20 That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.
21 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD.
22 And the LORD said to Samuel, Listen to their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said to the men of Israel, Go you every man to his city.
American King James Version×, 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 Ephesians 6:12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
American King James Version×. 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 2 Corinthians 4:4In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
American King James Version×). 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 Ephesians 2:2Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:
American King James Version×, 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 John 8:44You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stayed not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
American King James Version×).
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 Hebrews 8:10-12 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, said the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
American King James Version×; Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×).
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 Matthew 5:48Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
American King James Version×)—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 1 John 4:7-10 7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God.
8 He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.
9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
American King James Version×). 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 John 3:16-17 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
American King James Version×).
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 Isaiah 11:2-4 2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
American King James Version×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 Hebrews 4:15For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
American King James Version×). For this reason the Father “has entrusted all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22 John 5:22For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son:
American King James Version×, New International Version).
Fourth, the world will be governed according to God’s perfect “law of liberty” (James 1:25 James 1:25But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
American King James Version×), 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” (Psalms 19:7 Psalms 19:7The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
American King James Version×). 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” (Psalms 146:3 Psalms 146:3Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
American King James Version×). 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 Revelation 19:16And he has on his clothing and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
American King James Version×).
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 Revelation 16:14For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
American King James Version×, 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 Joel 3:9-16 9 Proclaim you this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: 10 Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. 11 Assemble yourselves, and come, all you heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause your mighty ones to come down, O LORD. 12 Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. 13 Put you in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. 14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. 15 The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. 16 The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.
American King James Version×). Christ will defeat these gathered forces. And then Satan and his demons will themselves be removed from the scene (Revelation 19:19-20 Revelation 19:19-20 19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. 20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that worked miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
American King James Version×: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 Daniel 2:44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
American King James Version×).
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 Isaiah 9:6-7 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David, and on his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from now on even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
American King James Version×: “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 Micah 4:1-7 1 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow to it.
2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken it.
5 For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.
6 In that day, said the LORD, will I assemble her that halts, and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted;
7 And I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation: and the LORD shall reign over them in mount Zion from now on, even for ever.
American King James Version×). May God speed the day when His perfect and transforming rule over all nations will finally begin! GN