Over the past several months, stories have emerged of politicians breaking the very COVID rules that they imposed on their citizens. It has happened around the world.
It is part of that “rules for thee, but not for me” approach to governing that many leaders fall into.
And it happened again earlier this year when a business owner in New York City videoed a Democrat senator walking into his restaurant without wearing a mask. In fact, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand walked right past a sign stating that masks were required on entering.
In an Instagram post, the owner provided a video of what happened and added, “I guess Senator Gillibrand thinks that the Governor is wrong or she is special and above the rules.”
Though studies have shown that cloth facemasks are basically useless when it comes to stopping the spread of COVID, there was a bigger issue at work here.
It is important that when politicians make up these rules, they obey them as well.
When Israel wanted a king, God provided several ground rules to govern politicians and their bureaucracy. They are listed in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, along with a series of warnings about kings in 1 Samuel 8:10-18:
And, some of these rules apply to our modern democratically-elected politicians, particularly two that are cited in Deuteronomy.
First, leaders are not above the law
The first stated that kings were not above the law. They are subject to the law like everyone else (Deuteronomy 17:18-19).
Though the Mosaic law included several religious laws and regulations, it also had laws for governing a nation, including how to deal with criminal activity.
Secondly, leaders must avoid the temptation of pride
But Deuteronomy adds another warning, which explains why leaders sometimes feel they are above their law
20 and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. (Deuteronomy 17: 20 NIV)
When they are first elected, most politicians start off as servants of the people, but after a couple of reelections, some start thinking they must be special, even superior to their voters.
And because of this attitude, they don’t believe they should be governed by the same laws as everyone else. It is the old ‘rules for thee, but not for me’ principle.
The Magna Carta
But demanding politicians be accountable to the laws is a cornerstone of our modern democracies. In fact, it was one of the major guiding principles of the Magna Carta signed in 1215 AD that sought to reign in the power of the kings.
It stated that, like everyone else, kings are subject to the law of the land. Among other things, the king could not seize property without going through the courts.
Though this treaty was eventually broken, its principles that our leaders are not above the law nevertheless paved the way for democracy.
If our political leaders do not believe they are subject to the same laws as everyone else, it inevitably leads to a breakdown of democracy.
Other rules governing Israel’s leaders
But as critical as these two rules are, these passages in Deuteronomy and Samuel provided several other guidelines for Israel’s leaders, some of which also apply today:
- Not building a standing army described by the accumulation of horses (Deuteronomy 17:16, 1 Samuel 8:11);
- Not returning to Egypt. Essentially, Israel was to depend on God for help, not other allies (Deuteronomy 17:16);
- Avoid over taxing of the people. This also included forced labour (taxing people by requiring them to work on building projects) and confiscation of people’s property (1 Samuel 8:14-18);
- Prohibition against having multiple wives (Deuteronomy 17:17). Polygamy can lead to serious societal problems, as it can result in large populations of single men unable to have families;
- Not using their position to accumulate personal wealth (Deuteronomy 17:17);
- Leaders are subject to the law (Deuteronomy 17:18-19); and
- A warning against pride. Leaders must not think themselves superior to the common people (Deuteronomy 17:20).