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  • Rick LoPresti

Smaller is better

The Bible only has one main purpose - to teach us how to have a relationship with God. However, it does have principles which apply to every aspect of life. God wants us to be blessed and prosper in this life as well as the next when we put His kingdom first (Josh 1:7, Mt 6:33, 1Thes 4:8, 1Thes 5:23, 3Jn 2). The Bible is not a book about science although it is scientifically accurate. There is not one scientific fact that contradicts anything in the Bible. There are scientific facts that were in the Bible long before "scientists" claimed to have discovered them. The Bible is not just a history book, but it is historically accurate. For example, some people rejected the Bible because it speaks of the Hittites, although there had yet to be discovered any archaeological evidence of their existence. Then their entire civilization was discovered, and now there are documentaries on their history. The Bible is not a book about medical treatments, but the Bible said that the life of the flesh is in the blood when doctors thought the way to treat some sicknesses was to drain the patients' blood (Lev 17:11). George Washington was killed by this approach. The Bible is not a book on politics, and it has been misquoted often to allegedly show support for a specific political cause, or even for whole movements. However, the Bible does record history regarding the governments of men, and it does have something to say about them. So let us us look at some of that information without inserting an agenda into the book that is not there, or that obscures its main message.

The first institution God established for man was marriage (Gen 2-3). This is the smallest possible human arrangement - only two people - and yet it is the foundational arrangement upon which society is built. That is why attempts to ignore, reject, and redefine the clear Biblical principle of one man and one woman (Mt 19:1-7) are so dangerous to society. When we think we are smarter than God, we become fools (Ps 14:1, Ps 53:1, Prov 1:7, Prov 12:15, Prov 14:9, Lk 24:25, Rom 1:22, 1Cor 3:18). When children were later added to the family, it was still a very small unit numerically (Gen 4-5).

It was not until after the flood that God spake anything regarding a form of broader human government (Gen 9). Even then, it was limited to the enforcement of the death penalty upon murderers (Gen 9:5-6). God told Noah and his family to spread abroad and repopulate the earth after the flood (Gen 9:1 & 7). However, many of Noah's descendants chose to populate one place in the land of Shinar (Gen 11:1-9). Their intent was to built a large, centralized human government and make their own plans for themselves without God (vs 3-4). They clearly stated their intent to defy God's plan and be their own government. The tower they were making was of burnt brick and slime, which is a tar-like petroleum product. This was apparently to make it waterproof. God had promised He would never again send a worldwide flood (Gen 9), but when we reject the word of God, we can have no faith in the promises that accompany obedience. We feel the need to become our own God, Savior, Father, Lord, and provider. God looked down and saw what the result of their unchecked plans would be, and He judged their efforts and brought them to nought. Did man learn his lesson? Of course not. The history of man is one of attempt after attempt to build large, centralized human governments without God. Some lasted longer than others, but they all come down eventually. Assyria, Egypt, Babylon (which ironically is named after the failed attempt to build the tower of Babel), Persia, Greece, and Rome are notable examples. The 20th century shows us the disastrous attempt to govern man through socialism and communism, which are in practice the same thing. 100 million people were slaughtered and prosperous nations were plunged into war, poverty, and severe oppression under this horrible attempt at large, centralized human government without God.

When God used Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt, there were over 600,000 adult men (Num 1:46). That means there were probably several million Israelites. Moses tried to govern them all by himself. Could you imagine how long you would have to wait for an appointment? His father-in-law wisely advised him to appoint leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens (Ex 18). They could handle the smaller matters, and Moses would deal with the big ones.

God wanted to be the king of the nation of Israel, but He saw into their hearts, and like using a prophetic behavioral algorithm, he knew they would someday desire a king like the other nations. God wanted the priests to be the ones who directly applied His laws to the people without a large, centralized, human, civil government (Deut 17). However, He told them that when they followed their carnal desires, there were still some governing principles that were to be applied to the king they chose (Deut 17:14-20):

1. God would still be in charge of the selection process

2. He had to be an Israelite

3. He should not multiply horses to himself. This apparently was an indication that he was

not to amass power over the people.

4. He was not to lead the people back to Egypt

5. He was not to be a polygamist

6. He was not to amass great riches

7. He was to have his own personal copy of the scriptures and read them every day so he

would keep them

8. He was not to lift up his heart above his fellow Israelites

This is pretty much the antithesis of of what someone seeking such a position would be thinking about; and most of the kings, even the best ones, failed to follow most of this list. However, it does give us insight into the mind of God regarding His view of human government, It is clear God did not intend for Israel to have a large, powerful, centralized government.

When the prophecy Moses wrote about Israel seeking a king like the pagan nations around them came to pass, the people went to their spiritual leader, the prophet Samuel, and asked for a change. They wanted a king to lead them (1Sam 8). Not only was Samuel displeased, so was God. The Lord even told Samuel that it was not the prophet they were rejecting, but God Himself (vs 7). Samuel warned them that this leadership model would lead to oppression (vs 11-20). The first king was a man named Saul. At first, he was a humble, reluctant king (1Sam 9-11). Although Saul actually kept most of the above list, he did allow his heart to come to love his position more than his relationship with God and His people (1Sam 13-15). He was rejected by God and replaced with a young man named David (1Sam 16). When Samuel told Saul, he said, "When thou wast little in thine own sight,wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel (1Sam 15:17).

David was a man after God's heart (1Sam 13:14). He once said, "LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me (Ps 131:1)." During his time fleeing from Saul, David had two easy opportunities to kill him, but refused (1Sam 24 & 26). Instead, he called himself a dead dog and a flea (1Sam 24:14, 1Sam 26:20). Instead of seeing himself as above the people, he saw himself as responsible for the people. A great example is when the people provoked the anger of the Lord, he took responsibility and made intercession for them (2Sam 24, 1Chr 21). His descendants sat on the throne until Israel and Judah were invaded and destroyed (2Sam 7, 2Ki 25).

About 1,000 years later, the most important prophecy about David was fulfilled when his descendant Jesus Christ came into the world (Mt 1, Lk 1). . The people of Israel and even His own disciples did not understand that there are two aspects to the coming of the Messiah. His first appearing was to be the sacrifice for our sins, and the second will be to fulfill the prophecies about the kingship of the Messiah. The people were looking for a king to deliver them from Roman rule, but Jesus refused to let them make Him king at that time (Jn 6:15). He taught the people to seek for the spiritual kingdom of God (Mt 6:33, Lk 17:21, Jn 18:31-37). When He rode into Jerusalem days before He died, He chose a young donkey, not a majestic horse (Mt 21:2-7). He came meekly, not to bear rule, but to save; although He is indeed the Great King over all kings and will return on a white horse (Rev 19:11-16).

The disciples of Jesus struggled with the concept of small government at first. They argued several times about who would be the chief apostles (Mt 20:20-28, Mk 9:33-37). Even His last supper before His arrest was tainted with this problem (Lk 22:24-27). Jesus answered these concepts of power over others by using examples of humility and servanthood, such as children and washing feet (Jn 13:4-17). LEven as Jesus was ascending to heaven, they still did not get it (Acts 1:6). Later, the apostles came to understand the church leadership model Jesus desired for them (Acts 10:25-26, Acts 14:9-18, 2Cor 1:24, 2Cor 10:1, Gal 6:1, 1Tim 6:11, 2Tim 2:25, Titus 3:2, 1Pet 5:3).

It is better to have ten churches of 1,000 than one church of 10,000. Church leadership is about being an example and influence, building relationships, discipling, serving, and mentoring. This can only happen on the small scale. There is a place for large scale ministry, but by and large individual Christians are not built that way.

A great illustration of how God sees large, centralized human government is in the book of Daniel. In Daniel chapter 2, the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar had a dream in which he saw 4 great human empires arise. He saw them in the form of a great statue of a man made of four precious metals - gold, silver, bronze, and iron. Later, the prophet Daniel had a vision of the same four kingdoms, and he saw them as hideous, deformed, devouring beasts (Dan 7). Man sees his own attempts at governing other men as noble. God sees the kingdoms of men as they really are - deeply flawed, based on pride and lust, and doomed to eventually fail. Any effort of man to rule other men beyond the scope of limited, localized leadership almost always leads to inefficiency, ineffectiveness, corruption, and failure to accomplish its purpose. The more the government of the affairs of man in any area is removed from the people it is to lead, the less efffective it is. Parents are better than government. Local pastors of reasonably sized congregations are better than megachurches. Small, local government is usually better than large, far away government. That is why the founding fathers of America sought to limit the scope of the federal government through the separation of powers in three branches, and through specifically listing its role, leaving all unenumerated powers to the states and the people. Smaller is better.

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