Delegating Authority

Delegating Authority

Lee Early

“Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.” Deuteronomy 1:13

Representative government is a process of delegating authority. We, as citizens, consent to, authorize, or assign a person to stand for us in the external governing of our home, church, city, county, state and nation. We bear responsibility for those persons. How, then, do we choose?

“Take you wise men…” Wise men would fear the Lord and have knowledge of His principles. Included in this knowledge should be an understanding of the need to restore and protect those “self-evident” truths that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…”.

We must recognize our responsibility for that restoration and protection, and, as Felix Morley addressed, make purposeful choices. “Mere freedom of choice undoubtedly places its possessor at liberty. But to reach the essence of liberty, and certainly to secure its blessings in co-operative living, choice must be exercised in conformity with moral principles. There must be a sense of personal responsibility, of self restraint, and therefore of self-government… When the founders spoke of the blessings of liberty, they did not discount the value of freedom. But it is apparent to any student of the period that they generally used the word liberty to convey a sense of individual responsibility which the alternative noun freedom does not imply. The blessings of freedom may be of very questionable value. Those of liberty, properly understood, are priceless… That the condition of freedom can be maintained only by the divinely implanted urge for liberty was fully understood when the Republic was launched… the blessings of liberty, which political government may safeguard or destroy but can never itself provide, are therefore intimately connected with personal belief in, and practice of Christian doctrine. As Paul told the Corinthians also: ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty!’ “[1]

“…and understanding…” We must choose individuals who understand God’s philosophy of government and have the character to do the work. Samuel Adams writes: “in the state of nature, every man has a right to think and act according to the dictates of his own mind, which, in that state, are subject to no other control and can be commanded by no other power than the laws and ordinances of the great Creator of all things. The perfection of liberty therefore, in a state of nature, is for every man to be free from any external force, and to perform such actions as in his own mind and conscience he judges to be rightest; which liberty no man can truly possess whose mind is enthralled by irregular and inordinate passions; since it is no great privilege to be free from external violence if the dictates of the mind are controlled by a force within, which exerts itself above reason. This is liberty in a state of nature, which, as no man ought to be abridged of, so no man has a right to give up, or even part with any portion of it, but in order to secure the rest and place it upon a more solid foundation; it being equally with our lives the gift of the same bounteous Author of all things we must distinguish and consider liberty as it respects the whole body and as it respects each individual. As it respects the whole body, it is then enjoyed when neither legislative nor executive powers (by which I mean those men with whom are entrusted the power of making laws and of executing them) are disturbed by any internal passion or hindered by any external force from making the wisest laws and executing them in the best manner; when the safety, the security, and the happiness of all is the real care and steady pursuit of those whose business it is to care for and pursue it; in one short word, where no laws are carried through humor or prejudice, or controlled in their proper execution by lust of power in the great, nor wanton licentiousness in the vulgar. As it respects individuals, a man is then free when he freely enjoys the security of the laws and rights to which he is born; when he is hindered by no violence from claiming those rights and enjoying that security, but may at any time demand the protection of the laws under which he lives… He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man. We must not conclude merely upon a man’s haranguing upon liberty, and using the charming sound, that he is fit to be trusted with the liberties of his country… The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy this gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people…”[2]

The Bible has several examples of people choosing people to positions of delegated authority. In Acts 6:3 Luke records, “…look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.” The business spoken of was the caring for the needs of the new church during a period of very rapid growth.

Much of a man’s character is internal, which brings out the third choice, “and known among your tribes.” We are to look at the proven record. I Timothy 3 gives specific traits for delegated authority – blameless, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, hospitable, apt to teach, a person of self control, and in verse 4, “One that ruleth well his own house…” or as Hugo Grotius expanded in 1654, “He knows not how to rule a kingdome, that cannot manage a Province; nor can he wield a Province, that cannot order a City; nor can he order a City, that knows not how to regulate a Village; nor he a Village, that cannot guide a Family, nor can that man Govern well a family that knows not how to Govern himselfe; neither can any Govern himselfe unless his reason be Lord, Will and Appetite her Vassals: nor can Reason rule unlesse herselfe be ruled by God, and (wholly) be obedient to Him.”[3]

[1] Rosalie Slater,  Teaching and Learning America’s Christian History, Foundation for American Christian Education, San Francisco.

[2] Verna M. Hall, “The Life of Samuel Adams,” Christian History of the Constitution of the United States of America, Foundation for American Christian Education, San Francisco

[3] Rosalie Slater, “The Christian Principle of Self-Government,” Teaching and Learning America’s Christian History, Foundation for American Christian Education, San Francisco.

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  1. Thanks for the advice about choosing a representative. I agree that it is the responsibility of the citzens to take this decision seriously. I love the quote, “One that ruleth well his own house…” when applied to this situation. I think that looking a a candidate’s personal life and actions is a good reflection of how they will act in the future.

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