If you wish to be a winner, you must at all times and all places suck up to the Spirit of the Age. If the polls say “decadence,” then choose libertine values, but if the populace is in a censorious mood eschew mercy. Follow the powerful wherever they lead.
Annoying those with power turns out to be easier than a man would hope it would be and so here I give you three rules based on the experience of Saint Paul when facing the Romans. He was giving a bang up argument, winning his case, when he went too far: “but when the discourse turned to questions of morals, self-control, and the coming judgement, Felix became alarmed and exclaimed, ‘Enough for now! When I find it convenient I will send for you again.”
This is a very valuable section of Scripture for the Machiavellian in the pews. Here is what we can learn from Scripture if the goal is winning.
Never Question the Morals of the Powerful
The Roman ruler was horrified to think someone might judge him.
Powerful people do not often hear criticisms or at the very least hear very carefully phrased critiques. I knew a man who worked at a place where everyone tried to take the blame for the boss’ errors so the errors could be corrected. If the Boss made the decision, then it was right and so change was nearly impossible. If someone else took the blame for the moral mistake, then it was not hard to fix the problem.
The powerful generally live by the rule that motive is what counts. If we wished to uplift the “savages,” then the fact that the savages neither wished our uplift and died from our plans does not matter. We meant well. The doctors who have filled West Virginia with opioid drugs sleep well at night, because they did not intend problems from their abuse of prescriptions.
The powerful live by self-image. Question that image and perish.
Never Advocate Self-Control
The rich or powerful have options we do not have. If you have enough money, you could use a new bar of soap every day or even use ten bars of soap with each shower, but perhaps you should not. Such desires are at best odd and at worst an unnatural form of indulgence. The soap fiend should control his desire to waste . . . Knowing that cleanliness is not Godliness when it becomes self-indulgence.You can do a thing, but that does not make it prudent. Self-control, an aspect of prudence, is most necessary with power. Anyone who is a parent sees this truth. We have such great control over the little ones, but that should sober us and make us less likely to use force!
Paul discovered that telling the ruler he should not gild everything, gloat over anything, or grab up his neighbor’s wealth is not a pathway to favor.
Never Discuss Coming Judgment
Judgment is already unpopular with the powerful, but mentioning the final judgement is fatal for the budding syncophant. Always tell the Tisroc he will live forever or that the king will, at the very least, live long. Reminding him that he is mortal man doomed to die and that after death comes the judgment is not just a buzz kill, but in the wrong nation can get you killed.
Why? The empty life of an abusive leader can only be filled by winning. He cannot stop, because to turn off the accumulation of toys would point out that each individual purchase was worthless. The bad ruler must keep going, because in the end, he is alone with God and God is not impressed.
You cannot win by dying with the most toys. A just God will make things right, earthly power is useless in front of the judgement seat. God knows. Nobody escapes. There is no bribe God will take and he is nobody’s syncophant. The Christian media complex cannot deliver you from God. No amount of social standing will make God want to be your BFF. Love mercy. Do justice. Or face judgment.
So it goes.
And then I look at self: do I love mercy and do justice? In my little sphere do I listen to criticism, practice self-control (eating chips!), and remember the coming judgment? No. I do not.
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.