All too often people delude themselves, and others, into thinking that their only duties and obligations (aside from fairly tedious and often menial service duties) are the passive obligations of praying for the well being of leaders and organizations, paying tithes or taxes, showing up to services and meetings, and being a law-abiding citizen who follows the rules and knows their (subservient) place. Now, to be sure, the fairly passive duties of pray, pay, stay, and obey are certainly all important and vital, and necessary, but they are not sufficient to what God wants to do with us either in the civil or the religious sphere.
All too often organizations and societies that desire obedient slaves and those who want to be told what to do build up cultures that are focused on passive virtues, where leadership activities are limited to elites who are burdened with that responsibility for everyone, and everyone else is simply supposed to do as they are told, and not talk back or they get in trouble. I’m not someone who tends to handle such cultures and mindsets like that very successfully. I’m full of ideas on how things can be improved, or what needs to be done by somebody (not that I always want to do it myself), and I talk back when people show me disrespect. I give fair warning; I know I was born for more than taking orders from incompetent bullies, and I have little to no tolerance for those who like to throw their weight and show that they are big stuff by bossing others around.
We have to understand what God wants from us to be pleasing to Him. God has stated, explicitly, both to ancient Israel and to the Church that he wanted to make a holy nation and royal priesthood out of the least and the weak and the foolish and the former slaves, to (as he said in Psalm 113) take the poor out of the dust and seat him with princes. The point is that we are supposed to become somebody, even if we don’t start out well in our lives thanks to our personal background. All believers are the children of the King of the Universe, and that makes us princes and princesses, regardless of what status we rank in someone’s hierarchy chart. There is honor to be shown and responsibility to be given to all that gives all a place of respect.
Let us not forget that the whole purpose of offices in the church is for the maturation of the brethren (see Ephesians 4:11-16) so that ordinary members can grow into becoming teachers (see Hebrews 5:12). We are called while we are weak, base, and foolish (1 Corinthians 1:27-31), but we aren’t called to remain that way. To put the wise and noble to shame we have to become that way ourselves, and the glory of God in being able to turn the impure into pure, the base into noble, the low into high, puts to shame those who trust in their own wisdom and in their own power and majesty and neglect the God who is the source of all of their gifts. But that requires active work and the development of the talents that we have been given.
The same mindset that dwells in churches can easily seep into civil society. People assume that they are fulfilling their duties by merely paying their taxes and following their Homeowner’s Association Rules and driving close to the speed limit, without any sort of interest or awareness in the larger functioning of society and the need of people to look out for more than their own household and their own personal concerns. There is too much that needs to be done for us to abdicate our civic responsibilities to a corrupt and power-hungry elite, in whatever form that elite may come in. Those that wish to limit responsibility and input to a small and inbred group of elites neither know or care how much work needs to be done; they just want the power and the honor and the credit and the wealth and the glory and the respect to flow to them and not be given widely to others, lest its value be diluted.
This creates massive problems. It means that the necessary actions to keep an institution or society going become burdensome and unpleasant and unrewarding to the many who have to do them, since the rewards flow to a few. Without rewards, those necessary tasks simply do not get done, unless people get bribed to do what they should be doing already. And thus the corruption only becomes more endemic. And we are to blame, both for not taking responsibility for ourselves and letting corrupt elites handle such matters, but for preferring corrupt elites to growing into leadership and into doing a better job ourselves.
We have to take responsibility for the failure of our institutions, of our societies. If we have no leaders, whether of church or state, whether of literature or music or culture or business or science who are not hopelessly corrupt, then that is because we have failed in providing an alternative to such corruption. And though we can point fingers at other people for failing over and over again for decades in their roles, we have to point the finger at ourselves for letting them go unchecked without developing ourselves to replace such unworthy leaders with more godly ones, namely ourselves. We cannot assume that everything relies on us individually or as small groups, but at the same time we must accept responsibility. If all we are concerned is praying, paying, staying, and obeying–we will do a lot of those things to unworthy beings who present themselves as rivals of God instead of his servants and ministers (see Romans 13:1-7). But we cannot say that we were not warned, at least.