I. The responsibility of leaders

Leaders in poor nations have a special responsibility and a special opportunity in this regard. Sometimes one courageous leader, with the help of God, can change the direction of an entire nation.

Moses led the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12-15). Queen Esther’s courageous intervention before King Ahasuerus saved the people of Israel from destruction (Esther 5-9). Likewise, at key points of the history of the United States, leaders such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln preserved the nation. Many other nations have memories of similar heroes whom they honor for doing great good for their countries, often at great personal sacrifice.

If you have a leadership role in any nation on earth, the Bible is very clear about the purpose for which God put you in this position: it is to do good for your nation. Paul says this about anyone serving as a governing official in the Roman government: “He is God’s servant for your good” (Rom. 13:4). In other words, even an unbelieving, secular government official in the Roman Empire had been put in office to do “good” for the people of the nation. The Bible even calls him “God’s servant” for that purpose. This is why God put you in your position of responsibility. It was not so that you might enrich yourself. It was not so that you might make yourself famous. It was not so that you might get extra privileges for your family and friends. It was so that you might do “good” for the people of your nation. That is your responsibility, entrusted to you by God.

The Bible also says that God is watching what you do and will hold you accountable: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3).

It is a special responsibility of government leaders to care for the poor:

If a king faithfully judges the poor, his throne will be established forever. (Prov. 29:14)

Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity. (Dan. 4:27)

It is crucial that government leaders have an accurate and true understanding of the causes of poverty and prosperity. In economics as well as in every other area of government, “If a ruler listens to falsehood, all his officials will be wicked” (Prov. 29:12).

If you have leadership responsibility in a poor nation (or a developed one), you also have a tremendous opportunity. You have the potential to do great good for your nation. In doing so, it is possible that you will be honored in history as one of the heroes who served his nation well and changed its history for the better.[1]

If you are not a Christian believer, we must emphasize that doing good for your nation will not earn you eternal salvation (that comes only as a gift to those who trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins; see Rom. 3:23; 6:23; John 1:12; 3:16). Therefore, we urge you now to place your trust in Christ, and also to continue to do good.[2]

If you are a genuine believer in Jesus Christ, and if you work to solve the problem of poverty in your nation, even if you do not immediately receive the praise of your people, you will have the far greater joy of knowing that you have done “what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph. 5:10). He will reward you in the way he thinks best, both in this life (to some degree), and in the life to come (with great abundance). You will be laying up for yourself “treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:20). You will have the joy of knowing God’s favor on your life because you are doing things that please him.

That is the challenge we put before you in this book.

  • [1] Collier, The Bottom Billion, has sobering but realistic assessments of the challenges faced by goodleaders who seek to transform poor nations where corruption is widespread: see especially chapters5, 6, 8, and 11.
  • [2] For a further explanation by one of us about what trusting in Christ means, see the video by WayneGrudem, “What Is Salvation?” at http://scottsdalebible.com/sermons/the-turning-point.
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