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Power Corrupts

Power Corrupts

If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task . . . He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 1 Timothy 3:1-6

Working in jail has meant a new ID badge for me. Because the jail is part of the Sheriff’s department, my badge now says “Sheriff” on it. I’m not a deputy, but those who see the badge don’t know that. I like it. I’m like a little kid when he gets a toy badge and gun. I don’t have any sheriff’s power though, which is a good thing, because I’m sure it would go straight to my head. As I was driving yesterday, I saw someone pulled over by law enforcement and I began wondering how I would drive if I was above the law. I know sheriffs aren’t above the law, but I’m afraid the authority would make me feel as if I was.

I know this from experience. I once used my DEA license to obtain opioids for my own use. I had a certain amount of power and I misused it for my own gain. Because I was a physician, I thought I could get away with it. I didn’t become a physician for that reason of course. I became a physician for a noble reason – I wanted to help others. When I realized that I could help myself too though, I corrupted my power for my own purposes.

Paul warned of the temptation of power and corruption. In today’s passage, he described the responsibilities of a church overseer – or pastor. He said that it’s a noble thing to aspire to leadership, but he also provided a warning. Whoever seeks to lead must not be immature, lest the power of leadership corrupt that individual. Paul knew that power easily leads to arrogance, conceit, and self-seeking.

We all exercise some authority over something but we’re not all corrupted by our power. None of us have unlimited authority though. What if we did? What would we do if we knew we could get away with anything without consequences? The problem is that no matter how noble our initial intent is, if we realize that we can help ourselves to whatever we want, our motives are easily corrupted.

It’s a noble thing to want to become a sheriff or physician. In any position of power though, we must daily look inward, asking if we’re doing the job for the right reasons. Am I doing this for the good of others? Or am I just doing it for myself? If we’re doing a job only for ourselves, we may already be more corrupt than we realize.

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