It was a story that gripped the world for days. A Boeing 777 carrying 239 souls; missing. A desperate search by numerous countries; nothing. Questions in a multitude of dialects and tongues; few answers in any language. As someone put it, “So they can track my phone, but they can’t find a missing plane?”
It’s confounding. In an era of unprecedented technological advances, when images are beamed instantly from every part of the globe, how could this be? With spy satellites that can spot a case of fresh acne in Pittsburgh, it was inconceivable that a jetliner could disappear from earth’s face, undetected, unseen.
Theories about what happened have stacked up like planes over Atlanta. But that, for now, is all they are—theories. And so we’re left to wonder.
This whole thing has gotten me to thinking about government and what it can and cannot do. It was a trip, believe it or not, to first grade that nailed it.
It was the big review for Little Schrock. He’d come home with a list tucked squarely in his red backpack. “We’re reviewing our word wall words,” he’d said, and sure enough. In his sturdy, blue folder was a list of the 25 spelling words they’d memorized for the last 5 weeks.
“If you get all of these right,” I said, looking at my blue-eyed scholar in blue jeans, “I’ll come and have lunch with you.” He wriggled in excitement and set in to practicing his words.
The day the test came home, angels sang. Trumpets blew, and somewhere a choir sang. For on the paper, someone (a teacher) had written in ink, 25/25. A perfect score.
Armed with his favorites, chicken nuggets and barbecue sauce, I joined him at school for lunch. Sitting in the back on a cold, sloppy day, I listened as Teacher prepared her class for recess.
“Remember,” she said, “how we talked about common sense?” She peered at the young, eager listeners, squirming around on the rug like a batch of hot worms. “If you see a puddle of water, are you going to jump in it?”
“Noooo,” chorused the class.
“Good,” she said, “because that wouldn’t be common sense.”
Common sense. A priceless commodity, I thought, sitting there in the first-grade room, that couldn’t be ordered by law. Common sense meant respect. Meant wisdom, clear thinking. Meant sound judgment and making wise choices.
When citizens exercised common sense in their ordinary, everyday lives, they took responsibility for themselves and their families. This, in turn, meant that there was far less of a mess for others to clean up later. Like the government.
A person, for instance, who used wisdom and common sense would know that spending more than one made would lead to disaster. Thus, he or she would apply sound principles in their finances.
People of common sense didn’t live life as victims or opportunists, litigating over things like hot coffee spilled in the lap. In big and small matters, they weighed the consequences of their actions and chose accordingly. In other words, when a “puddle” presented itself, they thought twice before jumping.
Yes, common sense could keep a person from a lot of mud and mess, and government could never decree it. It had to be learned. Had to be taught, and that’s what was happening at school.
There was something else that couldn’t be legislated, I thought that day, and that was morality, or righteousness. This was a matter of the heart, and there wasn’t a king or a ruler who could mandate that.
They could not mandate it, but they could model it. They could choose it for themselves, and they could lead that way.
“Righteousness exalts a nation,” Solomon said, “but sin is a disgrace to any people (Prov. 14:34).”
It’s pretty simple, really. The One who laid the earth’s foundations has placed a high premium on wisdom. And the fear of the Lord (reverential awe) is wisdom’s beginning.
For the people who seek after this wisdom, who trust in Him with all their hearts, not leaning on their own understanding, such are they who receive the smile and favor, the blessing and help of Almighty God. Such is the nation who prospers, whose God is the Lord.
No, human governments can never mandate righteousness, but leaders, citizens, individuals can choose it. We can, each one, repent, turning around from wicked and unwise ways. We can choose the fear of God, and we can choose wisdom.
Oh, let the heavens above this land rain down righteousness (Isa. 45:8). Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, and let it begin with me. Amen.