And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.
“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That quote comes from a nineteenth-century English historian, Lord Acton, who described the abuse of power among rulers. This certainly applies in the context of politics or government. Solomon had absolute power. He got whatever he wanted. And that power and the pursuit of desire turned his heart from God. Solomon needed a good old-fashioned dose of temperance.
As we prepare for mid-term elections in our country, I encourage everyone to vote. But who should you vote for? That is a prayerful decision between you and God. As you pray, there are seven character traits to look for in a leader. Here is virtue number four: temperance.¹
While not the most attractive virtue, temperance tells us so much about a candidate. Dan Taylor and Mark McCloskey wrote, “Temperance is self-restraint, the ability to control (even say ‘no’ to) harmful drives, impulses, and passions…It is an expression of discipline and self-mastery that allows a leader to function under pressure, including external pressure from extremists and ideologues to act rashly to accomplish immediate and simplistic goals.”² Scripture says a church leader must be “temperate” and “self-controlled” (1 Timothy 3:2 NIV). We should expect nothing less from our national leaders.
A great illustration of temperance was found in President Abraham Lincoln. After the South was defeated during the Civil War, some extremists wanted to wipe all Southerners off the map. Lincoln refused such harsh action, and in doing so, he started a healing process for the nation.
It is said that Harry Truman wrote many angry letters and memos. One letter even called for the destruction of every major Russian city. But Truman had the temperance never to send those letters.
George Washington was another president who demonstrated temperance. He was able to walk away from power when people were begging him to stay in office. Some even wanted him to be crowned the new king.
Power does corrupt. That is why we need men and women of temperance—having self-restraint and control to lead us.
Father, first help me be a person of temperance. We all have desires that, left unchecked, will land us in unhealthy places. By your Spirit living within us, help us be those who put to death the desires of the flesh. And give us the wisdom to choose leaders who demonstrate temperance. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
¹ These seven virtues are taken from my book, Picking a President: Seven Characteristics to Evaluate, (Back to the Bible, 2016).
² Daniel Taylor and Mark McCloskey, “How to Pick a President: Why Virtue Trumps Policy,” Christianity Today (Vol. 52, No. 6), June 2008, www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/june/17.22.html.