Faithlife Sermons

Power corrupts the very Best men

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It might interest you to know that the first power play happened not on Wall Street nor on a battlefield, but in a garden. The first promise of prestige was whispered with a hiss, a wink, and a snakish grin by a fallen angel.

Standing in the shadow of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Satan knew what to offer Eve to convince her to eat the apple. It wasn’t pleasure. It wasn’t health. It wasn’t prosperity. It was … well, you read his words and look for his lure:

“God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The words found a soft spot.

“You will be like God ….”

Eve stroked her chin as she replayed the promise.

“You will be like God ….”

The snake pulled back the curtain to the throne room and invited Eve to take a seat. Put on the crown. Pick up the scepter. Put on the cape. See how it feels to have power. See how it feels to have a name. See how it feels to be in control!

Eve swallowed the hook. The temptation to be like God eclipsed her view of God, and the crunch of an apple echoed in the kingdom. You know the rest of the story.

Now, perhaps your flirtations with power haven’t been so blatant. No doubt, you were amused at the thought of spending six grand on a table manners seminar. No doubt you’ve shaken your head in amazement at the buy-outs staged by the barons of Wall Street. No doubt you’ve been chagrined by the murders ordered by drug lords and kingpins. That type of power play has no attraction for you. If the snake were to woo you with promises of status, you’d send him back to the pit, right?

Or would you? “King of the Mountain” comes in many forms.

It’s the boss who won’t compliment her employees. After all, workers need to be kept in their place.

It’s the husband who refuses to be kind to his wife. He knows if he does he will lose his most powerful weapon—her fear of his rejection.

It’s the employee who places personal ambition over personal integrity.

It’s the wife who withholds sex both to punish and persuade.

It might be the taking of someone’s life, or it might be the taking of someone’s turn. It might be manipulation with a pistol, or it might be manipulation with a pout. It might be the takeover of a nation by a politician, or the takeover of a church by a preacher.

But they are all spelled the same: P-O-W-E-R.

All have the same goal: “I will get what I want at your expense.”

All have the same game plan: push, shove, take, and lie.

All have listened to the same snake, the same lying Lucifer who whispers into the ears of anyone who will listen, “You will be like God.”

And all have the same end: futility. Please note carefully what I am about to say. Absolute power is unreachable. The pole to the top is greasy, and the ladder rungs are made of cardboard. When you stand at the top—if there is a top—the only way to go is down. And the descent is often painful.

Ask Muhammed Ali.

You know Ali, the unprecedented three-time world heavyweight boxing champion. His face has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated more times than any other athlete. When he was “floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee,” he was king of his profession. An entourage of reporters, trainers, and support staff tailed this comet as he raced around the world.

But that was yesterday. Where is Muhammed Ali today? Sportswriter Gary Smith went to find out.

Ali escorted Smith to a barn next to his farmhouse. On the floor, leaning against the walls, were mementos of Ali in his prime. Photos and portraits of the champ punching and dancing. Sculpted body. Fist punching the air. Championship belt held high in triumph. “The thrilla in Manila.”

But on the pictures were white streaks—bird droppings. Ali looked into the rafters at the pigeons who had made his gym their home. And then he did something significant. Perhaps it was a gesture of closure. Maybe it was a statement of despair. Whatever the reason, he walked over to the row of pictures and turned them, one by one, toward the wall. He then walked to the door, stared at the countryside, and mumbled something so low that Smith had to ask him to repeat it. Ali did.

“I had the world,” he said, “and it wasn’t nothin’. Look now.”

The pole of power is greasy.

The Roman emperor Charlemagne knew that. An interesting story surrounds the burial of this famous king. Legend has it that he asked to be entombed sitting upright in his throne. He asked that his crown be placed on his head and his scepter in his hand. He requested that the royal cape be draped around his shoulders and an open book be placed in his lap.

That was a.d. 814. Nearly two hundred years later, Emperor Othello determined to see if the burial request had been carried out. He allegedly sent a team of men to open the tomb and make a report. They found the body just as Charlemagne had requested. Only now, nearly two centuries later, the scene was gruesome. The crown was tilted, the mantle moth-eaten, the body disfigured. But open on the skeletal thighs was the book Charlemagne had requested—the Bible. One bony finger pointed to Matthew 16:26: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”

You can answer that one.

Lucado, M. (1996). The applause of heaven (154). Dallas [Tex.: Word Pub.

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