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The ethics of the elected

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

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In the United States, many state governments are finding it important to pass ethics reform legislation that will clarify the relationship between state businesses and the money used to fund political campaigns. In Illinois, the Ethics Reform Act went into effect Jan. 1, promising a new standard for contractors and government officials. Nonetheless, a record number of federal corruption charges are being prosecuted against those who have built their careers on influence peddling.

A spiritual perspective can help keep us active in prayer as the reform measures take effect. The New Testament urges prayer for people in authority (see I Tim. 2:1, 2). But how do we pray to uphold our elected officials when they are under criminal investigation?

The psalms of King David in the Bible are full of prayers for righteousness. As king, David must have known his own need to defend his character and uphold justice in his kingdom. The benefits of obeying wise counsel were clear: "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday" (Ps. 37:5, 6).

That word righteousness is intriguing. The Amplified Bible translates it as "uprightness and right standing with God." It's a test of one's own righteousness to be able to defend the right standing with God that belongs to others, even when they've broken the law. To think of virtue and wisdom as something one makes for oneself, in contrast to those who are less virtuous and unwise, mistakenly identifies the source of righteousness as human instead of divine. It is because the God of truth is the Creator of all that we have the hope of a more broadly expressed integrity.

What is so malicious about self-righteousness is that it refuses to honor the relationship between God and others. Many elected officials unselfishly and willingly work extraordinary hours with little recognition. And while this doesn't excuse lapses in judgment or lawbreaking, the weaknesses are not the whole story.

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