Should we thank God for evil leaders? Does 1 Timothy 2 teach that I have to be thankful for every world leader? Are North Korean Christians supposed to thank God for the leaders who kill them? The verse seems to say that, but that doesn't make sense.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 tells us to do several things. Here is the passage.
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim 2:1-4 (NAS95S)
Let’s examine each word that is related to talking with God. The first word that we will examine is the English word “entreaties.” it is translated from the Greek word DEESIS which means “to plead.” It refers to a person who pleads for something when he or she has a need. The Greek that is translated as “prayers” is PROSEUCHE. This Greek word generally refers to conversation or praise that is directed to God only. The Greek word for “petitions” is ENTEUXIS. It means “to make a request due to some injustice that has occurred.” The injustice could have occurred against the one praying or against some other person. “Thanksgiving” comes from the Greek word EUCHARISTIA which means “to express gratitude to God for some benefit or blessing.” We are to do this for all men, including all of our leaders.
Now, why would we want to thank God for someone who was doing evil things to others? The answer is that God has placed them in these leadership roles to accomplish some purpose. For example, King Nebuchadnezzar killed thousands of the Jews in 605 B.C. and took many of them captive to Babylon (2 Kings 25; Daniel 1). He was an evil and arrogant man (Daniel 1-4). Yet, God called the king “My Servant” (Jer 25:9). God used the man to discipline the Israelites for their ongoing sin. God had warned them in a variety of ways by the prophets and they continued to ignore God. So God used the king to discipline them for their sin. Or, consider Cyrus who was the king over the Medio-Persian empire. He was not much better than King Nebuchadnezzar, yet God called him “My Shepherd” (Isa 44:28).
Romans 13 helps us to understand how God uses leaders,
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Rom 13:1-4 (NAS95S)
God puts individuals into leadership. He uses them to accomplish His desires. King Nebuchadnezzar was used to discipline the Israelites for their unrepentant sins. King Cyrus was used to punish King Nebuchadnezzar for the evil that he did against the Israelites. God is not telling us to be thankful for their evil deeds. God is not thankful for their evil deeds. But we are to be thankful that they are God’s tool to accomplish His divine and holy purpose. We cannot see the “holy purpose” because we do not know what God is trying to accomplish or the reason. In these situations we must trust our holy and loving God. We are also told to give every leader honor. He or she is being used by God. God put them into leadership, even if we do not like them.
Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. 1 Pet 2:17 (NAS95S)
We should also pray that God changes the hearts of evil leaders. We should pray for them to believe in God and follow Him. That is the first part of the 1 Timothy 2:1-4.
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Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me . . . Jeremiah 9:23-24
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