You open your Bible, seeking wisdom and guidance on the subject of leadership. As you read through the pages, stories of kings, judges, and rulers unfold before you. Some led their people wisely and faithfully, following God’s laws. Others abused their power and brought suffering upon their nations. You ponder the state of leadership today – who can you trust? How should you respond to unjust laws? What does God expect of those in authority?
The answers lie within Scripture’s timeless principles. As you explore what the Bible teaches about leadership, a framework emerges to make sense of the good, the bad, and the ugly among today’s rulers.
God Ordains Governing Authorities
The Bible makes it clear in several places that God institutes governing authorities. Romans 13:1 (NKJV) states plainly, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” This means that even wicked rulers have their authority from God. Proverbs 8:15-16 (NKJV) explains further: “By me kings reign, And rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, All the judges of the earth.”
What does this mean for evil leaders who abuse their power? It does not excuse their wickedness. God ordained their position, but they still must answer to Him for how they govern. As Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:21 (NKJV), “He removes kings and raises up kings.” God may allow corrupt rulers to rise for a time, but He can bring them down according to His purposes.
God Holds Rulers Accountable
While God ordains governing authorities, He also holds them accountable for how they use their power. Leaders must rule justly and care for their people, or face God’s judgment. In Ezekiel 34:1-10 (NKJV), God harshly condemns the abusive leaders of Israel called shepherds:
“And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them…”
This shows God’s anger against leaders who exploit and harm their people. Jesus similarly condemned the Pharisees as hypocrites in Matthew 23:13-28 (NKJV), saying:
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in…For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
God expects more from those He places in authority – they must govern wisely and justly.
God Removes Wicked Rulers
The Bible contains many examples of God directly removing or judging wicked kings and leaders. In Daniel 5 (NKJV), God judged King Belshazzar for his pride and arrogance, bringing his reign to an end that very night. Proverbs 16:12 (NKJV) warns that “it is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, For a throne is established by righteousness.” Proverbs 29:2 (NKJV) adds, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.”
In 1 Samuel 15 (NKJV), God rejected Saul as king over Israel for his disobedience. In contrast, David’s reign points to the Messiah – the perfect king who will one day return to rule in righteousness. Until then, God may discipline evil rulers, and raise up new ones who will do His will, as Daniel 2:21 (NKJV) says: “He removes kings and raises up kings.”
Believers can take comfort that wickedness in leadership will not go unjudged by God. He will establish righteousness in His timing. We should pray for God to guide our leaders, remove the wicked, and rule justly through those He raises up.
How Should Believers Respond to Evil Leaders?
When confronted with ungodly leadership, how should you respond as a follower of Christ? First, do not repay evil with evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21 NKJV). Pray for your leaders, that God would grant them wisdom and humility or remove them from their role (1 Timothy 2:1-2 NKJV). Stand for truth, using Scripture as your guide, not man’s authority (Acts 5:29 NKJV). Choose to obey God rather than men when leaders contradict God’s commands (Matthew 22:21 NKJV).
Follow the example of Daniel, who served faithfully under wicked kings yet refused to compromise his beliefs (Daniel 1-6 NKJV). Be prepared to face persecution for standing up for your faith under unjust rulers (2 Timothy 3:12 NKJV). Trust that ultimately, God is in control and will judge every deed – yours and your leaders’ (Ecclesiastes 12:14 NKJV).
You cannot control who rules over you, but you can control how you respond. React with prayer, courage, honor, and faith. God may use your example to draw others to Him. He rewards those who rely on Him during trials and suffering under ungodly authority (James 1:12 NKJV).
Key Takeaways on Evil Leaders:
- God ordains governing authorities, even wicked rulers (Romans 13:1 NKJV)
- Leaders will be held accountable by God for how they use their authority (Ezekiel 34:1-10 NKJV)
- God removes and judges wicked rulers according to His purposes (Daniel 5 NKJV)
- Pray for and honor leaders, but obey God over men when contradictions arise (Acts 5:29 NKJV)
- Do not repay evil with evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21 NKJV)
- Stand on God’s truth–do not compromise under pressure (Daniel 1-6 NKJV)
- Trust God is ultimately in control, and will judge all deeds righteously (Ecclesiastes 12:14 NKJV)
As you close your Bible, you gain perspective from its timeless truths. God is sovereign, and you can trust Him even amid wicked leaders. Relate to authority with wisdom, courage, and faith. Focus on living righteously, no matter who rules over you. And pray for the day when Christ will return to establish His perfect, eternal kingdom!