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The Abuse of Power | When Power and Authority Corrupt

Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she.

Esther 1:19

 


 

Abuse of power is the misuse of a position of power to take unjust advantage of individuals, organisations, or governments.

From the outset, the book of Esther thrusts us into an opulent world filled with debauchery, where women are gathered like trophies won in achievement of over-indulgence in power, wealth, and authority. This is no fairy tale, but rather a nightmare consumed by corruption and oppression.

In the opening account, we see Queen Vashti dismissed as she refuses to parade before her husband’s (the Persian king Xerxes) drunken friends. She is instantly dealt with in case other women think about similar rebellion. Xerxes issues an edict that all men are to be masters in their homes and rounds up beautiful unmarried women for his personal harem.

From obscurity, a young woman wins the king’s heart and becomes his new queen. Esther’s gifts are her beauty and her ability to influence, a winning combination in such an oppressive culture. In partnership with her cousin Mordecai and using her standing for the good of her people, she persuades the king to retract an order for the annihilation of Jews throughout the empire. This massacre has been cruelly plotted by Haman, an official of the king, and the date decided by casting lots. In a twist of events, Haman is hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai, and, on the day planned for their annihilation, the Jews destroy their enemies.

Esther’s story invites us to consider how we use our power and authority wisely in our relationships with others. Here we see two different types of relationship. King Xerxes and Vashti experience a marriage in name only. Vashti is forced to flaunt her beauty and rebels against authority, and Xerxes uses his authority to control her. Their marriage represents dominance, conflict, and rebellion.

In contrast, whilst we may question Mordecai allowing Esther to join the king’s harem in the first place, their partnership grows in respect, trust, and wisdom. Esther discerns God’s intention to elevate her position ‘for such a time as this’ (4:14) and, despite significant personal risk, she accepts the challenge. God uses this faithful collaboration to save his people.

God is always working amongst the sin and broken systems of this world. You might sometimes feel overwhelmed by the abuse of power and authority surrounding you. But we can have total confidence that even when it may seem that God is absent, he is always at work behind the scenes. Trusting in that, how might God be wanting you to influence change for such a time as this?

Revd Lyn Weston
Director of Church of England Relations, LICC

Think about the relationships in your life where God may be preparing you to use your standing to make a difference. Despite any unhealthy power dynamics in the situations where you find yourself, how might God be calling you to step forward for his purposes?

Join the conversation in the comments below.

Comments

  1. I was reading from Acts 12 this morning. A story of the church growing strongly and supernaturally amongst Jews and Gentiles. Then, in the middle of this growth is the story of the tyrant, Herod, who elevates himself as a God and is struck down. 12:24 says BUT, the word of God continued to increase and spread. In spite of worldly tyrannical power – much in evidence in many places in our modern world – the Word of God spreads, very much as it did through Esther, not just in word but also in action.
    Worldly tyrants wherever they be, are all subject to God’s authority. The Word of God cannot be imprisoned even in the darkest corners.

    By Philip Ireson  -  27 Jun 2022
  2. Praying for God’s hand on the abuse of power against the people of the Ukraine. for the right interventions for peace to be reached.

    By Claire Nix  -  27 Jun 2022

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