LUST FOR POWER


O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of idleness, despondency, lust for power (φιλαρχίας, любоначалия) and idle talk.” (Prayer of St. Ephrem, Part 1)

The exercise of ”power” or “authority” by some of us is an essential, God-given ministry, whether we are parents, managers, political leaders, church-leaders, or leaders of some other kind. As St. Paul reminds us, ”For there is no authority (ἐξουσία) except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Rom 13: 1) It would in fact be sinful to avoid the exercise of power or authority, if this is part of one’s vocation or ministry. Because somebody has to do it, to maintain the “order” (“taxis” in Greek) of things, as well as the security that order provides for all of us.

But a “lust for power” (φιλ-αρχία, literally a “love” of exercising power) is a sinful, God-less kind of love for power/authority. It is self-appointed and hence self-centered, rather than a response to a call from God. I express this kind of misplaced, God-less “love” for power when I want to dominate a conversation while despising my interlocutor, or meddle in someone else’s life, or offer unsolicited advice, or seek to replace God in someone else’s life, or seek to attract attention to myself in some other way that detracts attention from God. Some examples of the latter would be when priests demand “obedience” to their personal, political views or other tastes rather than lead people to and in Christ; Or when men or women intentionally use their beauty, if they are beautiful, to attract attention to themselves and thus exercise some ”control” over others in a self-seeking, not God-seeking, manner. These are abuses of “empowering,” God-given gifts.

So let me use any “empowering” gifts I may have today in a God-seeking manner; in the Spirit of the cross I have been called to carry. Because power or authority is always a cross, when approached and discerned in God’s light. Let me not avoid the burdens of any power or authority I may have, however unpopular, lest I “miss the mark” when it comes to my vocation or set of responsibilities as a manager, a parent, or something else. “O Lord and Master of my life, give me not the spirit of lust for power.” Amen!

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