I was born in 1961 to a wonderful young couple, who then complicated my world by giving birth to two more boys, David and Bruce, in 1962 and 1964. Three sisters would come later, but it was my brothers who first posed a threat to my rule of the household, and I a similar threat to them. We were regularly telling each other what to do: “Stop touching me.” “Give me that truck.” “Open the door.” “Be quiet.” “Get off my bed.”
We loved giving orders. We hated receiving them. And so, when a sibling order was issued, you would hear us saying things like “no” and “you’re not the boss of me.” And there was this classic line: “You can’t tell me what to do.” That captured my basic philosophy of life. I can tell you what to do, but you can’t tell me what to do. At age five, I wanted to rule the world. And nothing has changed in 51 years since then. I still want to rule the world. We all do.
Everybody wants to rule the world.
Does that feel too strong? See if I am not right. See if what my brothers and I did at age 5 isn’t exactly what we all still do today. I’ll start here. Everyone believes that there are some things people shouldn’t do and some things they should do. And we disagree on such things, with conflicting thoughts on what people shouldn’t do: abortion, pornography, proseletyzing, murder, stealing, divorce, adultery, lying, gambling, eating animals, etc. Some will recoil at a word like sin, but everyone believes there are things people ought not do, behaviors that are not good for the world, choices people have no business making.
The rub is always this: Who decides? Some believe in a God who decides. But even if you don’t believe in god, you end up believing in someone god-like who decides—someone who “rules the world,” someone who decides and tells what is moral for others but cannot be told what is moral for him/her. Invariably, that god is me. Ask me about murder. I will not just say it is wrong for me, but that it is wrong for others as well. But I will buck the idea that someone else’s moral imperative applies to me…unless I agree with it! I believe my moral ideas should apply to others, but I don’t believe theirs apply to me.
Everybody wants to rule the world…but not be ruled by anyone else in the world.
We default to this god-like posture without even realizing it. Our claim can even sound liberating and noble. Actor Peter Fonda is quoted as saying: “I have always maintained that society has no business dictating morality.” (www.brainyquote.com) Hmm. That sounds great, but…aren’t you dictating what society ought to do? It’s not ok for them to dictate to you, but it is OK for you to dictate to them. They can’t tell you what you ought to do, but you can tell them what they ought to do. They can’t act like God, but you can. I have had this same struggle my entire life.
Everybody wants to rule the world…but that is a recipe for disaster.
God graciously gives all of us this fundamental instruction: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (The Bible, Exodus 20:3, NIV)
Let me rule the world…even though you want to.
“You shall have no other gods before me.” I humbly suggest this paraphrase: “Trust me above any other. Submit your idea of what is best for the world to my idea of what is best for the world. Do what I instruct you to do even when you don’t agree with me. I am going to give you instructions that may not sound good or right to you, words like: forgive, be generous, extend patience, be faithful to your spouse, tell the truth, love your enemies. Trust me, and let me rule your world. I am not here to ruin you; I am here to bless you. For that to happen, you must let me be God.
Everybody wants to rule the world, but the world is better when God rules alone.
[Feature photo from Qimono on Pixabay.com.]
I really like the opening reference to your childhood. I relate so well that I’m smiling and mentally picturing it all when you sneak in the punchline that makes me pause: we are still those kids. Personally, I don’t just want to rule the world; it seems I’d like to control it all as well which is one more way I try to avoid God as God.
Our ongoing conversations on this subject have shaped me and I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability as usual. Thanks for sharing!
Our conversations bring me more joy and grace than you know.