Noblesse Oblige

from Mar 18, 2011 Category: Articles

Noblesse ObligeWatching The King’s Speech reminded me of the purpose of kings who reign but don’t rule. They serve an important function for a given culture, one that in turn touches on the whole nobility. Kings serve as “public persons,” personifications of the morals and manners of the nations. This concept, rightly understood is the broader context for what we mean when we speak of noblesse oblige, the obligation of the nobility. Too often we reduce it down to a sort of financial “to whom much has been given much is expected” principle that argues if you have a lot you have an obligation to give a lot. Instead it understands the more subtle workings of leadership. A given culture is not made up only of its highest classes. It will, however, always reflect its highest classes.

Consider the history of Israel. The spiritual rise and fall of God’s people in the Old Covenant isn’t told through following a single middle class family across the generations. Neither, strangely, are we given accounts of faithful high priests during the good times and unfaithful prophets during the hard times. Instead we follow the lives of the kings. When they succumbed to idolatry, the nation succumbed to idolatry. When they destroyed the idolatrous high places, the nation was blessed. Those who rule over a nation will set its course, then and now. The behavior of those in power, therefore, has deep and profound influence beyond the mere exercise of that power.

This does not mean, however, that we need to pray more fervently that the President would be more true to his confession of a Christian faith. It does not mean that we ought to look harder for a House Speaker who keeps his marriage vows. It is true that our nation’s spiritual health is intimately tied to the spiritual health of its rulers. It is false that the men and women on C-Span rule our nation. There is instead a cadre of real power, a conspiracy that rules behind the scenes. This organization, on the one hand, is right out there in the open. Its agenda, however, tends to be overlooked. It is working for absolute world domination, and has been at it for centuries. It is called the church of Jesus Christ.

The Bible tells us that we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). That doesn’t mean that we are with Jesus, and because we have chairs we are comfortable. Instead we now sit with Him in a place of rule. Our seats are thrones. The Bible tells us that we are a royal priesthood (I Peter 2:9). We are now kings and queens, and according to I Corinthians 6:2 we will one day judge the whole world. The good news then is that we, just us, have the power, by God’s grace and through His Spirit, to change the whole world. The bad news is that our current cultural mess is our fault. We are kings like Ahab, queens like Jezebel.

A dissolute king can not wring his hands over a decadent country. He has only himself to blame. And so do we. When we start seeing children as a blessing, we will no longer be a nation that murders babies. When we start paying our tithes and living within our means, we will no longer be a nation that consumes half its citizens’ wealth through taxation, and that thinks borrowing is the key to prosperity. When we start loving our wives, and our wives start honoring their husbands, we will no longer be a nation of illegitimate children and the seriously confused. When we stop dressing and talking and thinking like teenagers, we will no longer have to live in Slacker Nation. 

We are the nobility of this world. Now we must learn to be noble.

We are the nobility of this world. Now we must learn to be noble.