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When I was at university, our chancellor would sometimes address the student body and speak about the dangers of a critical spirit. He would often end his admonition with, “Any fool can criticise.” In other words, it doesn’t take a lot of insight or skill to be a critic. It takes zero wisdom to cynically snipe and gripe at those who are leading. In these days, the target of such foolishness seems to be our government. Lately, it seems like a lot of people in our country are dangerously close to proving my chancellor correct. I’ve been dangerously close myself.

With the lockdown shifting to Level 4, our freedoms are still being curtailed quite heavily. To be frank, I’m not in favour of all of them. But that’s my problem. “Deal with it,” is the rebuke I need to hear.

As I addressed a couple of weeks ago, the government is entrusted, by God, with the responsibility of our safety and security (Romans 13:1–7). They have access to a lot more information than I do. Further, they no doubt understand the risks of too much restriction and the risks of too little restriction. The last thing they want is an epidemic that decimates our country, or a complete economic collapse that would take decades to overcome. With such a weighty reality, I sure wouldn’t want to be president. Would you?

Rather than caving to my temptation to criticise, I need to take a deep breath, exercise self-control and use my critical energy to pray.

“Pray before pounce” is my new motto. Though I think it is allowable to respectfully petition the government, I should do so with my petition bathed in prayer.

This week, our church is being called to pray for President Ramaphosa. As our leader, we have a biblical responsibility to do so (1 Timothy 2:1–4). Our president professes to be a Christian. That is further motivation to pray for him.

When the name of the president is on our tongue this week, when we speak of other government leaders this week, will it be in prayer or in foolish castigating? James warns us about the danger of slandering people, which includes our government people. He wrote, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers…. Who are you to judge your neighbour?” (James 4:11–12). Earlier, after pointing to the poisonous potential of the tongue (or email, or Facebook post, or …) James was gobsmacked that, out of “the same mouth come blessing and cursing.” He passionately appeals, “My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:8–10).

The devil tempted Adam and Eve with the thought that the Governor of their garden was way too restrictive. They played the fool and propagated a race full of fools. But, as Christians, we can be among the wise. We can therefore be among those who are productive in our society. Listen to James again: “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom” (3:13).

“Any fool can criticise”, but by God’s grace we can be among the wise. And so, as you and I pray for our president this week, let’s pray the Lord to grant him wisdom. And while we’re at it, let’s be sure to ask for wisdom for ourselves. He’s promised to grant it (James 1:5).

Pursuing wisdom with you,