Where are the Grownups?

Opinion by Jim Denney

When I was a child, I thought grownups had everything figured out. I looked at the example of my parents, and I assumed that all grownups were wise, knowledgeable, and sensible. Now that I’m a grownup, I know better.

I watch the news and see the squabbling, pettiness, selfishness, dishonesty, and corruption among our so-called “leaders” and I wonder why I ever wanted to grow up. I see far more wisdom and maturity in my children and grandchildren than I see in most of the people who are running our world.


The National Debt Clock one block away from Times Square in New York City, April 2012. Today the national debt stands at more than $22 trillion. (Photo by Valugi, used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

There’s a deadly axe poised over the throat of our nation. Our leaders know it. They are saying nothing and doing nothing about it. That axe is the national debt.

When Admiral Mike Mullen was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he repeatedly warned us that the national debt is “the greatest threat to our national security.” And former Defense Secretary James Mattis, during his 2017 confirmation hearing, agreed and added, “I consider it an abrogation of our generation’s responsibility to transfer a debt of this size to our children.”

Despite these warnings, our nation’s leaders are spending lavishly today while passing the bill to our children and grandchildren. This is generational theft, the parents stealing from their own offspring.

Both political parties are to blame. Both houses of Congress are to blame. All recent occupants of the White House are to blame. The news media are to blame. And We the People are to blame. Our leaders know that voters like to get “free stuff” from the government, and we don’t care who pays for it — even if we pass the bill to our children and grandchildren.

So our leaders battle each other for power and partisan advantage and do nothing to solve the great existential crisis of our time. Terrorists and other nations can’t destroy America — but our own leaders can. And they are. While they battle for political turf, the debt crisis threatens to collapse the world economy. Our so-called “leaders,” our “grownups,” are like children bickering over who gets to sit in the deck chairs on the Titanic.

What a contrast between the “leadership” we see all around us and authentic biblical leadership as described in Ray Stedman on Leadership. Ray was the pastor of Peninsula Bible Church in California for four decades. I began working as Ray’s writing partner in 1992, the final year of his life. He was a leader of great character and integrity — and this book contains his wisest insights on leadership from a biblical perspective. For more than twenty-five years, I’ve been privileged to work with transcripts and recordings of his sermons, helping to turn them into books. I think Ray Stedman on Leadership may be my favorite among the twenty-five books I’ve worked on with Ray. Here’s an excerpt from that book:

“The Leader in Conflict” by Ray Stedman

Ray Stedman on Leadership - ExtWhen I was training for the ministry, I traveled for several months as an assistant to Dr. Harry A. Ironside, pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago. I once heard Dr. Ironside relate an experience from his early life. His mother took him to a church meeting. During the meeting, conflict erupted between two Christian men. The situation became so heated that the men nearly came to blows. One man stood and shouted, “I don’t care what you do — I insist on my rights!”

An older man, who was partially deaf, leaned forward in his chair, cupped his ear, and said, “What did you say, brother? You demand your rights, do you? Brother, if you had your rights, you’d be in hell. The Lord Jesus didn’t come to get His rights — He came to get His wrongs, and He got them.”

The angry fellow blushed and tugged at his collar. “Brother,” he said, “you’re right. I’ve been foolish and selfish. I apologize. Settle the matter as you think best.”

Soon, there was perfect agreement where there had once been bitter conflict. Why? Because a man who had initially reacted in the flesh was reminded of what it means to have the mind of Christ. That reminder changed his heart — and resolved the conflict.

Ray Stedman on Leadership - Interior

Ray Stedman on Leadership:
40 Lessons from an Influential Mentor

by Ray Stedman with Jim Denney;
foreword by Charles R. Swindoll

available at your local Christian bookstore, at Barnes and Noble, at Amazon.com, and at Christianbook.com. Trade paperback and ebook formats.

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