Conroe, September 3 – Tropical Storm Harvey revealed the regularly amazing work of some local elected officials, such as Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack, who contrast with others who seem to be in hiding only to appear when there’s a photo opportunity available.
State Representative Mark Keough, who is running for Montgomery County Judge and is bringing some great new ideas for reform to the table of discussion, made two interesting points about selecting elected leaders when he spoke with The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, on Monday, August 28, 2017.
First, “there’s a problem with people who have spent a lifetime in the public sector, because those people don’t have a sense of what it’s like to have to make ends meet in the private world,” Keough explained. (Of course, Keough and this newspaper weren’t discussing the law enforcement community that is a very different circumstance from what we were discussing.)
Second, Keough, who is also Senior Pastor at The Woodlands Bible Church and a seminary-trained theologian, said, “I’m committed to public service in the sense that the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13; it’s a subtle message that people need to study and really come to understand.”
Private versus public experience
People who haven’t lived and worked in the private sector for a substantial period of their lives don’t understand the concern people have at the beginning of each day when they must make ends meet to feed and put a roof over the heads of their families and themselves. It’s a feeling that government employees, outside of law enforcement who risk their lives every day, just don’t have. Government employees can mess up but the steady stream of tax dollars flying into public coffers will massage away their mistakes.
Living in the private world is not just a daily challenge. It’s a challenge that requires long-term thinking. A friend of this newspaper in the logging and land-clearing business once said, “I’ve got to make sure I pay my bills each day, but I’ve also got to figure out how to survive in three months from now.”
There’s a real difference between people like Barack Obama and Donald Trump to name one of the starkest distinctions in politicians. Obama never worked in the private world. He was always a public sector employee or worked for non-profit organizations.
Trump is as unconventional as almost any political leader the United States has ever seen. From his early 20s until now, he’s had to make and meet budgets, suffered major setbacks, enjoyed successes, and had to assess and come to understand risk and reward.
That’s not to say that Obama didn’t work hard in his jobs. He did. But, ultimately, he didn’t feel the stress or the concern of a missing safety net. When Trump’s business failed, they went into bankruptcy. When Obama’s community service projects failed, he still received his salary and he moved onto the next project.
Obama worked off of other people’s money. Trump had to earn and live by his own.
There’s a lady inside the Montgomery County government’s Sadler Administration Building whom many people know as one of the meanest, most bitter people in this community. She becomes enraged at even the slightest criticism of the county judge and takes every suggestion of fiscal reform as a direct threat to her economic wellbeing. The thought of reducing County spending is “mean” in her view.
But what this lady has failed to consider is the broad impact that her and her boss’ wastefulness has. October of each calendar year is a frightening time for owners of homes in Montgomery County, especially those people who are retired on pensions or social security or other forms of fixed incomes. Senior citizens and veterans face losing their homes as a result of the massive property taxes the County government imposes. The argument that the County government is only a portion of the annual tax bill rings hollow. The County Commissioners Court should show real leadership in reducing spending that other taxing entities in Montgomery County would likely follow.
What this lady lacks and what many elected officials in Montgomery County also lack is the attitude of being a “servant.” She and her boss don’t work for the people of this community. Rather, the county judge strives to fool the citizens of Montgomery County in ways so that he can plunder additional financial resources and support governmental coffers.
The teachings of Romans 13
When someone such as Representative Keough refers to the teachings of Romans 13, many people take those comments as a commitment that they subject themselves to governmental authority.
This Chapter of Romans often leads to misunderstanding. There is no question that there is a clear direction to “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honor.” (Romans 13:7.) Similarly, 1 Peter 2:21 directs “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake…”
Nevertheless, Romans 13 and the experience of Peter and John when Jewish authorities arrested them in Acts Chapter 4 and 5 made the point that, while one has a duty to honor authority, one does not have a duty to obey the laws of authority if they contradict the laws of the Lord. After their release, Peter and John continued to teach in public and were arrested again. The high priest challenged them with the question why they would violate the direction of the legal authorities. Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29).
Fundamentally, that is the point of Romans 13. While authorities such as the elected members of the Commissioners Court, or even Wayne Mack, may demand obeisance, the citizens of Montgomery County should respect their authority but expect that they act as servants of God rather than of their own whims.
What the Montgomery County government sorely lacks are leaders who understand the difficulty of making ends meet in the private world and who understand their place within the regime of human understanding: they are servants, not gods.