World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson


Consideration For The People

The chief concern of any government should be the welfare of its citizens. Therefore the ruler, and hence the government, should be a servant to the people, putting their concerns and needs ahead of his own. He is called the Father and Mother of the People in the Chinese tradition and a Shepherd in the Judeo-Christian and Muslim traditions--titles which express the principle that the ruler should give the people his highest consideration. He should, whenever possible, lighten the people's burdens and abide by the will of the majority. He should give special consideration to the poor and destitute and provide them sufficient means of support. Such a government will be respected by the people, who then will easily submit to its rule.

Governing a large state is like boiling a small fish.

Taoism. Tao Te Ching 60

Lay no burden on the public which the majority cannot bear.

Judaism. Talmud, Baba Batra 60b

The ruler who submits to democratic ideals, His rule is lasting.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Maru, M.1

The highest duty of a ruler is to protect his subjects; the ruler who enjoys the rewards of his position is bound to that duty.

Hinduism. Laws of Manu 7.144

Tao Te Ching 60: Cf. Mencius I.A.6, p. 242. Baba Batra 60b: Cf. Nupe proverb, p. 255.

The duty of rulers: Gladden the people and do not scare them; make things easy and do not make them difficult.

Islam. Hadith of Bukhari and Muslim

When loss is above and gain below, the people's joy is boundless. When those above exhibit no pride to the ones below them, their virtue is brightly illumined.

Confucianism. I Ching 42: Gain

Emperor Nintoku climbed up a high mountain and, viewing the lands of the four quarters, said, "There is no smoke rising [from fireplaces] in the land. The entire land is impoverished. For a period of three years the people are released from all taxes and conscription." For this reason, the palace became dilapidated; although the rain leaked in everywhere, no repairs were made. The dripping rain was caught in vessels, and the inhabitants moved around to places where it did not leak. Later, when he viewed the land again, the entire land was filled with smoke. Therefore, realizing that the people were now rich, he rein- stated taxes and conscription. For this reason, the common people flourished and did not suffer from his conscription. Thus his reign is praised as being the reign of a saintly ruler.

Shinto. Kojiki 110

God weeps... over a leader who domineers over the community.

Judaism. Talmud, Hagiga 5b

Guardianship is not to give an order but to give one's self.

African Traditional Religions. Nyika Proverb (Kenya and Tanzania)

Confucius said, "To demand much from oneself and little from others is the way for a ruler to banish discontent."

Confucianism. Analects 15.14

Jesus called to them and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Christianity. Matthew 20.25-28

I Ching 42: Cf. Tao Te Ching 19, p. 260; 77, pp. 474-75; Analects 20.1.3, p. 555; Great Learning 10.7-9, p. 806. Kojiki 110: Cf. Man'yoshu I, p. 260; Great Learning 10.7-9, p. 806; Hadith of an-Nawawi 31, p. 821. Analects 15.14: Cf. Analects 20.1.3, p. 555; Great Learning 10.7-9, p. 806.

Desiring to rule over the people, One must, in one's words, humble oneself before them; And, desiring to lead the people, One must, in one's person, follow behind them. Therefore the sage takes his place over the people yet is no burden; Takes his place ahead of the people yet causes no obstruction. That is why the empire supports him joyfully and never tires of doing so.

Taoism. Tao Te Ching 66

A sovereign should become one with his people. The sovereign must think that all that he owns is not for himself, but for his country. If that happens, the country will prosper.

Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 3-17-70

The Caliph is a shepherd over the people and shall be questioned about his subjects.

Islam. Hadith of Bukhari and Muslim

Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the wild beasts.... Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them."

Judaism and Christianity. Ezekiel 34.2-10

Heaven and Earth are the father and mother of the ten thousand things. Men are the sensibility of the ten thousand things. It is telling the truth, thinking well, and seeing things clearly that make the principal ruler. The principal ruler is father and mother to the common people.

Confucianism. Book of History 5.1.1: The Great Declaration

Tao Te Ching 66: Cf. Tao Te Ching 2, p. 807; 3, p. 908; 7, p. 833; 12, p. 801; 28, p. 785; 77, pp. 474f.; 81, p. 833; Mencius I.A.2, p. 278. Hadith of Bukhari and Muslim: Cf. Hadith of Bukhari, p. 232; Hadith of Baihaqi, pp. 918f. Ezekiel 34.2-10: On the prophetic critique of excessive courtly extravagance while the poor suffer, see Jeremiah 7.1-15, p. 921; 22.13-16, p. 904; Isaiah 10.1-4, p. 920; Amos 1.3-2:16, pp. 924f.; 8.4-8, p. 421; 2 Samuel 11-12, p. 881. Book of History 5.1.1: This is the central expression of the duties of the ruler in China. Cf. Mencius I.A.4, p. 879; I.B.8, p. 887.

If the chief has many breasts they are sucked by the people.

African Traditional Religions. Akan Proverb (Ghana)

To speak ill of those in authority because one is not given a share in such enjoyment [as they are privileged to have] is, of course, wrong. But for one in authority over the people not to share his enjoyment with the people is equally wrong. The people will delight in the joy of him who delights in their joy, and will worry over the troubles of him who worries over their troubles. He who delights and worries on account of the Empire is surely to become a true king.

Confucianism. Mencius I.B.4

The government is the guardian of those who have no guardian.

Islam. Hadith

Old men without wives, old women without husbands, old people without children, young children without fathers--these four types of people are the most destitute and have no one to turn to for help. Whenever King Wen put benevolent measures into effect, he always gave them first consideration. The Book of Songs says,

Happy are the rich; But have pity on the helpless.

Confucianism. Mencius I.B.5

At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the Lord's release has been proclaimed.... For there will be no poor among you, for the Lord will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance to possess, if only you will obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all this commandment.

Judaism and Christianity. Deuteronomy 15.1-5

Akan Proverb: In other words, the chief is like a parent who properly places himself and his wealth in the service of the people. Mencius I.B.5: In the Confucian Five Relations, the ethical norm of the ruler towards those below him is benevolence; thus Book of Ritual 7.2.19, p. 216. On the Confucian critique of excessive courtly extravagance while the poor suffer, see Mencius I.A.4, p. 879; I.B.8, p. 997; IV.A.3, p. 920; Book of Songs, Ode 254, pp. 922f. Deuteronomy 15.1-5: The biblical institution of the Sabbatical year granted a reprieve to the poor through a periodic forgiveness of debts. Cf. Leviticus 25.10, p. 255n.

Give the king thy justice, O God, and thy righteousness to the royal son! May he judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with justice! Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness! May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor!

Judaism and Christianity. Psalm 72.1-4

Psalm 72.1-4: This is a royal psalm extolling the virtues of the ideal king. Cf. Jeremiah 22.3, p. 256.

The king's country, Sire, is harassed and harried. There are dacoits abroad who pillage the villages and townships and who make the roads unsafe. Were the king, so long as that is so, to levy a fresh tax, verily his majesty would be acting wrongly. But perchance his majesty might think, "I'll soon put a stop to these scoundrels' game by punishments and banishment, fines and bonds and death!" But their license cannot be satisfactorily put a stop to by such a course. The remnant left unpunished would still go on harassing the realm. Now there is one method to adopt to put a thorough end to this disorder. Whosoever there be in the king's realm who devote themselves to keeping cattle and the farm, to them let his majesty give food and seed corn. Whosoever there be in the king's realm who devote themselves to trade, to them let his majesty give capital. Whosoever there be in the king's realm who devote themselves to government service, to them let his majesty give wages and food. Then those men, following each his own business, will no longer harass the realm; the king's revenue will go up; the country will be quiet and at peace; and the populace, pleased with one another and happy, dancing their children in their arms, will dwell with open doors.

Buddhism. Digha Nikaya i.135, Kutadanta Sutta

Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing, and does not give him his wages; who says, 'I will build myself a great house with spacious upper rooms,' and cuts out windows for it, paneling it with cedar, and painting it with vermillion. Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the poor and the needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? says the Lord.

Judaism and Christianity. Jeremiah 22.13-16

The court is corrupt, The fields are overgrown with weeds, The granaries are empty; Yet there are those dressed in fineries, With swords at their sides, Filled with food and drink, And possessed of too much wealth. This is known as taking the lead in robbery. Far indeed is this from the Way.

Taoism. Tao Te Ching 53

When Po Ch arrived in Ch'i, he saw the body of a criminal who had been executed. Pushing and dragging until he had it laid out in proper position, he took off his formal robes and covered it with them, wailing to Heaven and crying out, "Alas, alas! The world is in dire misfortune, and you have been quicker than the rest of us to encounter it. 'Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not murder,' they say. But when glory and disgrace have once been defined, you will see suffering; when goods and wealth have once been gathered together, you will see wrangling. To define something that brings suffering to men, to gather together what sets them to wrangling, inflicting misery and weariness upon them, never granting them a time of rest, and yet to hope somehow that they will not end up like this--how could it be possible? "The rulers of old attributed what success they had to the people and what failures they had to themselves; attributed what was upright to the people and what was askew to themselves. Therefore, if there was something wrong with the body of even a single being, they would retire and take the blame upon themselves. But that is not the way it is done today. They make things obscure and then blame people for not understanding; they enlarge the difficulties and then punish people for not being able to cope with them; they pile on responsibilities and then penalize people for not being able to fulfill them; they make the journey longer and then chastise people for not reaching the end of it. When the knowledge and strength of the people are exhausted, they will begin to piece them out with artifice, and when day by day the amount of artifice in the world increases, how can men keep from resorting to artifice? A lack of strength invites artifice, a lack of knowledge invites deceit, a lack of goods invites theft. These thefts and robberies--who in fact deserves the blame for them?"

Taoism. Chuang Tzu 25

Jeremiah 22.13-16: Jeremiah addressed this prophetic rebuke to Jehoiakim, son of the good king Josiah. See note to Ezekiel 34.2-10, above. Tao Te Ching 53: Cf. Tao Te Ching 3, p. 908; 12, p. 801. Chuang Tzu 25: Cf. Proverbs 6.30-31, p. 421.


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