I just don’t get the people in today’s first reading. Samuel is getting old and his sons are no good, so the people ask for a king to judge and lead them. But they already have God to judge and lead them. I can’t imagine that a human king could be a better judge or a leader than God. And that is Samuel’s position as well. He tells the people that a human king will have his own agenda and will tax the people, and conscript their children into the army or use them as servants. A human king will take advantage of his power and take from the people. Samuel warns them that the cost of that leadership will be high. They will be better off in probably every way if they do not insist on a king. But the people do insist on a king. They want a king because all the other countries have kings. They want a king to lead them in battle. They want a king to judge their disputes. And these are all very human desires, but they are not in the people’s best interest. God’s law is better than national law. God’s judgment is always fair and not swayed by deception. Following God is a better way to live than following a human king with his own agenda. But the people insist on the path that will ultimately hurt them rather than support them.
I don’t understand it, but I also don’t understand why people today vote against their own self-interest. They vote to support the very rich and they vote to decrease benefits from struggling people who need help. They vote to keep people (like me) from having access to health care. They vote to deny children education and nutrition, both things that could be very helpful for themselves in the long run. Even being told that their own personal situation will suffer as a result, they, like the people in Samuel, refuse to heed the warning.
And any time any of us waver from God’s law, pick an earthly path rather than a spiritual one, or look to a judge who is human rather than divine, we are likewise acting against our own interests. I still don’t think there is a better judge or a leader than God. Following that leader will give us a true benefit, and looking for leadership elsewhere is not in our best interest.