One of the reasons George Washington was highly regarded was because he refused to allow his officers to declare him king.
At the end of the Revolutionary War, American soldiers, who had forgone pay for as long as six years, learned that a nearly bankrupt Congress was considering never paying them. In response many of them, including key officers, approached Washington to join an armed rebellion against Congress and allow himself to be set up as king. Washington vehemently refused:
Gentlemen, as I was among the first who embarked in the cause of our common Country; as I never left your side one moment, but when called from you on public duty; as I have been the constant companion and witness of your Distresses…it can scarcely be supposed…that I am indifferent to [your] interests. But…this dreadful alternative, of either deserting our Country in the extremest hour of her distress, or turning our Arms against it…has something so shocking in it that humanity revolts from the idea…. I spurn it, as every Man who regards liberty…undoubtedly must.”
Washington’s refusal to seek political or financial reward for his years of military service astonished everyone—even the king of England! When George III heard of it he exclaimed, “If true, then he is the greatest man in the world.”
Washington’s men had not only misjudged his character, but they had also misjudged the nature of the nation he had helped to establish, for it was free. Setting up a monarchy would have destroyed everything he had fought so fiercely to defend.
In the Bible we read of a similar incident, except in this case, higher principles were at stake.
When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (John 6:14-15)
Jesus had just fed 5,000 men, not counting women and children, with five loaves and two fish. After everyone was full, twelve basketfuls were left over. This impressed the crowd so much that they tried to take him by force to make him king. But Christ refused them. He did so because they had a correct impression that had been corrupted by a mistaken one. They correctly assumed that Jesus was a king. But they made the mistake of thinking His kingdom was earthly in nature. When Pilate cross-examined Jesus he asked if he was a king, to which Jesus responded, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn. 18:36). That is why Jesus wouldn’t let the crowd make him their king. They didn’t understand what kind of a king he was.
What about you? Is Jesus your king? If so, what kind of a king? Do you view him as an all-powerful friend who will run to your aid when you get into trouble? Are you looking to him as a king who will serve your purposes? Or is he the one to whom you have put on the throne of your heart? Are you submitting to Him in all things?