The words of Proverbs 14:34 could be chiseled on the tombstone of many civilizations: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” We think we can build a nation on the gross national product or defend it with armaments, but God says that countries are built on the character of their people.

The people of ancient China sought security from the barbaric hordes that swept down from the north, so they erected the Great Wall of China. The massive wall stretched for 1,500 miles. It was 12 to 40 feet wide and 20 to 50 feet high. The wall was too high for the enemy to scale, too thick to tear down, and too long to go around.

Yet during the first 100 years of the wall’s existence, China was invaded three times. How was the security breached? The enemies simply bribed a gatekeeper and then marched easily through a gate. The fatal flaw in China’s defense lay in spending its wealth to build a wall but paying much less to build the character of the gatekeepers.

A bigger defense system won’t ultimately protect our nation. But we can contribute to her security by being “blameless and harmless, . . . without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15).