With Great Power Comes Great Responsibilities Essay

This deep-rooted maxim stated by Uncle Ben in the Marvel Comic book “Spiderman” has incredible importance for individuals that aim to achieve great success. Some people choose the path to becoming great and possessing substantial powers. The others look at these people with admiration, but not many get to know the sacrifices these leaders have to make. Holding several large-scale areas of influence in one’s hands demands control, the strength of character, the ability to make decisions rapidly, and admitting failure when the results occurred not as planned. Great front-runners oftentimes have to give away all the other sides of their life to save their powers, respect, and appreciation of the people they are leading. Expanding the control and influence, this one individual has to take responsibility for all the circumstances of his actions. World history knows many examples of crucial decisions taken by the leaders, as well as it remembers decent leaders that were overcriticized by the population. Taking responsibility for people’s future lives, possible failure of the decisions, and performing in the interests of his citizens make a true leader great.

Some of the figures in world history are hard not to mention. The French general and statesman Napoleon Bonaparte drastically changed the country’s military, legal, and educational institutions. He was liable for the change, and he was the individual who had the power to realize it. With France’s ability, Napoleon managed to coordinate Europe into a more robust part lead framework, wrapping Feudalism up and taking the gathering and service under state control (Yepremyan 39). His victory in the middle of the XVIII century made him a king with a vision of making the Europeans great again. In a general sense, less thought expresses results — in the case of the response of the extraordinary powers to the enemies’ progress to conquer France, Napoleon retaliated with anger and vigor. The commitment to lead and make an impact gave Napoleon more prominent duties to spread out better-coordinated game plans as expected by the Europeans for nearly two centuries.

However, being a great power means being prepared to take risks and have a great failure as well. In 1812, during the invasion of Russia, Napoleon was left with one-third of his troops and tricked by the enemy (Bonaparte et al. 113). Brutally cold Russian lands did not spare the soldiers of the European army when they entered empty cities and villages. Later, in October 1813, the troops of Napoleon were crushed at the battle of Leipzig (Bonaparte et al. 156). Forced to exile on the island of Elba, Napoleon is still remembered as a great leader. It is hard to estimate if the ambition and power clouded his mind and made him weaker or if the latter events were simply bad luck. This figure shows the high costs of becoming a great leader.

The Soviet Union was another great power, and its leader Stalin during World War II, managed to defeat Hitler’s army with major success. Stalin was indeed strong, but the question is if he can be called a leader. He managed to gather all the forces of the country and participate significantly in winning the war. At the same time, Stalin is also known as a tyrant as he killed around 20 million citizens (Gugushvili and Kabachnik 332). The brutality of his repressive regime made the people live in endless fear (Gugushvili and Kabachnik 318). On the other side, during the war with the greatest and most disciplined army in the world at that time, Russia needed someone ready to fight using all the resources. The ruler remained in the memory of many a hero. Still, some consider him a villain (Gugushvili and Kabachnik 321). The great power Stalin possessed is undiscussable but his attitude toward civilians is still a question.

The word “great” either refers solely to making the country great in the eyes of other nations or it means providing people with care and support. A true leader will not want to harm his citizens directly, using his power and spreading fear. That is why great responsibilities are following the great power as uncontrolled or focused on limited, influence-based goals cannot lead the people of the country to a good life. Sadly, but truly, Russia has a pattern of suffering from great leaders as their greatness, developed within decades of their ruling, destroys the lives of its citizens. The current geopolitical issue with Ukraine is a result of one overpowerful leader fighting for his influence. The leadership that harms and destroys spreads fear and the feeling of insecurity cannot be called a true one.

It might be hard to estimate from modern times the actions of countries facing the army of Hitler. His beliefs in a supreme race broke all the principles of ethics. Hitler wanted Germany to become a great superpower. Still, the way he spread nationalism with propagandistic approaches gave no choice to people to have other opinions (Fritz 23). Hitler built a great military force that was feared by many countries and could not be defeated for a long time. As world history shows, idealistic approaches tend to crush eventually and quickly take away all the believers in former leaders’ tactics.

This paper discussed three great leaders in the last 250 years of world history: Napoleon, Stalin, and Hitler. This assignment also questions if true leadership takes roots in possession of power itself or if it initiates in care and serving the country’s citizens. The author believes that, in modern times, humans do not need a great superpower. Citizens of each country simply want to live a good-quality life, have no political restrictions, and be friendly to other countries. People want successful trades, growth of the economy, and rational decisions from their leaders. They do not obligatory have to be great and remembered by history as heroes. Ruling by giving, caring, supporting, and being proactive defines a leader of the country. This represents responsibilities, adequate possession of power, and appreciation from the residents.

The modern world does not want superpowers such as France at the end of the XVII century, Great Britain in the XIX-XX century, and the United States at the end of the XX century. The fight between these great powers has led to destruction, deaths, and pain. The current fight of the Russian ruler for his power in Ukraine also confirms the latter. Great power, in this sense, takes responsibilities, high risks, and possibilities of failure. The real leading should be focused on building trustworthy relationships with other nations, developing economies, realizing student exchange, language learning, allowing free media, and spreading the principles of justice, ethics, and mutual respect among individuals.

Works Cited

Bonaparte, Napoleon, et al. The Works of Napoleon Bonaparte: Life & Legacy of the Great French Emperor: Biography, Memoirs & Personal Writings . E-artnow, 2022.

Fritz, Stephen. The First Soldier: Hitler as Military Leader . Yale University Press, 2018.

Gugushvili, Alexi, and Peter Kabachnik. “Stalin on Their Minds: A Comparative Analysis of Public Perceptions of the Soviet Dictator in Russia and Georgia,” International Journal of Sociology , vol. 495, no. 5-6, 2019, pp. 317-341.

Krueger, I. Joachim. “The Phantom of the Omniscient Leader,” The American Journal of Psychology , vol. 133, no. 4, 2020, pp. 509–553. Web.

Yepremyan, Tigran. “Napoleonic Paradigm of European Integration: Theory and History”, Napoleonica. La Revue , vol. 39, no. 1, 2021, pp. 35-53.

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With great power comes great responsibility – Essay, Meaning

January 19, 2020 by Sandeep

Essay on With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility – Expansion of Idea

‘With great power comes great responsibility.’- While most of the world credit fictional character Ben Parker to have first quoted it in the famous Spiderman series, the first person to actually mention it was the 18th century French enlightenment writer named François-Marie Arouet, who is more conventionally remembered as Voltaire.

While what he preaches through, it is suitable for a morally upright person who has been in power, but it does not explicitly apply to every powerful character in this world. Every human wishes to impose his thoughts and ideologies upon others to be able to make life easier for themselves.

Compromise is second to this. Fortunately, most people have to choose the latter only because they are not in possession of power. But ambitious people, who have a vision for their society, nation or the world altogether, often tend to break their limits to attain the position of great power.

It is then, their opinion matters enough to be able to affect the thoughts of the people he is surrounded by. But the most important catch here is how well he manages this great power he has been bestowed with. Does he use it holding on to humane ethics, or does he let it intoxicate his soul?

Power and its influence

Power is a term with varied interpretation, but the core meaning of the word remains the same- to influence any decision and action. This is the sole reason that enamours people to attain it. Power comes in various forms and influences people accordingly. One type is the physical type, the power of the body. Naturally, every non-disabled person is gifted with this one.

The ability to walk, run, lift things and carry out other days to day life activities. Notice how every bodily action that one is capable of is an attempt to influence their surroundings. What differentiates physical power from great physical power is strength.

Power channels its influence through two mediums- respect and fear. Naturally, building muscles, stamina and endurance will give any person the physical ability to achieve things far better than an average human. They can run faster, lift heavier and are hardened.

The natural medium of channelling influence through physical power is fear. It is very evident when a being possessing physical powers beyond our limit, it intimidates us strongly. The 2017 Delhi Zoo incident, where a 22 year old man fell into a white tiger enclosure, which had trended on social media and news channels for various reasons, is a perfect example of how physical power strikes fear in the hearts of physically weak.

We have domesticated small cats but not tigers or lions , just because smaller cats are physically weaker than us, while tigers are physically stronger than us. The case is similar for interpersonal relations too. People would tend to stay on the good pages of a physically strong person; unless they possess power in other sorts.

The power which can counter physical power is mental power. The human brain is the most advanced brain that is known to this planet so far. Inventions and discoveries are evidence of this statement.

While we are the most intelligent species, at the same time, we are also physically fragile, hence to make up for that, we invented many things which help us protect ourselves and preserve our welfare.

A competent person is someone who has knowledge. Wisdom is the weapon of the sages. Hence, the importance of education and general awareness should be instilled in an individual from a young age.

While mind power can get a person some position of power, it is the power of expression that will put them in a much more advantageous position. A good grasp over language and oration attracts people as it is able to stir the emotions inside the common folk.

The best of the world leaders have been unmatched orators who were able to tap into the mob sentiment and harness it to influence their decisions. Paired with exceptional wisdom and experience, the power of expression has emerged as a deciding factor for leaders to be chosen.

Finally, there also exists the power of ethics. We, the people of India, have given unto ourselves a constitution . Similarly have many other nations. The constitution is a general rule book consisting of rules and regulations that govern a country.

This is a major feat as influencing the decisions of people across a whole nation is no easy feat. But legal powers are an artificial power, created and compiled by humans, hence needs human intervention to be enforced upon other people. They can command both respect and fear amongst the citizens of the nation they belong to.

The Power-Responsibility Continuum

Power tends to corrupt; hence great power can lead to absolute corruption. John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, a famous English historian, had once stated- ‘Great men are almost always bad men’. But the way he cautiously added “almost” in his statement is proof itself that this hypothesis has exceptions.

Once in power, it’s easier to give in to the tyrannical temptations it offers than to use it judiciously. Hence it is taken for granted that a man in power is bound to become an autocrat.

But at the same time, Lord Acton’s contemporary, John le Carre, had once said- ‘All power corrupts, but some must govern.’ Hence it takes conscious efforts to keep in check ourselves and not fall into the void of avarice.

The principle of power is to influence, hence once attained; it compels people to skip the morality and infringe others’ rights. The biggest examples of this are the dictatorial states and tyrannical autocracies.

History has been a witness to one of the most brilliant of persons, who after acquiring the position of high power, blatantly gave up on their morality to commit unethical deeds.

The Jewish holocaust is an irredeemable malady that brings Hitler amongst the list of most infamous characters in the history. A brilliant strategist and an exceptional orator, Adolf Hitler had in his hand the power that most dream of.

Yet, lacking morality, he used his powers irresponsibly, which ultimately caused his downfall. Even in the 21st century, we find examples in the form of Arab and African dictators who gave in to the enticement of power. Muammar Gaddafi and Robert Mugabe are two of the best examples of the Modern Era of the irresponsible use of power.

They did start as popular leaders working for the welfare of their people, but over the course, the effects of power started to leak into their ideologies which soon led to the rule of tyranny in Libya and Zimbabwe.

But the Arab Spring was to come sooner or later, with the advent of social media and improvement in global communication which brought in with them the widespread revolutions and civil wars in Africa and middle-east.

Hence, power without responsible attitude doesn’t only bring destruction to the powerful personality, but also over his sphere of influence. Under the intoxication of power, if a person refuses to recognise his responsibilities for society becomes unaccountable and loses the trust of society.

There are enough exemplary personalities who have showcased wise utilization of power to live up to their responsibilities. The father of our nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi , has been immortalised as the Mahatma. The people identified the righteousness in his use of power and trusted him to be able to lead them in their fight for independence and achieve liberty.

Probably, the most important responsibility of a man in power is the welfare of his people. And this can only be achieved if the man is morally upright and understands the value of empathy. Another famous example comes in the form of Nelson Mandela – the man responsible for the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa and making it a free nation.

What makes him different from Robert Mugabe is the fact that he knew not only empathy for the people of colour, but also their former white rulers. Mandela saw them all in the same light and took the responsibility of the welfare of both the cultures.

But Mogabe was too inclined towards Black Nationalism to the point of radicalism. Although he was able to dominate his country for years together, his flaws finally led to an unfortunate end for him.

Responsibility without power becomes irrelevant too. For a person to carry out his duties and perform up to his responsibilities, it is vital that they hold power. They should be adequately empowered to be able to entrust them with responsibilities.

Hence power and responsibility are always in a continuum, supporting each other in all aspects of life. Responsibility keeps the access of power in check while power provides a medium for responsibilities to be carried out.

Humanity has thrived seeing both the sides of the coin of power and responsibility. On the side of power exercised responsibly, the people in power were successfully able to keep the interest of the public over their self-interests and work selflessly for the improvement of the world.

Such a leader becomes a crowd favourite as he not only is in power himself but also empowers his society. On the other side of the coin are those who imposed their power irresponsibly, prioritising their personal interests over the desires of the public.

This has brought infamy and notoriety to their names and has always ended in their downfall throughout the timeline of humanity. It is important to possess moral values and humane ideologies to be able to accept power and understand the responsibilities that come with them.

It is the ethics of humanity that keep the leaders from succumbing to the temptations of tyranny which is also part and parcel of power.

Power and Responsibility follow the principle of proportionality. All power, great or small, comes with equally sizeable responsibility. Conclusively, power and responsibility are complementary.

As long as they stay together, they can peacefully govern society, but the moment this law is violated, instability gradually claws through the state of the governance.

‘With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility’: From Age-Old Axiom to Spider-Man’s Mantra

It all started with Jesus. Or Muhammad. Or the Reign of Terror.

By Ellen Gutoskey | Mar 29, 2024

He does rock.

While writing the majority opinion for a 2015 Supreme Court case involving royalties for toy web shooters, Justice Elena Kagan seized the opportunity to toss in a few nods to Spider-Man. 

“[In] this world, with great power there must also come—great responsibility,” she wrote, in reference to the court’s restraint at overturning precedent.

That axiom, often rendered as with great power comes great responsibility , is most closely associated with Peter Parker’s uncle Ben. But Uncle Ben didn’t originate it—and in fact, he wasn’t even the first fictional father figure to say it to a young superhero.

Who Said “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”?

World leaders take up the torch, spider-man: here he comes.

People have been articulating the idea that power comes with responsibility for at least a couple thousand years. You can see shades of it in Christianity’s Parable of the Faithful Servant, in which Jesus tells his disciples that a servant placed in charge of the household shouldn’t take advantage of their master’s absence by carousing and mistreating the other servants.

“For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required,” reads one iteration in the New King James Version of the Bible . Islam has a similar message in one of the prophet Muhammad’s hadiths , translated from Arabic as “All of you are shepherds and every one of you is responsible for his herd.”

Though Voltaire is sometimes credited with coining the phrase with great power comes great responsibility , Quote Investigator couldn’t locate it in any of his writings. The earliest citation they identified is from 15 years after Voltaire’s death, in a 1793 decree written by members of France’s National Convention (the assembly that replaced the monarchy during the French Revolution ).

Louis XVI before the National Convention in December 1792

“ [Les Représentans du peuple] doivent envisager qu’une grande responsabilité est la suite inséparable d’un grand pouvoir ,” they wrote, roughly translated as “[The people’s representatives] must consider that great responsibility follows inseparably from great power.”

Quote Investigator also unearthed enough 19th-century references to suggest that the expression was a pretty popular thing to include in any musings on power. In 1817, for example, British parliamentarian (and future prime minister) William Lamb deployed it during a debate in which he “[reminded] the conductors of the press of their duty to apply to themselves a maxim which they never neglected to urge on the consideration of government—‘that the possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility.’” He was warning journalists not to let their own “interests” and “passions” get in the way of their service to “justice” and “truth.”

Lamb wasn’t the only future prime minister to utter the phrase on the floor of the House of Commons. In 1906, during a debate about how to handle systemic racial injustice in South Africa (and Great Britain’s colonies at large), Winston Churchill used it to express his opinion that their duty to intervene was “directly proportionate” to their power in a given territory. “Where there is great power there is great responsibility, where there is less power there is less responsibility, and where there is no power there can, I think, be no responsibility,” he said .

Both Presidents Roosevelt invoked the adage, too— Theodore in a 1908 letter and Franklin in a 1945 undelivered radio address .

“I believe in a strong executive; I believe in power; but I believe that responsibility should go with power, and that it is not well that the strong executive should be a perpetual one,” TR wrote while explaining why he wouldn’t run for office a third time. (He actually did end up running again in 1912, but that fact doesn’t necessarily contradict what he said about power’s relationship to responsibility: He ran out of a sense of duty to steer the country back toward progressivism.)

Theodore Roosevelt leaning over a railing outside in 1910

For FDR, the responsibility in question had to do with using power to bring about peace: “Today we have learned in the agony of war that great power involves great responsibility. … We seek peace—enduring peace. More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all wars—yes, an end to this brutal, inhuman, and thoroughly impractical method of settling the differences between governments.”

He passed away before he could give the speech, but it was widely printed in newspapers days after his death. Just three years later, with great power comes great responsibility surfaced yet again—this time in reference to literal superpowers.

At the end of the first episode of Columbia Pictures’ 15-part film serial Superman , Jonathan Kent has a pivotal heart-to-heart with his adopted son, Clark.

“You’re different from other people,” he says. “Your unique abilities make you a kind of ‘super-man.’ Because of these great powers—your speed and strength, your X-ray vision and super-sensitive hearing—you have a great responsibility.”

That responsibility, Jonathan explains, is not only to “use them always in the interest of truth, tolerance, and justice,” but also to “go where they can be best put to use.” It’s not exactly a gentle nudge to get his son to fly the coop—he literally tells him “you must leave this farm.” So Clark heads to Metropolis (though only after Mr. and Mrs. Kent have died), and the rest is, if not history, at least common knowledge.

But one fleeting reference in a 1940s film serial is hardly enough to glue with power comes great responsibility to Superman, especially not when it’s competing against decades’ worth of mentions in Spider-Man stories.

The expression first appeared in the first-ever Spider-Man comic, created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and published in 1962’s Amazing Fantasy #15 . Peter Parker uses his newfound abilities to turn Spider-Man into a TV sensation, and the fame makes him so self-involved that he won’t even stop a thief who runs right by him. When that same thief murders Uncle Ben mere days later, Peter is forced to reckon with who he has become.

“And a lean, silent figure slowly fades into the gathering darkness, aware at last that in this world, with great power there must also come—great responsibility!” reads the closing panel .

So while Uncle Ben did inspire the phrasing, he didn’t originally say it himself. He would later, though—first, per GoCollect’s Luke Smith , in a 1972 music-comic fusion album called The Amazing Spider-Man: A Rockomic! . 

“What was it Uncle Ben used to tell me?” Peter says . “I remember, he used to say, ‘Petey, never forget—the stronger the man, the heavier the load. With great power comes great responsibility.’”

It came up a couple times in the 1980s, too: once when Peter hallucinates Uncle Ben during a battle in 1986’s The Amazing Spider-Man #274 ; and again when Peter recalls Uncle Ben’s words in 1987’s Spider-Man vs. Wolverine #1 .

Sam Raimi’s 2002 film Spider-Man reinforced Uncle Ben’s association with the phrase: He says it to Peter by way of explaining why it’s not always good to beat someone up just because you can.

In short, with great power comes great responsibility is a key element of Spider-Man’s character development and it has been since the very beginning. The phrase is so closely tied to Uncle Ben at this point that it’s even become a bit of a cliché, and creators of late have looked for new ways to retain the message without having him say it word for word (or at all). In 2021’s Tom Holland–starring Spider-Man: No Way Home , for example, it’s Aunt May who says it, and she uses the formulation from Amazing Fantasy #15 . In 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse , Miles Morales’s dad tells him that “with great ability comes great accountability.”

“That’s not even how the saying goes, Dad,” Miles says. France’s National Convention would agree.

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Published: Sep 16, 2023

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Table of contents

The origins of the phrase, political leadership and responsibility, corporate responsibility and ethics, media and information dissemination, individual responsibility and everyday choices.

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essay on with great power comes great responsibility

Quote Investigator®

Tracing Quotations

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Voltaire? Spider-Man? Winston Churchill? Theodore Roosevelt? Franklin D. Roosevelt? Lord Melbourne? John Cumming? Hercules G. R. Robinson? Henry W. Haynes? Anonymous?

essay on with great power comes great responsibility

With great power comes great responsibility.

This expression has been attributed to two very different sources: Voltaire and the Spider-Man comic book. Would you please examine its provenance?

Quote Investigator: QI and other researchers have been unable to locate this statement in the oeuvre of Voltaire who died in 1778, and currently that linkage is unsupported.

QI has found a strong match during the period of the French Revolution. The following passage appeared with a date of May 8, 1793 in a collection of the decrees made by the French National Convention. Boldface has been added to excerpts: [1] 1793 May, Title: Collection Générale des Décrets Rendus par la Convention Nationale, Date: May 8, 1793 (Du 8 Mai 1793), Quote Page 72, Publisher: Chez Baudouin, Imprimeur de la Convention … Continue reading

Les Représentans du peuple se rendront à leur destination, investis de la plus haute confiance et de pouvoirs illimités. Ils vont déployer un grand caractère. Ils doivent envisager qu’une grande responsabilité est la suite inséparable d’un grand pouvoir. Ce sera à leur énergie, à leur courage, et sur-tout à leur prudence, qu’ils devront leur succès et leur gloire.

Here’s one possible translation into English:

The people’s representatives will reach their destination, invested with the highest confidence and unlimited power. They will show great character. They must consider that great responsibility follows inseparably from great power. To their energy, to their courage, and above all to their prudence, they shall owe their success and their glory.

Prominent leaders such as Lord Melbourne, Winston Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt, and Franklin D. Roosevelt made similar statements in later years. Also, the appearance of an instance in a Spider-Man story in 1962 was influential in U.S. popular culture.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

A thematic precursor appeared in a well-known Biblical verse: Luke 12:48. The meaning was somewhat different because it did not mention power. The New International and King James translations rendered the verse as follows: [2] Website: Bible Hub, Article title: Parallel Verses of Luke 12:48, Translations: King James Bible and New International Version, Website description: Online Bible Study Suite. Bible hub is a … Continue reading

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

In 1793 the following statement appeared in a volume issued by the French National Convention as mentioned previously:

Ils doivent envisager qu’une grande responsabilité est la suite inséparable d’un grand pouvoir. English translation: They must consider that great responsibility follows inseparably from great power.

In 1817 a debate was held in the United Kingdom House of Commons concerning the suspension of habeas corpus, and a member named William Lamb spoke in favor of suspension. During the following decades Lamb became a powerful political figure, and ultimately he emerged as Prime Minister and now is better known as Lord Melbourne. The transcript of Lamb’s words in 1817 used quotation marks to enclose the maxim indicating that the expression was already in circulation. Please note that the modern reader will find the style of the transcript atypical because it was presented from a third-person perspective. The referent “he” was used to identify the speaker Mr. Lamb: [3] 1817, The Parliamentary Debates from the Year 1803 to the Present Time, Volume 36, Comprising the Period from the Twenty-Eight Day of April to the Twelfth Day of July, 1817, Topic: Habeas Corpus … Continue reading

It was common to speak of the power of the press, and he admitted that its power was great. He should, however, beg leave to remind the conductors of the press of their duty to apply to themselves a maxim which they never neglected to urge on the consideration of government – “that the possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility.” They stood in a high situation, and ought to consider justice and truth the great objects of their labours, and not yield themselves up to their interests or their passions.

In 1854 the Reverend John Cumming, a Minister of the Scottish National Church, published a religious text that included a thematic statement: [4] 1854, Voices of the Dead by Rev. John Cumming (Minister of the Scottish National Church), Chapter 7: Rejected Greatness, Start Page 110, Quote Page 121, Published by John P. Jewett & Company, … Continue reading [5] 2006, The Yale Book of Quotations by Fred R. Shapiro, Section: Stan Lee, Quote Page 449, Yale University Press, New Haven. (Verified on paper)

The order of God’s providence, and certainly the law of Christ’s Gospel, is, that wherever there is great power, lofty position, there is great responsibility, and a call to instant duty. If your house is very magnificent in its architectural splendors without, and in its furniture within, it is that you should look around you, and take care that the houses in the lanes behind shall not be so miserable and wretched as they are.

In 1858 a Masonic periodical called “The Ashlar” printed a thematic instance that re-ordered the sequence of the two key terms: [6] 1858 April, The Ashlar, Allyn Weston and Charles Scott, Volume 3, Number 8, Duties of the W.M., Start Page 348, Quote Page 348, Published by C. Scott & Company, Printers, Chicago, Illinois. … Continue reading

He cannot act on their judgment, but must be governed by his own. As he has great responsibility, he has great power, and is bound by the strongest obligations to maintain that power and the dignity of his office.

During a speech in 1879, Sir Hercules G. R. Robinson extended the saying by adding anxiety as an inescapable addendum: [7] 1879, Speeches Delivered by His Excellency Sir Hercules G. R. Robinson, G. C. M. G.: During His Administration of the Government of New South Wales, (Vice-Regal Visit to Parramatta: Public Banquet, … Continue reading

But great power carries with it great responsibility, and great responsibility entails a large amount of anxiety.

In 1879 a report by the Trustees of the Public Library of Boston, Massachusetts included a statement from Professor Henry W. Haynes that contained a version of the saying: [8] 1879, City of Boston, Twenty-Seventh Annual Report of the Trustees of the Public Library, City Document Number 78, Start Page 1, Quote Page 12, (Quotation appeared in excerpt of report from Prof. … Continue reading

The possession of great powers and capacity for good implies equally great responsibilities in their employment. Where so much has been given much is required.

In 1906 statesman Winston Churchill delivered a speech in the House of Commons that included an extended instance of the adage: [9] 1906, The Parliamentary Debates (Authorised Edition), Fourth Series, First Session of the Twenty-Eighth Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 152 (First Volume of … Continue reading

Where there is great power there is great responsibility, where there is less power there is less responsibility, and where there is no power there can, I think, be no responsibility.

In 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt wrote a letter to Sir George Otto Trevelyan that included a discussion of his reasons for declining to seek a third term as President: [10] 1920, Theodore Roosevelt and His Time: Shown in His Own Letters by Joseph Bucklin Bishop, Volume 2, (Excerpt of letter dated June 19, 1908 from Theodore Roosevelt to Sir George Otto Trevelyan), Start … Continue reading

I believe in a strong executive; I believe in power; but I believe that responsibility should go with power, and that it is not well that the strong executive should be a perpetual executive.

In 1913 John A. Fitch wrote a commentary that discussed the power of the United States Steel Corporation in the journal “The Railroad Trainman”, and he referenced the adage: [11] 1913 April, The Railroad Trainman, Volume 30, Number 4, The Labor Policies Of Unrestricted Capital by John A. Fitch, Start Page 302, Quote Page 305, Column 2, Published by the Brotherhood of Railroad … Continue reading

It may be no crime to be possessed of great power. But great power carries with it great responsibility as to the use that is made of it.

The night before Franklin D. Roosevelt died he penned a speech about Thomas Jefferson which he was planning to deliver during a radio address. Instead, the text was given to journalists after Roosevelt’s death, and it was released by the Associated Press: [12] 1945 April 14, Daily Illinois State Journal, Speech Written By Roosevelt On Night Before His Death (Associated Press), Start Page 1, Quote Page 2, Column 4, Springfield, Illinois. (GenealogyBank)

Today we have learned in the agony of war that great power involves great responsibility. Today we can no more escape the consequences of German and Japanese aggression than could he avoid the consequences of attacks by the Barbary Corsairs a century and a half before.

The heroic fantasy figure Spider-Man was introduced in the August 1962 issue of the comic book “Amazing Fantasy”. The guiding principle of Spider-Man’s actions was formulated in this origin story and expressed as a caption. However, the words were spoken neither by the main character, Peter Parker, nor by his Uncle Ben. Instead, an omniscient narrative voice was employed: [13] 1962 August (Cover Date), Amazing Fantasy #15 (Formerly: Amazing Adult Fantasy), Comic Book Story Title: “Spider-Man!”, Writer: Stan Lee, Illustrator: Steve Ditko, (Quotation appeared in … Continue reading [14] Website: We Minored in Film, Article title: The Origin of “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” & 7 Other Surprising Parts of Spider-Man’s Comic Book History, Article … Continue reading

And a lean, silent figure slowly fades into the gathering darkness, aware at last that in this world, with great power there must also come–great responsibility!

In conclusion, based on current knowledge QI would ascribe the saying to the writer of the 1793 passage, but QI does not know the precise identity of this writer. Also, it is certainly possible that earlier close matches will be discovered by future researchers.

In addition, major figures such as Lord Melbourne, Winston Churchill, and Franklin D. Roosevelt employed versions of the adage. The creators of Spider-Man, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, were important vectors for the popularization of the saying.

Image Notes: Scales of Justice from jpornelasadv at Pixabay. Cropped detail from the painting (Storming the Tuileries) Prise du palais des Tuileries le 10 août 1792, durant la Révolution française by Jean Duplessis-Bertaux via Wikimedia Commons. Two panel low-resolution excerpt from the Spider-Man story in “Amazing Fantasy” used for educational purposes under the Fair Use doctrine.

Update History: On July 24, 2015 the 1817 citation was added.

(Great thanks to Sandra Ikuta whose inquiry about this interesting topic led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Many thanks to S. M. Colowick and Anton Sherwood for providing translations of the 1793 passage. All errors are the responsibility of QI. Also thanks to Kelly Di Donato, Charles Early, and Murl Winters who pointed to the biblical reference. In addition, thanks to the “Yale Book of Quotations” for identifying the 1854 citation. Further thanks to Vaios K. who mentioned the 1817 citation in a response at Yahoo! Answers.)

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What Does 'With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility' Mean for Christians?

  • Clarence L. Haynes Jr. Contributing Writer
  • Updated Sep 28, 2020

What Does 'With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility' Mean for Christians?

And those who have been entrusted with great responsibility will be held more responsible to their master. – Luke 12:48 (TPT) 

Power is very interesting. If used properly it can have wonderful results for those who have it and those for whom it is exercised. However, placed in the wrong hands, power can be disastrous for the one who has it—and everyone around them.

Luke 12:48 highlights this relationship and brings to the forefront this question:

What does “with great power comes great responsibility” mean for Christians?

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/alphaspirit

man holding electrified Bible to signify with great power comes great responsibility, Luke 12:48

Are These Words from a Superhero Story or Our Savior?

This quote is often attributed to Uncle Ben from Spider-Man however the origins of this go back much further. A version of this quote can be traced back to 1793 appearing in a volume issued by the French National Convention . Here is what it said:

They must consider that great responsibility follows inseparably from great power.

Regardless of the exact origin of this quote, we see that Jesus is making a comparison between what you have been given and your attitude towards it. Power along with anything else such as time, talents, treasure, opportunities—and everything God has given you—comes with a responsibility to take care of it.

In other words, this verse is a verse of stewardship. 

If you are not familiar with stewardship it simply means taking care of, utilizing, and maximizing what God has given you for his glory and for the advancement of his kingdom. A steward is not an owner; a steward is a manager.

As the owner, you can do whatever you want with what is declared yours. As a steward, you are responsible to someone else, because what you have actually belongs to them. It's the difference between owning or renting a home. As the owner you can make changes, upgrades...and most of the time do whatever you want to the house. As a renter, you must get approval before you make changes. And when you move out, you are expected to leave the property in a condition similar to when you moved in.

This is at the heart of what Jesus was talking about in Luke 12:48 . However, this requires us to take it a step further to understand what "great power comes great responsibility" means for Christians like you and me today.

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/kevron2001

family bowing heads in prayer together in the park, with great power comes great responsibility

What Great Power and Responsibility Have You Been Given?

Since we are marrying power and responsibility together at the altar of stewardship it makes sense to understand what power and responsibility you have as Christians. What has God equipped you with that you are now responsible for? Here are three to consider:

1. Power to Witness

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. – Acts 1:8

Every Christian (yes, that means you) is empowered with the responsibility of sharing the gospel and being a witness for Jesus. The reason you're able to do this is because God has given you the Holy Spirit...so you can do this effectively. Does this mean you're going to stand before thousands like Peter did on the day of Pentecost and preach the gospel? Maybe, but most likely that's not the case.

However, you do live in a community, have a job, and have friends or family members who don’t know Jesus. These are all places you can be a witness. God has given you the power—now it is your responsibility to do what he requires.

2. Power to Live Holy

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:15-16
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. – Romans 8:13
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16

Back in the old days when I was growing up (for those younger than me, I'm talking about the 1980s) holiness was still important in the church. I'm not sure how often this gets talked about anymore. Can you remember the last time your pastor preached about holiness? Do let me know, because I'm curious to find out. God has given us the responsibility to live holy. The word simply means to be set apart for God’s specific use.

For God to use you, there needs to be a separation from intentionally living a sinful lifestyle.

The good news, again (and I hope you see the trend here) is that God doesn’t just say live holy, he empowers you to do it by the Holy Spirit.

As Christians, great power and responsibility come with the Holy Spirit's ability to carry out what God expects through you. This is why there is no excuse. How amazing God is that he doesn’t just ask or tell you to do something—he makes sure you have everything you need to do what he asks. He makes sure you have the power to carry out the responsibility.

3. Power to Pray

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. – Romans 8:26

One of the most fundamental disciplines we have is prayer . Prayer is when we give God access to interrupt and intervene in our earthly situations. Prayer by itself comes with great power and great responsibility.

For Christians, this is the greatest weapon you have. Yet prayer is not just a weapon, prayer is also the place of surrender. And, of greatest importance, it is the place of communion. Prayer is the place you can sit at the feet of Jesus. Where you can enjoy his presence and where you can commune with your Heavenly Father. It is a place of great power but also a place of great responsibility.

Prayer is the place that allows you to impact things in the heavens through spiritual warfare and things on the earth by seeking Godly intervention. Once again God gives you his Spirit to help you even in prayer. If you sum it up, great power does come with great responsibility. But for Christians (that’s you and me) it also comes with the power to carry out the responsibility.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/McIninch

diverse hands connected together in unity, with great power comes great responsibility

2 Things This Command Does Not Mean

1. Your Power Doesn't Make You Greater Than Another  

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. – 1 Corinthians 12:21-22

The interesting thing about the body of Christ is that every part matters. The parts that have more power are more visible, but notice the parts that are weaker are indispensable. That means the body cannot function without them.

If God has given you more power it is not meant to lord it over anyone. It should be humbling; because it simply means you have more to answer for.

2. Your Power Doesn't Make You Independent

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

As much as God gives power, you must remember the source and the purpose. God’s desire is to help you bear much fruit. However, you cannot bear fruit unless you remain connected to the vine.

Therefore, as powerful as a person may think they are...in reality, their power only works as long as they stay connected to Jesus . What I mean is: you cannot accomplish things for the kingdom of God apart from the power of God.

Even though God gives you the power and the responsibility, it was never designed to be used apart from him.

Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Rawpixel

two clover sprouts entwined to represent the two concepts of with great power comes great responsibility

Tying These Power and Responsibility Concepts Together

I think we have been building a case regarding the relationship between power and responsibility. Indeed, it is true that with great power comes great responsibility. For Christians is there a way to tie this all together? I believe there is. The tie between power and responsibility is grace.

Grace is God giving to us what we don’t deserve . As this applies to power, God entrusts you to partner with him. He gives you the right and the responsibility to do his will in the earth. On the other side, grace doesn’t just entrust, grace empowers. God gives you the responsibility by grace and then he gives you the power to carry it out all by his grace.

Paul marries these two beautifully in 1 Corinthians:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. – 1 Corinthians 15:10

Paul worked hard, which was his responsibility. But he did it by the power that comes from God’s grace.

Where does that leave you and me? I think we can see...it leaves us with a great responsibility but (thankfully) also great power to carry it out. It’s almost like the chicken and the egg. The power requires great responsibility, and handling the responsibility usually leads to more power.

As you go forward, you can trust that as God entrusts you with more, he will also empower you...so you can handle what he has entrusted you with, in the proper fashion. Because after all...with great power comes great responsibility.

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/winyuu

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This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.

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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

From the book critical essays on "causation and responsibility".

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Critical Essays on "Causation and Responsibility"

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2014, The Medical Journal of Australia

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Heather Douglas

The moral terrain of science, the full range of ethical considerations that are part of the scientific endeavor, has not been mapped. Without such a map, we cannot examine the responsibilities of scientists to see if the institutions of science are adequately constructed. This paper attempts such a map by describing four dimensions of the terrain: 1) the bases to which scientists are responsible (scientific reasoning, the scientific community, and the broader society); 2) the nature of the responsibility (general or role); 3) the level of responsibility (minimum demand or ideal); and 4) who bears the responsibility (the individual or the community). Such a map will be used to elucidate the recent debate over the publication of studies concerning H5N1 flu virus.

essay on with great power comes great responsibility

Frederick Green

Science, in particular physics, is a collective enterprise; a fruit of the exquisitely social nature of human living. So it is inevitable to encounter ethical issues in natural science, since the contest of differing interests and views is perennial in its practice, indeed essential to its momentum. The crucial ethical question always hangs in the air: How is the truth best served? This is a very limited imperative for science to follow, excluding as it does most questions of meaning and valuation. For example, in science one does not normally ask: Why is the truth to be served? As one type of ethical “bound” in science, these forgone questions are properly analysed within moral philosophy. A more pragmatic bound is the degree to which ethics can persist as a reliable guide in a milieu wherein we all fall short at some time, and where the pressures of individual professional survival have become intense. In this paper we describe some ethical aspects of our own discipline of science: their cultural context and the bounds which they delineate for themselves, sometimes in transgression. We argue that the minimalist ethic espoused in science, namely loyalty to truth, is a bellwether for the much wider, more problematic, and more vital consequences of ethics – and its failure – in human relationships at large.

Bastiaan Rutjens

Do people think that scientists are bad people? Although surveys find that science is a highly respected profession, a growing discourse has emerged regarding how science is often judged negatively. We report ten studies (N = 2328) that investigated morality judgments of scientists and compared those with judgments of various control groups, including atheists. A persistent intuitive association between scientists and disturbing immoral conduct emerged for violations of the binding moral foundations, particularly when this pertained to violations of purity. However, there was no association in the context of the individualizing moral foundations related to fairness and care. Other evidence found that scientists were perceived as similar to others in their concerns with the individualizing moral foundations of fairness and care, yet as departing for all of the binding foundations of loyalty, authority, and purity. Furthermore, participants stereotyped scientists particularly as robot-like and lacking emotions, as well as valuing knowledge over morality and being potentially dangerous. The observed intuitive immorality associations are partially due to these explicit stereotypes but do not correlate with any perceived atheism. We conclude that scientists are perceived not as inherently immoral, but as capable of immoral conduct.

Communications - Scientific letters of the University of Zilina

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Psychological Bulletin

William Kurtines

American Philosophical Quarterly

There are two fundamental bases for the moral responsibilities of scientists: role responsibilities and general responsibilities. Scientists have role responsibilities that come with being a scientist; these include the burdens of governance in the scientific community and upholding the ethical standards internal to science. The role that scientists play, however, does not shield them from the general moral responsibilities that we all share. Of particular importance to scientists are the responsibilities not to be reckless or negligent, i.e. not to ignore or fail to reflect on the risks inherent in scientific research for society at large. These general responsibilities take on an increased urgency given the potentially widespread impact of scientific work. If scientists choose to neglect these responsibilities, they must be taken up by others, thus threatening the scientists’ autonomy.

Paul Nedelisky

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  • With greater power comes greater responsibility

Responsibility implies a sense of duty of a person towards somebody or something. Like a student's responsibility towards his studies, a labourer's duty towards his work, a doctor's responsibility towards his patient, a soldier's duty towards his motherland etc. Responsibility comes to an individual when he becomes matured and grown up. Small kids lack this capacity and are hence taken care of by their parents.

It is aptly said that with greater power comes greater responsibility. Let us take the case of a local MLA, who has limited powers and hence limited responsibilities. He has smaller area to look after and lesser number of workers under him. But when he is elected as the minister of a portfolio, then with increase in power there is an increase in the responsibilities he has to execute. He has a bigger area to look after and a large number of workers under him. Similarly a bureaucrat working at the district office has fewer responsibilities compared to those working at the state or central secretariats.

Apart from real life examples, we have many historical paradigms that prove this fact. Let us take a look at the life of our first Prime Minister, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. He was born in a family that was truly devoted to the cause of Swaraj and liberating India from the clutches of foreign rule. His father, Motilal Nehru was an outstanding barrister, who along with C.R. Das led a strong demand for Home Rule. Naturally he was also filled with nationalist thoughts and decided to fight for freedom. As a young nationalist, Pt. Nehru worked under the guidance of Mahatma Gandhi to achieve localized goals. When on 15th August, 1947, our nation gained independence and he was elected as the first Prime Minister; he had a large country with crores of people, looking upon him to be led through the turbulent ocean of time on the path of development and prosperity. From an ambitious youth to the first prime minister of India, Pt. Nehru is a perfect example.

It is true that with greater responsibilities but ironically it is often followed with greater ego & selfishness. People, who are established at higher echelons of power, use it to satisfy their selfish motives instead of working for the people. They seek false glory by such methods. They think that by such selfish works they will be more wealthy & powerful and thus will gain more name & fame but they are wrong. They fall the prey to their own ego and end up with ill-reputation, ill-fame and impoverishment. Persons like Hitler, Mussolini, and Qaddafi were once symbols of power but at last ended up by dying in the most disgraceful manner.

Moreover it is also seen that who gain power, often forget their responsibilities and don't pay any attention to the problems they had promised to solve. This complacent attitude would decrease their popularity and the masses would doubt his credibility and gradually withdraw trust from upon him. Hence it is very much necessary that people who attain power should realize the purpose of coming to such positions.

Those who gain power and simultaneously execute their vows and remember their responsibilities are immortalized in the memories of people even while they are surviving. Philanthropists like Bill Gates, Azim H Premji, and Mark Zuckerberg are to name a few amongst them.

Thus it is obvious that with greater power come greater responsibilities but at the same time it is utterly necessary for those persons to comprehend the significance of the position they are bestowed with and utilize it in a way that would benefit the society and the nation at large.

-Suman Saurav Jena

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