In God We Trust: Thinking Biblically about the 2016 Election

Each episode of our podcast begins with the description of our ministry in which Brandon informs us that we believe the church does not exist “for social or political causes”.  Yet, here I sit writing an article that will tackle politics head on.  Further still, I intend for this article to be the first in a series called “In God We Trust”.  “In God We Trust” will be our place to comment on issues facing our culture and the church, and the men or women who claim they want to lead us into the future.

So what is a ministry -whose most visible teaching says that the church doesn’t exist for political or social causes- that was founded for the church doing talking about politics?  To be clear, we’re not taking up any sort of political campaign.  We will not use space here to advocate for a particular candidate to be elected, nor will we be pushing a particular political party.  Rather we want to examine the issues and candidates at hand, understand the Biblical “lens” in these areas, and view those issues and candidates through that lens.  We will take the side of Scripture, not the side of a cause, party, or candidate.  Scripture supports what is good, true, and right; it does not support any individual person, party, or cause.  Neither electability nor pragmatism will matter; nor should they because we’re not trying to get someone elected.  Rather, we’re simply trying to think clearly and biblically through complicated and often murky issues.

We will also not visit this series more often than we should.  We live in a politically charged culture.  Politics and government matter, but they don’t matter as much as the 24/7 news cycle would like us to believe.  We’ll aim to cover what is important, to flesh out the Biblical worldview for things of the political nature, and examine as many people asking for our vote as we can.  At the end of the day, we’d much rather talk about theology and scripture than the feeble and finite efforts of man.

For today, I want to examine what it means to have a vote, and how this is a blessing and stewardship given to us by God.

To be absolutely clear, there is no system of government laid out for the world in the Bible.  That isn’t to say that governments aren’t discussed in the Bible, but the only system laid out for us is in the Old Testament; a system intended to serve a specific purpose, for a specific people, at a specific time in history.  We can and should derive principles from the government system given to Israel, and one of those principles is the idea of stewardship.  We should not seek to impose that system as if it is the only right way.  God is concerned with principles, with right and wrong, not with bureaucracy and systems.

The law given to Israel instructed them to appoint “judges” for themselves to rightly rule the local people who appoint them.  It’s a model of representative small government.

“You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. {Deu 16:18 NASB}

Note that God did not pick a small group to be rulers or choose rulers for others.  Instead, the people themselves had a responsibility, a stewardship, to rule.  Thus, we can think through what keeping that stewardship means.

These “judges and officers” were to judge “with righteous judgement”.  God goes on to tell the people

“You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you. {Deu 16:19-20 NASB}

These things He says to the PEOPLE; not to the ones the people choose.  This kind of expectation for Government to act rightly is not unique to Deuteronomy and the law.  Romans 13 is similar:

For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. {Rom 13:3-4 NASB}

Remember that Proverbs has much to say on righteousness in government too:

The king’s favor is toward a servant who acts wisely,But his anger is toward him who acts shamefully. {Pro 14:35 NASB}

It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts,For a throne is established on righteousness. {Pro 16:12 NASB}

Peter has this idea in mind as well:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. {1Pe 2:13-14 NASB}

It is easy to understand that Government is instituted by God for the cause of doing right.  It is His instrument for executing justice; punishing evil doers, and praising the righteous.  This merely outlines the purpose of government, it doesn’t grant government the power to decide or dictate what is right and wrong.  Remember that Peter wrote 1 Peter, and Paul wrote Romans under the rule of Nero, a BAD PERSON.

Officials are not endowed with power to set the “tone” of righteousness and are not above the law, nor immune from wickedness simply because they occupy a God ordained position.  Simply put, sin is sin; regardless of the power or prestige of the sinner.

However it is precisely the PURPOSE of government that, should God so bless us with the privilege, compels us to take our stewardship seriously and carefully decide whom we support.  Knowing the God-ordained purpose of Government is the lens by which we ought to decide.  We cannot change how people behave, but we can observe who behaves correctly and endorse them.  We have a duty to use every privilege God gives us for His glory.  Voting is no different.

Rightly observing correct behavior in a candidate is not always easy and we shouldn’t condemn ourselves for missing the mark on occasion.  Politicians have become crafty at image building and telling the electorate what they want to hear.  Therefore, part of the stewardship of voting must be to be informed.  We truly are sheep in the midst of wolves and must always strive to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves (Matt 10:16).

Finally, we have to remember that voting is both a stewardship and a privilege.  Christians throughout history and around the world today have little to no say over what their rulers do.  Scripture calls upon each Christian to submit to every government as best as is possible without compromising obedience and honor to God.  It certainly isn’t wrong to work toward good and Godly government in every situation, but we must obey when it is possible to obey.  When we have the opportunity to influence anyone or anything we must make the most of it for God’s glory.  There is no bigger opportunity than an informed, biblically minded, vote.  Rather it is a privilege; a truth that both encourages the oppressed and warns the free.  We, the free, should take notice.

Follow us on Twitter  |  Like us on Facebook  |  Subscribe to the Blog  |  Listen to the Podcast

Tagged , .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *