The past few months have been fraught with political ads, campaign slogans, and headlines promising progress from one side and destruction from the other. Frankly, the rhetoric can feel overwhelming and draining at times. It can be tempting to want to push it aside and say, “I’ll just focus on other things.” That would be the easier route. I took it myself for most of my adult life.
While Christians should care more about sharing the gospel with people than pushing political agendas, we do also have a responsibility to engage with the culture and the civil life around us. Romans 13:1-7 is a passage that speaks directly to our attitude toward government – that we should subject ourselves to it, respect our rulers, encourage the good that rulers can do with their authority, and pay taxes. There is an expectation that Christians are not to seclude themselves from the culture, but rather engage in it positively.
But how does one do that wisely? How does one think clearly about who to vote for? How does one engage without getting swept up into political battles and extremist views?
The book of Proverbs, as always, gives us some wise principles to follow. As we’ve been going through Proverbs at my church, I’ve been encouraged by the overarching theme of listening to Lady Wisdom and rejecting Lady Folly. I’ve also noticed a few key proverbs that can guide our thinking when it comes to elections and politics. They may not tell us exactly who to vote for, but as we do our research on candidates and issues, may these five ideas help shape our decision-making.
- Don’t Give Full Vent to Your Spirit
Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”
Election season can bring strong feelings because it involves issues that we care about. But we need to be aware of the time and place to air our opinions. We should speak up for what matters, yes. That doesn’t mean we need to unleash anger, spite, or malice on other people for holding different views. Even when we’re talking to someone who agrees with us, we should be careful not to speak uncharitably about “the other side.” We may question how anyone could have those beliefs, but they’re still humans made in God’s image, worthy of our respect.
- Look for Candidates Who Govern Justly & Seek Wise Solutions
Proverbs 28:5 says, “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.”
Proverbs 8:14-17 says, “I [wisdom] have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength. By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly. I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.”
There has been a lot of talk of justice in the past few years. Unfortunately, there are multiple types of justice that have been promoted, and not all of them end up providing true justice. The Bible is clear that God loves true justice, and as believers, we should seek the same kind of justice that he does.
[Quick side note – a great book that elaborates on this is Why Social Justice is Not Biblical Justice by Scott David Allen.]
We should look for candidates that agree with true justice and who seek wise solutions to problems in our communities. Those solutions may not be easily defined or pursued, but as we educate ourselves on matters, hopefully we’ll see that some are better or wiser in the long run.
- Look for Candidates Who Don’t Encourage Laziness & Destructive Pursuits
Proverbs 12:11 says, “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.”
Proverbs 12:24 – “The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.”
Proverbs 13:4 – “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”
Working is good for us. God knows that and created us to work. Candidates should be encouraging that philosophy and not enabling slothful, destructive pursuits. It is better for society when we’re promoting a good work ethic and not rewarding laziness. This could apply to policies on student loan forgiveness, homelessness issues, drug issues, or incentivizing unemployment.
- Look for Candidates Who are Diligent to Follow Through
Proverbs 14:23 – “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”
Every candidate makes campaign promises. But do they actually follow through? If they’ve held office before, look at their track record. What have they accomplished? Is it what they said they’d do? If they’re new candidates, look at their other relevant experience. Have they accomplished noteworthy goals that show what they might do once they’re in office? Additionally, are their goals for being in office looking only to short-term rewards or long-term, sustainable benefits?
For example, all sorts of solutions are being put forth by climate change activists, but many of their solutions are actually not sustainable and would cause more harm to the planet than current activities. We can’t take slogans or promises at face value – we need to actually do the research and hold our politicians to a standard of following through on long-term accomplishments.
- Support Laws & Candidates Who Promote Righteousness
Proverbs 14:34 – “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”
We can’t expect that all our elected officials will be Christians or agree with our Christian beliefs. But we can seek to elect those who are more in line with righteous values because the Bible says that society will flourish when it seeks righteousness instead of sin. We shouldn’t seek to make this a “Christian nation” as in forcing people to go to Christian churches and swear allegiance to the Christian faith. The freedom of religion is a good and right thing to have in our country.
But just like followers of other religions would want someone in office who promotes values from their religion, so, too, Christians should want officials who promote righteousness. Everyone has values—even atheists have certain values that they live by. Those values will influence society in one way or another, and everyone has a right to seek the influence that they believe in. Our influence is based on what God’s Word says is best for society, and we should not be ashamed to take a stand for those values or vote for those who do.
We won’t ever do the election thing or politics thing perfectly since we’re all flawed humans. But we can be grateful to have a book of wisdom in the Bible that helps guide our thinking when it comes to engaging with our government and culture. May we have humility in our pursuit and gentleness in our approach. But may we also have the boldness and courage to stand for truth and righteousness in a world that needs to see it now more than ever.