Voting to the Glory of God
Understatement alert – I am saddened by the state of American politics (although not surprised). By any measuring stick (even that of four years ago) this year’s election process has been awkward, absurd, and embarrassing. Although this world is not my home, and I do not view America as a special kind of “Christian” nation, nonetheless I believe it to be the best country in the world in which to live, and have received rich benefit from the common grace of God poured out through it. There is no, one, form of government prescribed in Scripture, but I believe our founding governmental system is one of the best ever devised by man, and I hate to see a mockery made of it.
Governments are good (even “non-American” governments) because they represent God’s authority, grant a measure of protection against the unrestrained evil of the human heart, and provide men with a picture of God’s nature as the One who rules.
Ro 13:1–2 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
So, as November 3rd approaches, it seems good to consider what the Bible has to say about voting. First, a study of the direct command on how to vote reveals . . . nothing. How about a prophetic word? Alas, no statement like, “out of the east a great Trump shall arise . . .” exists in the pages of Scripture (and no, good hermeneutics does not allow you to substitute “Trump” or “Biden” in place of Cyrus in the book of Isaiah, just, no). A return to solid ground takes us to a consideration of the Biblical principles that should guide our voting. Among the many we could choose from, 1 Corinthians 10:31, seems the best place to land as an overarching precept in this extremely difficult and potentially devise debate.
1 Co 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
If “whatever you do” includes eating and drinking then it certainly encompasses voting. To do something for the glory of God requires that it must be done to make God look great, be a benefit to God’s people and be in accordance with the principles of Scripture. How might we apply these requirements to voting?
Vote to Make God Look Great
First, making God look great. This is tricky, because human governments are secular, full of evil, and run, generally, by flawed unbelievers who are in rebellion against God. Additionally, American politicians understand that talking about a belief in God is still an important part of appealing to the public (yes, even in 2020). So, seeking to please God by basing our vote on who gives lip service to God is a dicey proposition at best. Finally, since most votes are for unbelievers of varying personal moral standards, a God glorifying vote will be difficult to discern based the personal moral character of the candidates. We know, as a Biblical principle, that character matters in leadership, but we may not even have the option to vote for a person of character. All the candidates will most likely be deeply flawed (and how accurate is our understanding of their personal character to begin with?). The decision is made even more difficult when the candidate with the worst positions – those that will affect the lives of millions of people for worse – may actually have the better personal character.
So, making God look great in our voting will mean that we vote for the candidate with the most biblically defendable combination of character qualities and policy positions – realizing that as the field is narrowed there will most likely be fewer and fewer truly godly combinations (if there were any to begin with).
Additionally, making God look great in our voting will involve how we vote, not simply who we vote for. That is, going to the voting booth without: slander (we must refuse to repeat, and steadfastly ignore, all the latest Twitter takedowns and Facebook fiascos), grumbling (why are we in this mess? why can’t we have a decent candidate to vote for?), anxiety (will we be persecuted as Christians? will I lose my job?), or idolatry (if my candidate is elected our problems will be solved, only if “our guy” gets in can God be honored).
Vote for the Benefit of God’s People – the Church
Second, a God-glorifying vote will consider what is best for God’s people – the church. While we certainly desire that all men be treated justly, our special concern is that the body of Christ will be able to live “tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim. 2:2b). This is what is truly best for all of society. We must weigh the candidates in light of the stated and enacted policies of their party in regard to the climate they will create for the free exercise of Biblical Christianity. This includes governmental protection of teaching, speaking, and conduct that pleases the God of the Bible. We are more concerned about religious climate change than environmental climate change!
Vote for the Candidate and Platform that Most Closely Adheres to Biblical Principle for Government
Third, we should vote for the candidate who will enact policies that are in closest adherence to Scriptural principles for government (those that are not specific only to the Kingdom of Israel, but to all kingdoms and governmental systems). These include:
- Punishing evil and commending what is good – Romans 13:1-7
- Bearing the sword in protecting the nation against those that would harm it – Romans 13:1-7
- Collecting sufficient taxes to enable the government to carry out its Biblical mandate – Romans 13:1-7
- Defending the innocent, afflicted and needy – Jeremiah 25:15-18
- Promoting justice and righteousness at all levels of society – Jeremiah 25:15-18
- Finding and punishing those who pursue dishonest gain – Jeremiah 25:15-18
- Providing opportunities for health and well-being – 1 Kings 4:25, Micah 4:4
- Establishing just laws, a fair judicial system, and honest judges – Deut. 1:16-17, Deut. 16:18-19
Again, the policies of a secular nation state will not generally conform directly to Biblical principles. They cannot be expected to exalt Christ directly. So, in the case of our country, we seek the person and political platform that most clearly promotes the echoes of these principles.
To Vote or Not to Vote
The question then arises, if both candidates are ungodly people, and both platforms (or sets of policies) are generally devoid of Biblical principle, are we required to vote at all? Since the Bible does not command a citizen of an earthly kingdom to vote, this will be a matter of conscience. Some will choose to withhold their vote. To them, a vote for a flawed person with flawed policies seems a direct endorsement of that person or those policies. Others will choose to vote, believing that choosing the lesser of the two evils (in an already evil system) is of benefit to both the believers and unbelievers around them. In doing so, they believe that their vote is not a personal endorsement, but a practical reality. Still others may choose to write in a candidate (as is allowed in the United States) not in any hope that they will be elected, but as a statement in protest of the “official” choices being presented.
One key to remember here is that governmental systems are raised up by God as a general protection for mankind. It is good that they are in place even when they are run by evil men with ungodly policies. Since the Bible is clear that it is better to be governed than not to be governed – it seems that our voting choices should move in the direction of the best form of governance possible, given the options that are presented. This is not, of course, true in the church, where one could not in good conscience agree to the appointment of any Biblically unqualified leader.
So, vote to the glory of God. Choose a candidate whose person and policies most closely conform to principles that will bring God glory, who will lead to the best treatment of the body of Christ, and who will do the most to enact biblical principles for the just treatment of all men.