“In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't.”
Leading a Bible study can be harder than it sounds and sometimes pretty intimidating. The goal here is to give a basic approach to leading others through a passage of Scripture in a way that is fruitful for all involved. It isn’t a guide on how to write a sermon, prepare a lecture, or even teach a class. All of those things are a little different from this. Here are some principles and steps you can take as you prepare a Bible Study.
Know the Text
In order to be effective you need to know the text as well as possible given the tools and skills you have access to. You don’t have to be a Greek or Hebrew scholar, have many commentaries, or be an expert on the Bible. You also don’t have to have the answer to every question. I have been a pastor for 25+ years (I started at 10 years old) and I still get asked questions I don’t have answers to…it’s okay not to know. Nevertheless, as the leader you should know the text as well as you can given your resources. Here are the basics:
Try to derive the main principle found in the passage
This is probably the most difficult part of the process, but these questions might help figure it out.
These are great questions to ask in a Bible study or small group context.
Do not skip to application before going through the previous two steps. Only once a principle is discovered can we ask the question of application. Once a principle is revealed determine how that principle can be applied in various context. This isn’t something the leader has to have figured out, this is a great time to invite interaction. Stat the principle discovered and ask how it might be applied in different circumstances. Think about how it might apply to you ahead of time.
Sometimes you will learn as you lead the group through this process. You may arrive at a principle you missed. As long as the group stays focused on the text, roll with it. Flexibility doesn’t mean letting the study leave the text all together, but there may be insights and observations that appear during the discussion that provide a principle or application that you didn’t see…that’s okay.
This is just a basic start, but if you are just beginning or if you want a basic outline to approach a Bible study, this will suffice for those purposes. Everyone should learn to lead a Bible study, and, in fact, they should do it as often as they have opportunity.
2 Tim. 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
Bibliolatry usually comes in the form of an accusation, that is to say the word itself is derogatory. The word is usually used by progressive Christians or, dare I say, progressives feigning to be conservative to describe Christians who they might label as "fundamentalists" or "extremist" who hold the Bible as authoritative. The term itself is used to suggest that a person or group of people have committed the sin of worshiping the Bible rather than God. This would be the sin of Romans 1; the sin of confusing the creation and worshiping it, with the creator who we are supposed to worship. In short, it is the accusation that someone lost the distinction between the Bible and the God who inspired the Bible. But what does Bibliolatry really look like? Is it a real problem? If so, what would that look like?
I've been told on multiple occasions that "Bibliolatry" is a problem in evangelicalism. Some might even suggest that I am a Bibliolater (if that is actually a word). Angela Parker, a progressive Christian and professor of New Testament and Greek at McAfee suggests that this is a real problem. It hinders any real growth and maturity in the Christian faith. In her book If God Still Breathes, Why Can't I? She says, "Think of the phrase “the Bible says” and how it is often considered the be-all and end-all in an argument. The biblical text becomes a bludgeoning tool used to exert supremacist authoritarianism; what the Bible says (or rather, how the wielder interprets what the Bible says) goes" (p. 45). Parker makes the same mistake many make; she commits a category error. The way one interprets or uses the Bible is different and distinct from the authority of the Bible itself. Nevertheless, this deserves a little more examination. What exactly is the Bible?
Evangelical Christians believe the Bible is the word of God, not God Himself, but His word. It is not expected that non-Christians agree with this sentiment, but within Christianity this is a fundamental belief. The question of how we got the Bible requires a lengthy discussion that cannot be had here. For a full treatment see, From God to Us. Here is a short description of how this belief is derived. Paul instructs his young protégé, Timothy, that he should trust what he has been taught and that "πᾶσα γραφὴ" (all writings or Scripture) is "θεόπνευστος" (breathed by God). Timothy is to remember what he has been taught and the Scriptures are an integral part of that. The reason Paul admonishes Timothy in this way is so that Timothy can avoid being deceived (2 Tim. 3). In other words, the word of God, the Bible is to be the ultimate authority precisely because it is the word of God! That isn't the only relevant passage, there are many. Jesus reliance on the Old Testament for his own teaching, most prevalent in the Sermon on the Mount, speaks volumes. If the God-Man relies on Scripture as authoritative, shouldn't we? The author of Hebrews reminds his readers that God spoke through the prophets, but most recently through Jesus. The New Testament is a witness to the person of Jesus. Acts 1:8 is instruction to the apostles to be witnesses of Jesus, that includes their writings and the writings that record their witness. Paul not only was commissioned by Jesus himself, but the apostles confirmed His teachings (Gal. 2; Acts 13). There is much more Biblical evidence. While this may not be convincing to the non-Christian, for the Christian this speaks to the authority of the Bible. If it is God's word, then it has ultimate authority.
The Bible doesn't have ultimate authority because it is God, it has ultimate authority because it is the word of God.
What would Bibliolatry look like? To my knowledge, no one is putting the Bible on an altar and singing worship songs to the Bible. No one is praying, "dear Bible..." No one, to my knowledge, is making sacrifices to the Bible. While I do not know for sure, I can't imagine that those who make the accusation of Bibliolatry mean any of those things. So, what do they mean? Angela Parker uses the example of the phrase, "The Bible says..." being wielded as authoritative. Parker is right about one thing, there are people who hold their own interpretation of the Bible with the same authority as the text itself. That is wrong. However, let's look at the clear teachings of Scripture. Let's use the example of Exodus 20:14 "You shall not commit adultery." Is there anything unclear about this teaching? We all know what adultery is and we know it is prohibited. There aren't any exceptions to the commandment. If a person comes along and attempts to justify adultery with some kind of sophistry and faulty interpretation, it is the interpretation that is at fault, not the text of Scripture. The command against adultery stands regardless of whether there is faulty interpretation and regardless of whether or not the faulty interpreter erroneously claims his interpretation to be authoritative.
If the Bible actually says adultery is wrong and the interpretation of that command is correct, then, and only then, it is authoritative. Is that Bibliolatry? If so, count me guilty.
More often than not, that is not the issue. The accusation of Bibliolatry is actually an attack on the authority of Scripture. Parker and others would say they hold the Bible to be authoritative, just not ultimately authoritative. In fact, Parker says, "I also love the biblical text, and it is an authority in my life but not the authority in my life" (p. 45). Parker reduces the Bible to an authority that is on equal grounds with other authorities in her life. This enables her to pick and choose where the Bible is authoritative and where it is not. I can't help but ask, who is the ultimate authority for Parker and others like her? It is hard to imagine that the authority in Parker's life is anyone or anything except her. Isn't that the same sin Adam and Eve committed when they thought they could defy God and eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil and become like God?
If the Bible is the word of God, then it is hard to imagine giving it too much authority in the life of the Christian. In the end, accusations of Bibliolatry are based on the straw man fallacy. No one is worshiping the Bible. Some may inappropriately elevate their own interpretation of Scriptures that are less clear to the level of authoritative, but that is another question. No doubt some will claim clear Scriptures are unclear or that unclear Scriptures are clear. Those wrongs need to be challenged. But accusations of Bibliolatry serve no good purpose. They only undermine the rightful authority of Scripture.
Those making the "Bibliolatry" accusation should look in the mirror. Who is the authority in your life? Is it God? If so, then the word of God should be authoritative as well. Worship God by being obedient to His word, not by undermining its authority.
Is Kyle Rittenhouse a racist who went to Kenosha to kill black people? Is he a hero? Maybe those are the wrong questions. In fact, I think they are the wrong questions. We should have never known Kyle Rittenhouse's name. He shouldn't be on trial right now because he never should have been in the position he was in. I am not commenting about whether or not Kyle made a wise or foolish decision on that fateful night, I'm talking about something much more important.
Romans 13 gives the government the power of the sword to in order to punish wrongdoers. The government is to serve God and do good. When it fails to do those things, what should happen? The government failed in its duties when riots broke out in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The police chief, mayor, city council, and governor failed to do their duties. They lacked the courage to do what needed to be done. Instead of protecting the people of Kenosha the police stood back and watched the city burn.
Regardless of what you think about Kyle Rittenhouse, the political leaders were cowards! They lacked the fortitude to do what needed to be done. Kyle Rittenhouse or the numerous other people that were there doing the same thing but were never put in a position where they needed to defend themselves should have never had to be there.
Was it wise for Rittenhouse to be there that night? No, but what do we expect to happen when the grown ups fail to do their job? We end up with kids like Rittenhouse filling the void. Frankly, the people that should be on trial, or at least relieved of their duty are the politicians that failed to do their jobs!!! When we set criminals free and watch them burn down the city we shouldn't expect people to simply watch their property, their businesses, and their homes be destroyed.
"God's not Dead: We the People" was released recently and I saw it on Tuesday night. While I don't normally do movie reviews, I think this one deserves some comment. Here is the official description:
"Reverend Dave finds himself at the defense of a group of Christian homeschooling families after they receive an impromptu inspection by a progressive, local-government official -- who doesn't like what she finds. Believing that the children are receiving an inferior education compared to their public school counterparts, and potentially being unfairly indoctrinated at a young age by their Bible-believing parents, the families are ordered to return their children to the public school system, or else face exorbitant fines and contempt of court. Taken aback by the interference of the government, and believing that their right to educate their own children as a freedom worth fighting for, the resistant families, along with Reverend Dave, are invited to Washington to testify in a landmark congressional hearing that will determine the future of public (and private) education in our country for years to come."
All of the movies in this series have over reached in the story lines to tell a story that portrays an attack on Christianity that is beyond what is common, even if it rightly reflects some exceptions to the general reality. Two weeks ago I would have said this one does the same thing. Before I get into that, let me make a few preliminary comments.
Production value, acting, and script writing are unfortunately what you might expect from a lower budget film. That isn't to say it wasn't good, but your expectations in those areas should be appropriate if you go see the movie.
Regardless of whether you think it is appropriate, many will attack this movie for connecting the Christian faith to the country of the United States. The narrative will be that the movie promotes an "evangelical Christian nationalism." They might even throw in some works like "racism" or "Trump voters" to round out the criticism. There is nothing in the movie itself that would suggest any connection to racism or voting for Trump, but those "criticisms" seem to be traveling buddies these days. Whether people want to admit it or not, the United States was founded on Biblical principles. Any unbiased evaluation of the founding documents, the founding fathers, and even the monuments in our country will lead to that conclusion. There is an unabashed commitment to this reality by the script writers and producers of God's Not Dead.
Homeschooling finds itself center stage in this movie. For people like former governor and current candidate for the governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe who believe that children do not belong to their parents, but the state, or to all of us, homeschooling is a threat. That isn't part of the movie in any way, but just a week ago McAuliffe said, "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." Also within the last week President Biden has weaponized the FBI to investigate parents who speak out against school boards for teaching sexually explicit material (my own daughter dealt with this about 8 years ago) or for promoting ideas related to Critical Race Theory).
As I sat and watched this movie it was clear to me that this was not as much of an over reach as some might think. There wasn't a straw man being erected by the script writers. In the end, this movie is a call to action. It isn't just homeschooling that is at risk, it is parental rights, education in general, and even certain aspects of our nations history.
This past week, congresswoman Cori Bush along with others in the media and "woke" leftists referred to mothers as "Birthing People". The fact that this was done as mother's day approached was no accident to be sure. They say it is an attempt to be inclusive. The question is, who does "Birthing People" include that the term "Mothers" did not? The short answer is no one, in fact it actually excludes many that fall under the category of mothers that would not fall under the category of birthing people.
It is a scientific fact that biological women are the only ones capable of giving birth. This isn't in question and it never has been. Even if you believe that a transgender man can give birth, it is the ultimate self-deception to think that a trans-man is anything but a biological woman in man's clothing. I don't say that to be offensive, but to be accurate. There is no way around this reality. So even a trans-man who gives birth is, in fact, a mother if we define mother as the parent who is also a female. So the term mother doesn't include anyone that wasn't already included. But let's just say you take objection to this point, let's consider two addition groups of people that birthing persons actually excludes.
The first group of people that would fall under the category of mothers that would not fall under the category of birthing people is those people who were not able to get pregnant but decided to adopt. Are these not mothers? They are raising and parenting children they have gone to great lengths to provide a home for, are we going to exclude them because they didn't give birth? One of my friends posted this on her Facebook:
It would be unconscionable to exclude people like this!!
There is another group of mothers that are excluded by this term birthing person. There are mothers who have gotten pregnant and carried a child, but that child did not make it to birth. They had a miscarriage or possibly an abortion, but they were mothers nonetheless. Are we to exclude this group of mothers?
It seems this term, like many others, that is intended to be "inclusive" is actually more exclusive than inclusive. The redefinition of terms that have had good and positive meaning in our language and culture rarely has a positive influence on culture or the broader conversation. Women, specifically women, have been given a beautiful gift by God that does not belong to men. To blur lines that are part of God's good creation is an outright offense to the character of God.
Without repeating the sermon that Mitch Lynn gave at Grace Fellowship yesterday, I love this phrase and his application. So often we stare at the wrong thing, we stare at the philosophies of the world and take our eyes off of our savior. Jesus is the one who will judge, who provides salvation, and who perfects our faith. When we are distracted by worldly philosophies like Critical Theory in any of its forms we are distracted from what is true, just, and worthy. We steer where we stare. The church in Pergamum (Rev. 2) was faithful in some ways, but they were distracted by worldly philosophies.
I can't help but see this as extremely relatable to the world we live in today. So many churches are buying into worldly philosophies and even false religions. So many have bought the lies of Satan (i.e. worldly philosophies). When we begin to redefine theological and Biblical terms in cultural ways. For instance when we say "America's original sin was slavery." Do you see the distraction? We begin to focus on the wrong thing. Yes, slavery was/is a sin, but it is not the original sin or the most important sin. Rebellion against God, the creator, the almighty, is the original sin and the most significant sin. There is no greater sin than rebellion against God (Gen. 3; Rom. 3). It's not just racism or slavery, there are many worldly philosophies that distract the church from focusing our eyes on Christ (Heb. 12:1-2).
What is the philosophy? Is it sexual identity (lgbtq)? Is it viewing government as our savior, a form of civic religion? Is it various forms of scientism, thinking that science has the answers to questions it simply can't answer?
We steer where we stare. What are you staring at? Is it Jesus? The only way to avoid compromise as a Christian and a follower of Christ is to keep our gaze one Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith. Is that where your eyes are focused? You steer where you stare, what are you staring at?
During the year that will forever be known as the year that Covid shut down much of the world, 2020, I spent the entire year reading and re-reading the book of Revelation. I read it about 15 times. Even with the almost apocalyptic events taking place around the world, I never came to the conclusion that I was seeing the "end times," at least not in the same way I had heard about it growing up.
I was always told things would get worse and worse progressively until there was a "rapture" that would take place prior to a 7 year period called the tribulation. God would spare his people from going through this difficult time that was described in the book of Revelation. According to the fictional "Left Behind" movies our clothes would be left neatly folded on the ground where the people of God once stood as they met Jesus in the air (God is no slob after all). Then, after those 7 years Jesus would return to set up His millennial kingdom and eventually the new heavens and the new earth. Yes, I know I skipped a few things. Many people had charts and graphs showing exactly how all of this would happen. I had read the book of Revelation, but it was confusing, so I just focused on the rest of Scripture until last year.
Over the years I had come to realize there were some things that just didn't sit right with me. Especially as I read the words of Jesus in places like Mt. 24. It seemed that the wars and rumors of wars were to be standard fair, not that they would get worse. In fact, Jesus says all of those things are just preliminary and normal things (Mt. 24:6). That passage, among others, specifically says no one knows the time and seems to be suggesting that we should not be trying to figure it out. So, for the most part I just stayed away from studying the end times until this last year when I dove into the deep end and learned some unexpected things.
First, I had suspected that there was much more to the book of Revelation than a bunch of end times speculation. It turns out I was right and I had been missing out on much of the more important themes found in Revelation that were applicable in the first and second centuries as well as today. If your reading Revelation trying to figure out the end times, you're doing it wrong.
Second, the common message in Revelation, Mt. 24, and really the rest of Scripture is not, "God will prevent you from suffering," instead it is, "God will be with you as you endure and persevere." This message is strong in the book of Revelation. It also does not square with a pre-tribulation rapture...just something to think about.
Third, I couldn't find a single mention of a 7 year period of tribulation. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of "7s" in the book: 7 churches, 7 bowls, 7 seals, etc. There are also some "3 1/2" mentions. Yes, I realize that two of those makes a 7. However, for something as significant as the tribulation I found it odd that there wasn't one direct mention of a 7 year tribulation. Nor is there a mention in Mt. 24 that the great tribulation will be 7 years. Yes, there are the weeks of Daniel and some might argue that the various "7s" in Revelation are descriptions of the 7 year tribulation...fair enough. But, maybe there is something else going on in those descriptions that might even be more important. I think there is.
While it is undeniable that the book of Revelation gives insight into what the future holds, it does so to encourage and motivate the people of God throughout the centuries to endure, persevere, and remain faithful. If you miss those themes, you have missed the message of the great and important book.
Yesterday I mentioned almost in passing the sexual allegations agains the late christian apologist Ravi Zacharias (here is the statement by RZIM). I have known about some of these allegations for some time and I have said virtually nothing. In part because I didn't know what to say. I have listened to Ravi and read some of his writings for years. I make no apologies for having benefitted not only from him and his writings, but from the writings and teachings of others in the organization that carries his name. His ministry, broadly speaking, taught me that there are intellectually rigorous reasons for believing the Christian message found in Scripture to be true. In these recent days I have learned another lesson, one I wish I didn't have to learn in this manner.
What is the lesson? The human capacity for duplicity and deception is almost unfathomable. I'm talking about Ravi, but I am also talking about me and you. It's almost as if the apostle Paul was understating things when he wrote, "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Instead, the verses that preceded that are more descriptive of this capacity for fallenness and evil in the human heart (vv. 10-18). Ravi travelled the world telling people about the goodness and beauty of the Christian message. His sin does not change the goodness of that message; instead, his sin proclaims the greater importance of the cross and the resurrection both for Ravi and for the victims of his crimes. The healing and forgiveness found in the gospel message is what every one of us needs.
There is another lesson I cannot ignore. If Ravi can do this, why should I believe that sin is not also crouching at my door (and yours)? Let's pray for one another, let's make sure as brothers and sisters we are encouraging one another, checking in with one another, and holding one another accountable.
Ravi was not the first to fall in such a way, the Bible is full of such fallenness. Whatever surprise we might feel, it is a surprise born of naivety or ignorance of the extent to which we are all fallen people. Ravi will not be the last either. There will be more, the impact of sin in our lives will continue to be a battle that we fight until Jesus returns or we go to see Him. In the mean time we need each other (Heb. 10:22-25).
People like to talk about where they were on 9-11-2001 when they heard about the twin towers being hit. I was at home, getting ready to head out the door. I had Fox news on the TV and I watched as the second tower was hit and the fallout after that. I had the same instinctive reaction many American's had when the second tower was hit; I was certain this could not be an accident, this was planned. Indeed it was, and the war on terror that had been raging under the surface for some time came front and center. Three thousand people died that day, and many more since. Was there anything good that came from it? I believe there was.
The United States of America became united if even for a moment in history. In the following weeks and months many people would join the military to fight terrorism and defend our country. If I didn't have a three year old at home, I very well might have followed through on that. A sense of patriotism filled the air, stores sold out of flags, churches opened their doors for prayer, and ever so briefly politicians sang the same song, "The Star Spangled Banner." Oh how far we have come over the last 19 years.
I lament at the state of our country today. Instead of holding up police officers as heroes they are being denigrated by the media and many politicians as well. We have rioting in our streets, church doors have been forcibly shut, and flags are being burned. On 9-11, there were not African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans, Irish-Americans, we were just Americans. While we recoiled from the shock of this attack, we came together, but it didn't take long before division and politics crept back into our lives.
When tragedy strikes, it is hard to ignore the real evil that exists in our world. Today evil isn't crouching at the door, we invited it in and now it is looting our home. What will we do?
The doors of churches opened on 9-11, including the one I was at.
The heroic stories of 9-11 focused on first responders who were running into towers that were about to collapse to save others not knowing if they would make it back out themselves. Those heroes lived out this truth, "Greater love has no man than this, to lay down one's life for one's friend" (John 15:13). What if we all had the attitude of serving one another, considering other's lives more important than our own? What if we were able to get back to living out Biblical principals in our lives? What if we started to bring God back into the public square?
That was at least one good of 9-11, even if it was only for a moment. God was brought back into the public square. It's time, right here and right now! The church can no longer be quiet! We can no longer sit in the background and wait for the world to come to its senses, it won't. The apostles sat and waited for the Spirit to show up on the Day of Pentecost, but once it did they scattered, they didn't wait for the world to realize who Jesus was, they proclaimed Him proudly and loudly calling people to repentance. There is no amount of social justice that can take the place of the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ!
I remember 9-11, and I will never forget it. But 9-11 wasn't the first time evil raised its ugly head; we see it all over the place today. The world has been fighting and waring since Cain killed Abel. We have found more destructive ways to do it, but the reality of great evil in this world has never changed. No society, no government, no social program has ever fixed the evil in this world. There is only one answer for that, and it isn't defunding police, electing a new president, or a stronger military, the answer is Jesus! Only He will bring justice, virtue, and true unity (Rev. 21:1-4).
When it comes to passages in Scripture that most directly address ethical issues and the commands of God, there are really only two places to turn, the 10 commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus teaching in the sermon on the mount, in many ways, is a restatement of the 10 commandments with some additions and explanations. So when it comes to thinking about voting and ethical concerns, it seems the place to turn to evaluate who we should vote for at whatever level government is the 10 commandments.
"You shall have no other gods before me."
A god is not necessarily some kind of divine being, although it could certainly be that as well, a god is whatever a person gives reverence to. A god could be money, power, secularism, government, patriotism or a host of other things or ideas. Some of the things in the previous list are not necessarily bad things if they are subservient to a commitment to Jesus Christ and Biblical teaching. When it comes to thinking about ethics and voting the question is which candidate or party violates this commandment and which one doesn't. Sometimes it may be hard to determine the answer to this question on an individual basis and it may boil down to a party issue. Is there a candidate or party as the case may be that seems to be putting some other god in God's place?
"You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on earth below..."
This commandment isn't so much about carving an image to worship out of wood, although it would certainly include that, it is what the apostle Paul talks about in Romans 1; it is about confusing the creation with the creator. There are many things that might fall into this category, but two come to mind when it comes to making a political choice. First, environmentalism makes this error rather egregiously. That isn't to say we shouldn't take care of and steward creation, but we should recognize that there is an order to things. The world was made for the sake of humanity. When we confuse the environment/creation with the creator, we break this command. The second way this command is broken frequently is the commitment to "follow the science." Science is good, and we can gain a great deal of understanding about the world we live in through science, but science is not the source of all that can be known, it is not infallible, and it does not address morality. When considering a candidate or party, consider who holds creation in its proper place. Does one side confuse creation with the creator?
"You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God..."
For so many of us, we think this is about using cuss words. Indeed, that is part of it, but it is much broader than that. The evangelical vote has been sought after with great fervor by Republicans for decades. The Democrats have desired to gain more of that vote in recent years and have made some inroads. It has not always been clear who was influencing who. At times the evangelical vote or the "moral majority" have had influence on those in government in positive ways. At other times, it seems they are being used simply so a candidate can get into office. The question a Christian must ask is this, "who is using religion and/or the name of Jesus simply for political gain?" The answer may be very unclear. It may be the case that both or all the candidates in a particular race seem to be doing this. Discernment is difficult. In the absence of a candidate that stands out in this manner, it may be that the best one can do is ask who is more likely to stick to Christian and Biblical values in how they govern. It is hard to see any other issue as more telling than the abortion issue. No, it isn't the only issue that matters, but it might be the one issue Scripture is most clear about. If a candidate does not defend those who are most vulnerable and voiceless, why should we think they will be Biblical in any other area (Prov. 31:8).
"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy."
At first glance this might not see relevant, but its relevance is actually quite acute. Two things are important in regards to this command. First, this command assumes the importance of work. God created the garden ad put Adam and Eve in the garden and then commanded them to work the garden. Work is a good thing that gives us purpose. Second Thessalonians 3:10 reminds us that our work is connected to eating. If you want food, you need to work for it. Which candidate has both the desire and ability to put people to work? We are talking about unemployment rates, welfare type programs, and work programs. Second, the sabbath is to be kept holy. This is a religious freedom issue. The constitution guarantees the protection of the God given right to practice our faith. That means all kinds of things. That means worship, for sure, but it means more than that. It means being able to practice what Scripture teachers in every aspect of our life both public and private. That means how we behave in public (prayer, evangelism, good deeds, etc.). It also means how we choose to operate our business, the kind of education we want for our kids, and so on. Which candidate is more likely to infringe on these rights and which one is more likely to protect them?
"Honor your father and mother..."
Once again, we may find it unlikely that this command has anything to do with an election, but once again, we will find that it is deeply connected to how we might vote. This command assumes a Biblical/traditional structure to the family. It assumes a mom and a dad having children. The family is the foundational structure of society and the strength of that structure will determine the strength of society as a whole. Attacks on the family have been prevalent and focused in recent years at every level of government and in society itself. The issues as play here are related to marriage, adoption, public education (school choice and vouchers), parental rights, and so many more. Do not skip over this commandment! Who, or what party, is most likely to protect these structures?
"You shall not murder."
The Biblical text doesn't expound on this commandment very much like it does so many of the others. Perhaps this is because we ought to be able to clearly and rightly determine what murder is. The most obvious issue connected to this command is the killing of innocent unborn babies, the abortion issue. Yes, abortion is murder! That is not loaded language or spinning an issue, it is a clear and correct description of what happens when the life of an unborn baby is snuffed out when the mother's long term physical health or her life are not at risk. This goes beyond the abortion issue. There are at least two other issues that should be considered here. First, the allowance of lawless behavior that puts people's lives at risk. I am specifically referencing rioting, looting, and the high murder rates in places like Chicago. Romans 13 reminds us that it is the governments job to bring the sword of judgement punishing those who do wrong and rewarding those who do right. Second, there is the issue of police violence. It is my belief that this is not a huge issue in our culture when you sit down and actually consider the data. I will not attempt to address that in detail here. The police are the sword that provides peace and brings judgement (at least in part). We must not only make sure they hold that responsibility in high regard and do not overstep their bounds, we must also protect their ability to accomplish that God given task in an effective manner.
"You shall not commit adultery."
All of the commandments can be looked at from a character standpoint and should. However, we will find that no candidate will be able to check off all ten boxes. In fact, it is likely that they will only be able to check off a few. This is especially true when we begin to consider Jesus' exposition in the Sermon on the Mount. In the presidential race we have not one, but two candidates who have broken this commandment. You can do your own research as it applies not only to the presidential race, but other races you will be voting in. The second aspect that must be considered here is the sanctity of marriage and the sexual revolution. Scripture defines marriage between one man and one woman and clearly speaks against issues related to homosexuality, transgenderism, lust, pornography, and so on. All of those behaviors threaten the sanctity of marriage. What candidate supports and promotes policies that are most likely going to protect marriage and stand against the sexual revolution that has been waging war on marriage for decades?
"You shall not steal"
Is taxing the same as stealing? No, certainly not; however, taxation for the purposes of redistributing wealth is stealing. Taxes are necessary for the government to be able to accomplish the purposes laid out in Scripture is appropriate. However, taking from one person who has been industrious, worked hard, and found a way to be a benefit to society in order to give to the person who stays on welfare, unemployment, or some other kind of program when they could work is stealing. Nowhere in Scripture or the constitution does it say that it is the governments job to provide all the needs and desires of every citizen. First, government isn't capable of doing that, and second it is not the roll of government to do that. Second, when the government steps into the realm of charity, it removes the responsibility of the church and the citizen to love one's neighbor.
"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor."
Politicians are famous for slinging mud. Some are more sly about it than others, but virtually all of them do it. Frankly, I have no idea on how to choose any politician from any party over another. It seems the campaigns run for city dog catcher find ways to sling dog poop at each other. It would be refreshing to see a politician run a campaign that is actually clean. Of course, that person might have a hard time getting elected. Maybe that says more about the American people than about the politicians.
"You shall not covet your neighbors house..."
While this may seem like an individual sin, indeed it is, it also has relevance to elections and how politicians view voters. If a politician really believes in equality they will not pit one person or one group of people against another. Identity politics runs contrary to the teaching of Scripture. The pictures of heaven and worship we find in John's Revelation are of all nations and people being united in worship of God. To pit black people against white people or the reverse is wholly ungodly and unbiblical. Of course this applies to every ethnic group. This commandment applies to possessions as well. In politics we often see this when a politician starts talking about the rich paying their "fair share" of taxes. I've always thought this was an odd view of what is fair considering that the poor pay no taxes at all and often get more in the form of a tax return than they paid in the first place. I wonder if they should pay their fair share? This entire line of argument is based on covetousness. Does one candidate or party promote covetousness in the policies they propose more than another?
When it comes to the ethical concerns of casting a vote, the 10 commandments seem like a good place to start an evaluation of candidates and parties. No candidate or party will come out of that evaluation without some cuts and bruises. In the end you have to prioritize and vote for the best option available.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.