“In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't.”
The 10 Commandments and Voting
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.
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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.