Current events continue to demonstrate that Solomon was correct in all of his wisdom. Proverbs 28:12 says, “When the righteous triumph, there is great glory, but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves” (ESV). And, or it’s parallel in Proverbs 29:2 which says, “When the righteous increase [rule], the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” The context in both verses focuses on good government—righteous rulers. In Proverbs 28:12—29:27, Solomon addresses the difference between the rule of the righteous versus the rule of the wicked. The context is that righteous people fear God (28:14) and confess their sins (28:13) while the wicked prey on the poor (28:15) and are cruel oppressors (28:16).
Unfortunately, for Israel, they didn’t always have a choice in who ruled over them. But in our society, we have a protected Constitutional right to vote. In other words, we have a say in who heads our various branches of government. We have elections every two years for Federal, State and local offices. Consequently, these are the people who determine our taxes, academic policies, zoning ordinances, union contracts, pension plans for public workers, and a host of other laws that govern our everyday practice. Some of these issues seem very innocuous—or innocent. However, the warning of Solomon in these proverbs is that the wicked will use this power to oppress and prey on the poor; while in contrast, the righteous fundamentally use their position to help people. Moreover, the righteous pass legislation, which is meant to empower and not to oppress people. In a word, Solomon is saying that it matters who is ruling because the public policy of those individuals has consequences. As we would say, public policy matters and it matters who is drawing up that policy.
In Genesis chapter two, God established laws for us to know his will and to subsequently surrender our lives in obedience to Him. The very first legal or public policy debate was over the prohibition declared in the Garden—that Adam and Eve were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. The Serpent challenged God’s policy and His motives for the policy. Unfortunately for us, and them, they bought into the reasoning and deception of the serpent. Consequently, the first couple plunged headfirst into sin dragging all of humanity along with them.
God later gave Ten Commandments to Moses for Israel and all who would choose to follow God. However, various Kings, Priests, Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, and others would choose to disregard these Commandments throughout history. As a result, the people of Israel would suffer for their proclivity to be seduced to covet contrary to the tenth commandment—thou shalt not covet—choosing rather to desire what God had strictly forbidden.
Consequently, knowing this history and human proclivity to covet what doesn’t belong to us; knowing that ethical leadership can have very positive effects; and knowing that God is the progenitor of the righteous law and public policy, how is it that we continue to refuse to sound the alarm with an election just around the corner?
The Laquan McDonald murder case, the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and the obsession with the extending of transgender rights (LGBTQ community) to minors should have the Church up in arms about the wicked controlling the lives of our people at various levels of government. Yet sadly, I find little if nothing is said at Christian gatherings I’ve recently attended or heard about in the past few days.
I live in the state of Illinois. We have an election in November for many state-wide offices. Two of these offices carry a lot of weight to change the culture of the state: Governor and Attorney General. If you add your State Representative (state law) and U.S. Representative (federal law), there is a lot on the line in this election. We can choose to elect righteous people to write our laws, or consequently wicked people. In Spring of 2019, the city of Chicago and other municipalities will be electing mayors, alderman, trustees, school board members, and others. However, I have unfortunately not heard of anyone sounding the alarm in many evangelical circles.
How is this possible? We pray for God to change our communities for the better, but all too often when we have a chance to do something we shrink back. We abdicate our responsibility to be the “salt and light” of the world through the political process. Don’t misunderstand me, public policy will not change the heart of men but it does have the potential to restrain evil. It allows the community to prosper when just laws are in place. For instance, in Nehemiah chapter 5 people come before Nehemiah with complaints of lack of food to eat (vv1-2); The price for food is expensive because of famine (v.3); The King’s property tax is too high. The people had to go into debt to pay it (v. 4). And, as a consequence, their children were forced into slavery to pay off debt, while their fields belong to other people (v. 5). The policies of their current government were pushing people into poverty. To his credit, Nehemiah takes steps to rectify the problem. Needless to say, this list of complaints is a stark reminder and sobering example to us that public policy matters.
As we fight to restore truth to our parishioners and the community around us, we can never forget that good public policy, moral laws, and supporting God-fearing candidates for office are a part of our ministry to the communities where we have been placed to serve. A genuinely holistic ministry challenges our political governing bodies to be righteous in the laws, and ordinances they proffer.
A few years ago, in a discussion about supporting candidates who were against same-sex marriage, I was told by another pastor that we are not ‘one issue’ voters. I challenged him that we are indeed ‘one issue’ voters. The one issue that should concern every Christ—follower is how does my vote honor and glorify God? Or, to put it another way, how does my vote advance the Kingdom of God? The kingdom of God and His glory must be the first and foremost issue in all that we do—that includes who we vote for and why. It matters not what the world thinks, says, or does. If the Church would follow this simple advice, we’d carry more influence and respect. And like the Proverbs and the work of Nehemiah we’d see the kind of changes that result from the rule of the righteous, instead of the consequences from the wicked, which continue to oppress the poor.