STOP. THINK. VOTE. (Sermon by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson)
In ten days, our nation will be going to the polls. In fact, the early voting has already begun. With that in mind, I want to preach a message this morning titled, “STOP. THINK. VOTE.” Turn in your Bibles to Deuteronomy 1:5-13. Winston Churchill supposedly said, “The strongest argument against democracy is a five-minute discussion with the average voter.” True or not—it seems that way more and more. People seem to be voting more by assumption rather than information, feelings rather than facts, and rhetoric rather than results.
Deuteronomy 1:9-13 9“And I spoke to you at that time, saying: ‘I alone am not able to bear you. 10The Lord your God has multiplied you, and here you are today, as the stars of heaven in multitude. 11May the Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times more numerous than you are, and bless you as He has promised you! 12How can I alone bear your problems and your burdens and your complaints? 13Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.’
Overall Background: The passage we just read refers to a time in the early history of Israel when Moses was the only judge over all the people of Israel. He would sit from morning till evening, listening to case after case, dispute after dispute, and argument after argument. It was too much for him. He was not able to do it. He was wearing himself out. On his father-in-law—Jethro’s—suggestion, Moses asked the people to choose from among their tribes men who were wise, understanding, and knowledgeable and then he (Moses under the authority of God) would make them heads over them. This was not just an example of delegation; this was not just an example of democracy; this was an example of how God decides who will be our leaders. The people would choose their leaders and Moses as God’s leader would approve them. They were to vote for their leaders based on wisdom, understanding, and knowledge; then Moses would swear them in. God had the final say over their choice.
For e.g. The image that comes to my mind is the oath of office taken by every American President since George Washington. At the end of the oath they say, “So help me God.” In fact, George Washington’s inauguration took place in New York City, which was the nation’s capital for the first year of the new government. The newspaper reported that – “on the morning of the inauguration, church bells will ring at nine o’clock so people could go to church and pray for the new government.” About noon as they were making their way to the Federal Hall, they realized that they did not have a Bible and the Parade Marshall had to rush to find one. Finally, they made their way to the balcony of the Federal Hall, overlooking Wall Street. Washington placed his left hand on the Bible and raised his right hand to take the oath. At the end of the oath, he said, “So help me God” and leaned over and kissed the Bible. Then they went back into the Federal Hall where he gave his inaugural address in which he said, “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States.” By the way, he began his address with prayer and he closed in prayer. Would you like to know what they did after that? They went down the street to St. Paul’s Church for a special service. It was not a Sunday. It was a Thursday.
Isn’t that amazing! That is how our country began! We have drifted far from that, haven’t we?
This morning, I want us to look at some very important questions with regards to the upcoming election. I want to answer three very important questions that Americans in general and Christians in particular often ask: 1. Is it wrong for us to talk about politics in church? 2. Should Christians be concerned with politics? 3. What are the right reasons to vote for a candidate?
I. IS IT WRONG FOR US TO TALK ABOUT POLITICS IN CHURCH?
The answer is No. It is wrong to endorse a candidate or oppose a candidate by name. In 1954, the IRS put a regulation that prevents pastors from supporting or opposing any candidate by name. It was done without any debate or discussion. The churches are allowed to deal with issues that are part of an election campaign. In reality, endorsement for candidates seems to be happening all the time through some churches and the IRS has never actually revoked the tax exempt status of any church for doing that.
Application: Sometimes people have used a scare tactic against the church and pastors to keep us from speaking on issues.
II. SHOULD CHRISTIANS BE CONCERNED WITH POLITICS?
The answer is Yes! But before we look at why it is important, I want to deal with several wrong views that people have about Christians and Politics. (From Wayne Grudem, “Politics According to the Bible”):
1. Government should force people to follow Christianity.
- When you look at history, it was never a good thing when the government tried to dictate the faith of a person.
- The history of Europe shows how terrible the conflict used to be between Catholics and Protestants and between the Reformed and the Anabaptists. Thousands were persecuted and killed and burned at the stake.
- Jesus set the boundary for us when he said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Meaning: Church and Government are two separate entities.
- You cannot force someone to have faith in Jesus. It is a choice.
2. Government is evil and Christians should have no part in it.
- They say that politicians are corrupt and they have never done any good.
- Behind every government is Satan who is busy causing wars and destruction. For e.g. behind Hitler was Satan who caused him to exterminate Jewish people and capture Europe.
- Here’s the question: Who was behind the Allied Forces who went to fight the Nazi army? Who was behind the troops who landed at Omaha beach?
- There are people who use Jesus’ statement to turn the other cheek to argue that Christians should never retaliate. When Jesus said turn the other cheek, he was talking about how we deal with individual insults. This is much different from what God expects from politicians and government.
- Romans 13:3-4 3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
3. Christians should focus only on reaching the lost.
- You see bumper stickers like this all the time – Elect King Jesus
- It all sounds very spiritual but it is escapist.
- In the Old Testament, we meet Daniel who greatly impacted Babylon and later the Medo-Persian Empire.
- Also, Esther, who spoke up and saved the lives of all her people.
- In the New Testament, John the Baptist spoke against the Moral, Spiritual, and Political Issues of his day. He was not afraid to take on Herod Antipas.
4. Christians and Government should not mix at all.
- This is a view that is used by people who hate Christianity. They try to attack anything that resembles Christianity. They argue that there is no place for prayers before a city council meeting; no place for the cross at veteran’s memorials; no 10 commandments in the courtroom.
- This is just a tactic to pass values that are not accepted by most Americans. For e.g. The Same-sex marriage issue. Most Americans are not for it. Back in 2009, only 28.1% of Iowans supported it in their state. How did they get around it? They used the argument that traditional marriage is just a religious bias of Christians and hence the Iowa Supreme Court imposed same-sex marriage by claiming that it is a religious prejudice and goes against the Constitutional rights of a person.
- Marriage is not a religion. It is a universal institution. By the way, the Bible also believes that stealing is wrong and murder is wrong. Should we then make it legal to steal and murder since they are Christian rules? That’s foolish.
- When the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” it does not mean that Christianity has no say in politics. It simply means there can be no state church.
Here is the right view – Christians should have a significant influence on the Government.
- It’s because Christians went beyond just evangelizing people and got involved in politics that they were able to pass laws against infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion in the Roman Empire (in AD 374); they were able to outlaw the brutal battles-to-the-death in which thousands of gladiators had died (in 404); they were able to outlaw the cruel punishment of branding the faces of criminals (in 315); they were able to bring about prison reforms such as the segregating of male and female prisoners (by 361); they were able to stop the practice of human sacrifice among the Irish, the Prussians, and the Lithuanians as well as among other nations; they were able to outlaw pedophilia; they were able to grant property rights and other protections to women; they were able to ban polygamy in the Western world; prohibit the burning alive of women in India (in 1829); outlaw the painful and crippling practice of binding young women’s feet in China (in 1912); persuade government officials to begin a system of public schools in Germany (in the sixteenth century); and advance the idea of compulsory education for all children in a number of European countries; and outlaw slave trade and slavery. (Wayne Grudem in his book “Politics according to the Bible” writes about the work of historian Alvin Schmidt.)
- What did Jesus say? Listen to Matthew 5:13-16 13“You are the salt of the earth… 14“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden…16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Hence, it is important for Christians to speak up and let their voices be heard.
Is it wrong for us to talk about politics in church? No; Should Christians be concerned with politics? Yes
III. WHAT ARE THE RIGHT REASONS TO VOTE FOR A CANDIDATE?
People will be going to the polls and vote but many are voting for the wrong reasons. Here are some of those wrong reasons:
- What Party they Belong to? – Often people vote a certain way because they think that it would be wrong to abandon their party after all these years. Here’s the question that every voter should ask: “Has my party abandoned me?” “Does it still have my best interest in mind?” “Are my values important to those I am electing?” Don’t let someone use you just for your vote.
- What do they look like? – What makes America wonderful is that unlike some countries we have shown that anyone—regardless of the shade of their skin—can be the President of the United States. With the same token, we need to show the world that Americans look deeper to the principles and values of our candidates. What matters is what they stand for rather than what they look like or how charming they are.
- What Religious Faith they belong to? – Americans have repeatedly shown that a candidate’s religious tradition is not as important as his moral values. A person may claim to be “born again” and still lose the re-election campaign if his values and economic policies are not ours. Thomas Jefferson—the third President—was a deist but he reduced the national debt by a third.
So what are the right reasons to vote for a candidate? Deuteronomy 1:13 says, “Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.” Let’s look at those three qualities:
Background: from the Hebrew word hokma. In this context, it means skills in civil and military affairs. With regards to civil affairs, the President cannot ignore the tremendous unemployment rate and the mounting debt crisis facing our nation. Many Americans are living in constant fear of losing their jobs. Our children and grandchildren need to know that we are doing everything possible to prepare a better tomorrow for them. With regards to the military, the President should never cut back on defense spending. Recent events in Libya are a reminder that the world remains unstable and unpredictable.
Background: from the Hebrew word bina which means discernment. The President should have a sense of discernment about how jobs are created. We constantly hear about how the “rich should pay their fair share.” According to the SOI (Statistics of Income) tax stats available on the IRS website, the top one percent of the wealthiest Americans paid 38.02 percent of the total income tax. If that’s not enough, the top 50 percent of the tax payers pay 97% of the total income tax. This means that half of all Americans pay only 3% of the revenue and many don’t pay any! To increase taxes on the wealthy would actually hurt the small business owners and destroy more jobs!
Background: from the Hebrew word yeduim. It carries the meaning of respect. The United States has been and continues to be the force for good in this world and we need a President who will inspire respect and admiration, both here and abroad. It affects the progress of democracy, business, and national defense.
Application: So before you head to the polls – Stop, Think, and then Vote.