Guest essay by Stephen McDowell
We have the privilege in America to choose those who govern us. As Christians, it is also our duty to do so.
Civil government is a divine institution. It exists to protect the life, liberty, and property of citizens, enabling them to more effectively advance the Kingdom of God. Civil leaders are servants of the people and of God, and are to govern under His higher authority. Rulers are to be ministers of God for good. (Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-14; Luke 22:25-26)
For government to fulfill its divine mission, Christians must be involved in selecting good men or women to office. Ideally, they would meet all the qualifications for godly officials. When Moses told the Israelites to select those who would govern, he set forth a number of biblical qualifications, saying, “You shall select out of all the people, able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain.” (Ex 18:21) “Choose wise and discerning and experienced men.” (Deut 1:13) He cited three general qualifications for governing officials: fear of God, honorable character, and biblical worldview.
1. Fear God
The fear of God is an essential qualification for a godly official. What are such people like? Matthias Burnet explained in an election sermon in 1803 that they are, “men acting under the belief and awe of God as their inspector and judge, to whom they consider themselves accountable for their conduct and whom they fear to offend.” 1
A person who fears God is not someone who simply professes faith, attends church, or culturally embraces Christianity, but someone who has a reverential fear of the Almighty. “When the righteous rule, the people rejoice.” (Prov 29:2) The righteous have right standing with God; they fear the true and living God.
2. Honorable Character
A second qualification is morality. They should be “men truly honest and upright in their principles and views, not actuated and governed by the sordid motives of self interest and aggrandizement in their desire and execution of office, but by a sincere regard to the public good.” 2
Corrupt, unprincipled rulers (like Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Mao Tse-tung) have brought great misery to mankind, including loss of liberty and the downfall of nations, while U.S. socialist and progressive leaders of the 20th century have done much to steal the liberty and property of many.
The actions of these leaders flowed from a wrong worldview. Some displayed dishonest and immoral behavior.
Chandler Robbins, in an election sermon in 1791, said, “Nothing will so surely, so rapidly bring on the dissolution of society, and the loss of the liberties of a people, as a want of virtue and integrity in their rulers.” 3
A vital quality for leaders is honesty. Prov 29:12 says, “If a ruler pays attention to falsehood [hearkens to lies], all his ministers become wicked.” If they cannot keep personal vows, we cannot expect them to keep national vows. We have witnessed the negative consequences of such conduct in recent years.
Knowledge or intelligence (as man sees it) without honesty—a genius but with a bad heart—is worse than an ignorant honest man because the evil genius could find more subtle ways to rob the people of their rights. Some have argued support for certain candidates based on their intelligence, saying: “He’s so smart. We ought to elect him.” Yet, if such a person, no matter how smart, is reasoning from wrong presuppositions, he will not be a good leader.
Humility is a second great quality needed in leaders. Jesus taught that leaders are to be servants. (Matt 20:25-28)
3. Biblical Worldview
Thinking biblically is of great importance because a leader will act and vote based on how he thinks. (Prov 23:7) The best leaders will have a biblical view of government, understanding its purpose and limited nature.
The tendency of fallen man is to want power for himself, often justified for benevolent reasons. Jesus taught we are to render to Caesar (civil government) things under his jurisdiction (which are very limited) and to God the things that are God’s. (Matt 22:15-21) As America has moved towards socialism, we have been rendering to Caesar the things that are God’s. Under all forms of statism, civil government assumes the role of God, the family, the church, and the private sector.
Socialism is the golden calf of modern America and a great threat to liberty and prosperity. Discerning whether a candidate adheres to a biblical or socialistic philosophy of government comes down to the question, “Who controls the property and children in the nation?” Whoever controls the property controls the present; whoever controls the children controls the future. God has given this responsibility to the family, not the state.
We must seek to elect people who understand the divine, but very limited, role of civil government. Without knowledgeable Christians participating in elections, America will become another Tower of Babel, with man looking to himself for all things.
Godly leaders begin with godly citizens. Reform begins in our house, but it will eventually be reflected in the state house and the White House. America needs godly transformation. Those who are transformed need to be eternally vigilant to have this reflected in our civil leaders.
The election of unprincipled people produces misery and tyranny, but godly rulers bring peace, prosperity, justice, and rejoicing. If we fulfill our duty and elect godly candidates, our future will be bright.
This article was originally published in the Intercessors for America journal The Connecter, October 2014, edition.
Stephen McDowell is co-founder and President of the Providence Foundation, a nonprofit Christian educational organization whose mission is to spread liberty, justice, and prosperity among the nations by educating individuals in a Biblical worldview. Providential Perspective is available online with subscription at the Providence Foundation website.
© 2014 Used by Permission