By Jeff Short
“When the righteous
are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule,
the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).
As Christian citizens, we sometimes wonder what the extent of our involvement
with the civil government of our country should be. Usually, election time
sparks a renewed interest in this issue. In this article I would like to
consider especially one aspect of civil involvement - voting. Voting is
one means by which we may be involved and help to elect leaders that will
cause “the people”
Our text makes it obvious that we have a certain interest in the government
of our land. The people can be made to “rejoice” or “mourn” by
those in authority. Our government can affect us positively or negatively.
In fact, our leaders have a profound power to impact our lives morally,
socially, and economically. They can affect us as citizens, as churches,
and as families. The government can encroach on our freedoms through expansive
government, complex regulations, and burdensome taxes, or we may enjoy
more liberty with a small, limited government that stays within its proper
In America, we have a representative republic. The magistrates are elected
to office by the citizenry of this country. This means that every adult
citizen has the privilege of voting in elections. In light of our text,
it would be foolish not to vote because of apathy or irresponsibility.
Perhaps, some do not make use of this privilege because voting can seem
to be such an overwhelming endeavor. There are so many candidates and offices
and it is hard to find reliable information. We can simplify things somewhat
when we consider that each voter elects roughly about sixteen key candidates
to public office on the national, state, and local levels combined. The
overall number may vary given a person’s exact location, e.g. if a person
lives outside of an incorporated city, he will not vote for a mayor, city
can elect five candidates on the national level - a president, a vice president,
two senators, and a congressman. We can elect about five candidates on
the state level - a governor, a lieutenant governor, an attorney general,
a senator, and one or more representatives. Depending on the place of residence,
we may elect about six candidates on the local level - a mayor, a city
councilman, a city attorney, the school board, a county supervisor, and
are the key public office holders that we may vote for. We elect them and
pay their salaries with our taxes. They are supposed to be servants of
the public and representative of their constituency. They should especially
represent us morally.
we consider the number of offices that we are responsible for, it is not
such a large task to be informed of this small number of people. This brings
us to the question of how we are to determine a candidate’s suitability
for office. Is there some reliable guide by which we can make determinations
of how fit a candidate is for the office he seeks? Yes, there is such a
guide; the Bible is the best Christian voter’s guide.
Let us now look into our guide and see if we can find help for the voting
Let us consider two main questions and as we proceed, I will also try to
address some common questions and difficulties we meet with as Christians
trying to vote with a clear conscience.
I. In the first place, how may we determine a candidate’s suitability
we seek more than just opinion in this matter. What does the Bible have
to say about qualifications for government leaders? Or perhaps we might
ask, “Should a Christian even vote at all or even be concerned with
politics?” We probably all share a degree of disgust with politics
on all levels. Does that mean we should just stay away from the whole issue?
What does the Bible have to say on this matter?
prepared the people of Israel for the time when they would occupy the land
of Canaan. He instructed them, “Judges and officers shalt thou make
thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy
tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment” (Deuteronomy
16:18). Moses taught the people that they would be responsible for
choosing their civil officers. Their form of government made the people
responsible to make their own judges and officers.
This was not always the case in Israel’s varied history, nor is it the
case in all the world today. In some countries, the citizens cannot elect
their officials in free elections.
I suppose that Christians in those countries do not have to face this issue
However, in the United States, we still can vote and we should. Considering
our text, it would be foolish, at best, not to vote. If all Christians
would quit voting, our country would move from a moral decline to a free-fall.
When Israel was self-governed, they were responsible to choose their leaders.
Along with this charge, they were also given guidelines as to the type
of men they should choose. There are two primary texts that bear on this
subject, from which, we will note seven marks of qualified candidates.
There are actually many verses that seem to speak to us on this subject,
but we will stick with the two primary passages in Exodus 18:21 and
Israel was delivered from Egypt, they had grown to a very large multitude.
Moses was the chief magistrate of the civil government of the nation. He
was the only judge, and the people would come to him for judgment from
morning until night. Moses’ father-in-law was concerned that Moses was
going to wear himself out and the people too. He wisely advised that lesser
judges should be chosen to help in governing the people.
Jethro also told him what types of men were fit to be civil officers. “Moreover
thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men
of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of
thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens”
(Exodus 18:21). The first qualification mentioned is that they
should be “able men.” “Able” refers to strength and especially strength
of character. This speaks of men of ability, integrity, virtue, and courage.
These must be men who will act from principle, even in the face of opposition.
He next says that these men should “fear God.” They must have a
reverence for God and His Word. They would not be atheist or agnostic.
They would not advocate the removal of God’s Word from all public life,
nor would they advocate the transcendence of man’s law to God’s law. They
must “fear God” for
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of
knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).
they should be
“men of truth.” They should love truth and hate falsehood.
should not be perpetual prevaricators or supporters of those who are. They
must love truth and seek it even when it is not convenient.
These should also be men “hating covetousness.” They should not
be greedy for unjust gain. They should not seek to use their office for
enriching themselves or their friends. They would also not allow others
to use the government for getting unjust gain through frivolous lawsuits
and massive redistribution of wealth programs. These four qualifications
are given in this passage.
We find three additional qualifications in Deuteronomy 1:13: “Take
you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will
make them rulers over you.” In this passage, Moses referred to the
time in Exodus 18 when, forty years prior, Jethro counseled him
to have other judges to help him. Notice that Moses told Israel they were
to “take,” or choose, the men fit for these offices, and he would
“make them rulers over you.”
The fifth mark of those fit for office is they should be “wise men.”
This means they should be skillful and intelligent. This speaks of
a natural ability and a wisdom that is gained through experience. No fools
they should be
men. This does not refer to some
sappy sentimentalism, rather they should be able to deal wisely and discern.
They must be able to make proper moral and ethical decisions. By the nature
of their position they must make tough decisions, decide on legislation,
etc. A fit candidate should be able to give a definite answer concerning
issues such as abortion, sodomite marriages, etc.
seventh qualification given is that they should be “known among your
indicates that these men had proven themselves among the people. They have
a track record in their homes, church, community, and business. These would
not be novices, but men who have earned respect in other spheres of life
and labor. This probably eliminates the carpetbagger from consideration
these verses deal with the nation of Israel,
the passages are relevant
for us today. The authority for all civil government comes from God,
whether in Israel Rome, or the United States. God defines the purpose and
responsibility of the government.
of whether they acknowledge Him or not, they will be held accountable by
God for how they fulfilled their responsibility.
the passage in Romans 13:1-6. There we have the purpose of the civil
government defined and the Apostle was talking about the Roman government
at that time. If we compare this and other New Testament passages with
Old Testament passages related to Israel, we find that the purpose of the
government is the same. We can safely conclude that if the civil government
authority is the same, the purpose is the same, and the jurisdiction is
the same, then the qualifications for officers in the government are also
the same. Therefore, we must use these guidelines to determine the suitability
of candidates today and tomorrow in the US as well as any other country.
II. Secondly, we must consider another important question on this subject:
Should Christians vote for a woman for public office?
woman holding public office is an accepted fact in our day. We do not
even hear this subject being debated in the public arena. For most, it
is not even a consideration. In fact, probably few Christians even think
about it or seriously consider whether this is acceptable by Scripture.
America, this has been a reality since the 19th century. Susanna Medora
Salter was the first woman in the history of this country to be elected
to a public office. She was elected mayor of Argonia, KS in 1887. Different
women had run for office before this time, but she was the first to win
an election and hold a public office. Since that time, we have been used
to women as mayors, governors, senators, representatives, judges, and eventually
voting for a woman can be a dilemma when it
appears that a woman is the most fit candidate for the office. We cannot
deny that this is the case at different times. A woman may be running unopposed
or she may just simply be the most conservative and moral candidate by
far. However, this question must be brought first of all to the Scripture.
Before we even consider a woman’s qualifications, i.e. her ability, wisdom,
integrity, moral and spiritual condition, we must find out if a woman can
hold public office according to God’s Word. If she is not permitted by
the Word, her suitability for office is irrelevant. If she is permitted,
then we must determine her suitability by Scripture just as we would for
The answer to this question in brief is that the Bible does not permit
women to bear rule over men in any sphere. They are not permitted to
rule over the man in the home, in the church, or in the public arena. It
is not a question of her abilities, nor is it a question of history where
a woman has held a public office and done well, or even where women have
done good things for the country by their office. When the question is
put to the Scriptures alone, the position of authority over men is not
given to women by God.
us now consider some reasons for this conclusion from the Word. If we go
back to the qualification passages referenced earlier, we can see that
these verses have men in view. The word “men” is these verses is
gender specific, meaning the male gender as opposed to the female gender.
The context will also bear this out that men were to be selected for positions
of civil leadership.
holding public office would also violate the doctrine of headship taught
throughout the Bible - from beginning to end. The order of authority given
by God is God-Christ-man-woman (I Corinthians 11:3). We have no
authority to change the chain of command established in ante-antiquity
by the eternal God. This order is seen in the first three chapters of Genesis,
the second chapter of I Timothy, Ephesians chapter five, and other passages.
This order is never overturned by any precept in the Bible.
taught Timothy that women should “learn in silence with all subjection”
and they should not “teach,”
neither should they “usurp authority
over the man” (I Timothy 2:11-12). He went on to support this
saying, “For Adam was first formed, then Eve” (I Timothy 2:13).
He goes right back to the beginning and sets forth the order not to be
violated: “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (I
have been so conditioned by our society of humanist/feminist rebellion
against God that to say these things is shocking. However, the question
is not one to be determined by our feelings, opinions, preferences, etc.
The question is rather: What does God require? The Bible tells us plainly
that God requires men to take leadership in all spheres. He requires men
to be men, not the whining, whimpering, in touch with his inner child or
feminine side, feminized pretty boy of our day. Biblical manliness has
been lost today in a quagmire of touchy-feely, spineless manhood that is
subject to political sensitivity and correctness. The question that should
perplex us is where are the men, the real men?
do not deny that women have been in positions of authority over men at
different times in history, and even in Bible times. This fact should not
surprise us, for men, women, and children have been violating God’s Word
since Adam and Eve did so in the Garden of Eden. In the Bible when women
were ruling over men, rather than condoning or commending it, the words
are plain that it was an error and even a curse. We have this lament in
“As for my people, children are their oppressors,
and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee
to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.” This was a sad situation,
even an error. It was also a judgment against the men of that day who abdicated
their God given responsibility.
also that ambition for public office was unknown to the virtuous woman
of Proverbs 31. In this chapter, we have the inspired description
of a godly and virtuous woman. It is a beautiful description of biblical
examination of this chapter reveals, “Her husband is known in the gates,
when he sitteth among the elders of the land” (Proverbs 31:23).
In ancient times,
“the gates” was the place where the elders and
judges would sit and conduct official public business.
would be similar to speak of the courthouse, capitol building, town hall,
or some other municipal building where the affairs of civil government
are handled. It was this woman’s
“husband” who was known and sat
“among the elders of the land.” She had no thought or desire of
taking his place.
virtuous woman is the central focus of this passage, and we see that her
interests and work were centered in her home (v. 27). She was industrious
(vv. 13, 16-19). She worked to feed her household (vv. 14-15). She labored
to clothe her household (vv. 21-22). She performed important community
service (v. 20). She excelled in her God-given opportunity so much that
her works praised
“her in the gates” (Proverbs 31:31), but
she never sat there in a public office.
was a manifold blessing to others, using well her opportunity as a wife
and mother (v. 26). Her husband dealt with matters of civil government
and was blessed to have her as his most trusted counselor (vv. 11-12).
This woman is styled as one who “feareth the LORD” (Proverbs
31:30). She was not misguided by seeking the deceitful favor or vain
beauty of a powerful “public woman.” Additionally, the virtuous woman is
not unfulfilled or unproductive and unhappy because she is not contributing
to society in a meaningful way by living her life as a man. On the contrary,
she is strong and honorable (v. 25), wise and kind (v. 26), happy and fulfilled
(v. 25), well respected and honored (vv.28-31). This woman was not trying
to find herself; rather she found God and great joy in serving Him and
others through her home.
am sure that by this time, someone is ready to protest, “But, what about
conventional wisdom is that she was a judge in Israel and certainly, this
must be an argument for women holding public office. Let us now consider
Deborah and see if her case is such that would commend the practice of
women running for and holding offices in the civil government.
we know of Deborah, we read in Judges Chapters 4 and 5.
At this period of time, Israel was in a state of civil confusion. They
were passing in and out of enemy occupation. The “judges” that Israel had
at this time were more military leaders than they were judicial bench sitters.
These men were warriors who led the people into battle and delivered them
from the strong hands of their enemies. This forms the context for when
Deborah came on the scene.
are introduced to Deborah in the fourth chapter of Judges. “And Deborah,
a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And
she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount
Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment” (Judges
4:4-5). We learn that she was “a prophetess” and that “she
judged Israel.” The Hebrew word shaphat is here rendered “judged.”
is a verb that means primarily to judge or decide. The
word itself in its primary meaning and usage does not necessarily indicate
judging in an official sense. The word refers to a third party who sits
over two parties at odds with one another, hears their side of the story
or complaints, and then gives a judgment or a decision. The word does not
require that this is an authoritative or official judgment.
may think of it this way. A man has two neighbors who have a squabble over
something and they both respect and trust this man. So, they both come
and spread the matter before him and he gives them his opinion (judgment)
in the matter. His opinion is not legally binding because he is not acting
in any official capacity, but he has judged his neighbors. Just so, the
language of the verses in Judges 4 does not require that she was
an official judge in Israel.
context of these two chapters in Judges is actually against the idea that
she was a judge in the official sense as Gideon, Samson, Jephthah, etc.
During Deborah’s time, there was a man named Barak who was the leader of
Israel. Consider the heroes mentioned in Hebrews 11. Not all judges
are mentioned, but the writer does say, “And what shall I more say?
for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson,
and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets” (Hebrews
11:32). He mentions four judges from the book of Judges in a group
- Gedeon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthae. It is not Deborah that is foisted
to the spotlight here but Barak, who led Israel to victory at the time
when Deborah was a prophetess.
come to the fifth chapter and read, “Then sang Deborah and Barak the
son of Abinoam on that day” (Judges 5:1). Deborah and Barak
sang a song of victory after Israel was delivered from victory. This was
a song of praise to God for His mercy and deliverance in battle. This song
also contains some words that do not support the idea that Deborah was
an official judge.
her own declaration, Deborah “arose a mother in Israel” (Judges
5:7). It is significant that she called herself a mother and not a
father. The father is the head of the home and the Hebrews knew that very
well. She considered herself a mother who has a very important role in
the home but it is supportive and subordinate to the father. This is consistent
with her being a “prophetess.”
spoke of, but did not number herself among, “the governors of Israel”
(Judges 5:9). These governors were lawgivers and the term refers
to the elders and rulers of the tribes. This reinforces the idea that the
judges of this period were more military leaders than civil magistrates.
Deborah was outside of this group.
roles of Deborah and Barak at this time were spoken of clearly in Judges
5:12: “Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song: arise,
Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam.” Deborah
was called on to “awake”
“utter a song.” Barak was called
on to “arise . . . and lead.”
Barak was the official judge and Deborah’s
role was supportive.
casual reading of verse 13 may suggest to us that Deborah was bearing rule
in some way. “Then he made him that remaineth have dominion over the
nobles among the people: the LORD made me have dominion over the mighty”
(Judges 5:13). Does the last phrase of this verse teach that
Deborah had dominion, or was a public office holder?
of all, we must remember that this song was sang by both Deborah and Barak
(Judges 5:1). So, it is not clear that Deborah speaks this personally
of herself. Secondly, in light of the context, this passage refers to their
victory in battle.
am not saying that Deborah had no role; she certainly did have a role.
She was a prophetess. She encouraged Barak to go up to battle saying, “the
LORD hath delivered Sisera into thine hand” (Judges 4:14). We
also find that another woman had a hand in Israel’s deliverance. Her name
was Jael. It was by her hand that the mighty Sisera was slain (Judges
we understand about Deborah is that she was a prophetess. She was more
like Miriam who was a leader of women in her day (Exodus 15:20-21).
Miriam’s role was supportive and when she tried to lead men (Aaron), she
was punished (Numbers12:10,
14-15). We have no such stain
on Deborah’s record though. She was a godly woman and the people of Israel
sought her wisdom. This is a commendation of her and a condemnation of
the low state of the men of Israel at this time. She was not appointed
a civil judge over Israel and her case is certainly not an argument for
going against plain Scripture and having women rulers.
– Let us now take up a few final considerations. The guidelines
we have considered from the Bible admittedly set a very high standard.
Does this high standard for civil magistrates make it impossible for
us to vote at all? I think we have to realize that no man will ever
meet these standards perfectly. This does not mean that we should just
forget these guidelines and vote for anyone we want. There were obviously
men in Israel made judges by the people and Moses. So, they must have reasonably
conformed to the standard. We should not lower the bar to accommodate men
of low degree, but we should demand a high standard for those that we will
elect and pay their salary. We should seek men for office who have a reasonable
conformance to this standard.
the Bible as the Christian voter’s guide does eliminate some candidates
from consideration. The amoral humanists, for example, would be eliminated.
These are the evolutionists, feminists, sodomites, abortionists, etc. The
Christian could not vote for such candidates according to their voting
guide - the Bible.
may also eliminate any woman from our consideration, because they are not
permitted by the Bible to hold public offices. This certainly does not
equate all women with amoral humanists. In fact, this does not take into
account their morals or abilities at all. We cannot help elect them simply
because the Bible forbids women from ruling over men.
this point, the pickin’s are beginning to look mighty slim. There
are only a few candidates that we could vote for, if this is going to be
our policy. I certainly agree that our current selection is whittled down
greatly. The lack of suitable candidates is a situation that is not helped
by Christians who will not vote for a reasonable candidate when he does
run. Usually, we will not vote for him because we think there is no way
he can win. He will not be backed by the liberal media or morally bankrupt
politicians already in office. He will not gain widespread popularity among
the special interest groups that seem to be driving our modern public thought
and he will be at a distinct disadvantage financially. We figure this would
just be a wasted vote.
brings us to consider
the common philosophy of the day. There are
two prevailing thoughts about voting in our day that we hear repeatedly.
For all practical purposes in our day, we have a two party system in this
country. And, it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell them apart.
So, we really only see two candidates in the race for an office. Essentially,
in these two, we have the bad and the worse. We have the candidate that
we do not want and the candidate that we really do not want.
first common thought is this: To vote for a candidate other than the two
mainliners is to vote for the candidate that we really do not want. In
other words, say the two mainliners are candidates A and B. We are not
thrilled with candidate A, but we are terrified at the thought of having
candidate B. The common thought is that to vote for a candidate C, who
is not a member of the main two parties, is really a vote for candidate
B - our worst nightmare.
cannot understand this logic. As an individual citizen, I have one vote.
If I cast that one vote for
candidate C, then I voted for C
and not A or B. When the votes are tabulated, my vote is put in the column
for candidate C and not B. I suppose that we are assuming that we are taking
a vote away from candidate A and thereby giving candidate B a better chance
does God require of us as Christian citizens? Are we responsible to become
pollsters, political strategists, or statisticians? Are we to calculate
the odds and try to play them? Are we in some way responsible for what
everyone else does and therefore we have to try to counteract their vote
with ours? This is all a hopeless game that we cannot win. We are responsible
to God for our thoughts and actions. We are responsible to take His Word
as the final rule of all faith and practice. We are responsible to follow
His Word and to have a clear conscience before Him. When we vote for
a candidate, we are voting for that candidate and not for
next common thought is also based on the presupposition that only one of
the two main party candidates has any hope of winning. We reason that since
only one of the two main candidates has any chance at winning, we have
to pick the lesser of two evils to keep the worst candidate from being
elected. This logic admits that we are not voting for a suitable candidate.
In order to mollify our conscience, we reason, “The man is going to get
in office that God puts there anyway, so I’ll just pick the lesser of two
evils and hope everything turns out all right.” We justify voting for an
unsuitable candidate by appealing to the sovereignty of God. When we boil
it all down, we just vote for whomever we want because of the party and
our belief in the greatest economic benefit through them. So, we basically
choose our candidate based on some personal preference - whatever pet issue
we have - and then figure everything is all right because of God’s sovereignty.
whole line of thinking ends with God’s sovereignty, when God’s sovereignty
should be at the beginning of our thoughts. Let me explain what I mean
by that. God is absolutely sovereign and “doeth according to his will
in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth” (Daniel4:35).
He reigns in the affairs of men and even in the civil governments of the
nations. We are told that God “changeth the times and the seasons: he
removeth kings, and setteth up kings” (Daniel 2:21). “For
promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the
south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another”
with a proper view of God’s almighty power, we have no need to play games
or strategize. Through faith, we may look to Him and follow His Word to
vote for qualified men and leave the disposing of the whole matter in His
hands (Proverbs 16:33). We may take our stand with the Apostle Paul
who said, “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience
void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16). Let
us vote for a suitable candidate with a clear conscience and where we cannot
vote with a clear conscience, let us refrain from voting and “mourn”
unto the Lord that He will work for us that we may rejoice “When
the righteous are in authority.”
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