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Lecture 25: Politics and Proverbs (part b)
Lecture: Proverbs and Politics Part B
II. Introduction – Continued
C. We Should Be Involved in Politics – Ten Reasons
So we are talking about why Christians should be involved in the political arena.
1. It is inevitable and inescapable
The fact that it is inevitable and inescapable is the first point covered. The Proverbs pre-supposes the political arena and involvement. The authors are kings and we noticed that the literature about Joseph was composed of court officials who are governing Egypt. In Proverbs 23, we see a number of people that sit down with the rulers and dined. So you see the original context coming through the political side of Proverbs. The Proverbs was given to all of Israel to shape the nation and the character of the government. I mentioned Confucius who said, ‘to put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right. We see how everything impacts another.
We also have salvation history as a metanarrative of the struggle between good and evil to rule the world. This is that idea that organizes and puts the whole book together. This is from the beginning where God creates man in his image and the image of God entails ruling. The image represents the ruler, thus you as the image of God represents God’s rule on the earth. In ancient literature, only the King is the image of God, others are not. The king represents the rule and thus we as the image of God also represent his rule. But we have opposition that is competing with God for power and leadership on earth, Satan. Thus this satanic opposition has been established over the human. This is the reason why God created a covenant people and they are the ones that will be in this struggle to overcome the wicked one. Interestingly, the whole metanarrative can be narrowed down to the Lord’s Prayer, ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, give us this day our daily bread,’ this is from Luke. Matthew adds, ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ This is what we mean by the Kingdom of God and that is God’s rule on earth. The rule of God is represented in the Book of Proverbs, for example. The whole metanarrative is the whole political battle between ideologies of who is going to rule. So this is why our involvement in politics is inescapable.
2. Religion and Politics are Inseparable
So the second argument is that politics, God and ethics are inseparable. You cannot separate religion from politics and thus you cannot separate the church from the state. To simplify this I drew up a chart for an analysis of culture and society. This shows how government fits into culture shaped in the form of a pyramid with four different levels and foundational to everything is your world view; what you believe about God, about humanity, about creation and how are they interrelated. This is foundational and the how of that will emerge from your ethics of what is right and what is wrong, a value system. If you believe that God created man in his image, then every image has dignity, value and significance because God created a person in his image to relate to him. So you value that image of life. If there is no God, all you have is matter and chance so who is to say that killing is wrong as it is only matter. If God created marriage then you will oppose same sex marriage. So your values come out of your world view and your world view is what you believe about God. If you deny God then there is nothing else but matter, but you have no way of proving that. Either there is revelation or we are left on our own and if you are alone, you are in a wasteland and you don’t know what is right from wrong.
The next step up is the government. It is the government that preserves the values that grow out of your world view. So politics is the application of the ethics and therefore, politics is inseparable from ethics and that in turn is inseparable from God. Thus did God reveal himself? So you cannot escape this interconnection and culture. Of course what is your view of God, and if there is a God what is he like? You cannot escape that. You want a government that will impose what is right and what is wrong, these values will come out of ethics. Thus these ethics is determined by authority and what is behind it. Is God the authority, is man the authority; who is the authority? And you also have the behavior of the people. If the government doesn’t restrain evil you will eventual have chaos. So the second point is that God, ethics and politics are all inseparable.
3. A Just Government with Citizen’s Rule
The third point says that a just government is the foundation for a nation’s economic prosperity and social well-being. Gary Haugen’s book, The Locust Effect says the 3rd World is characterized by tyranny and police brutality. All the money we send over there is wasted because if you don’t have a government to use it in the interest of the people, you are just wasting your money. It goes to the rich and they become richer. It never gets down to helping the people. If you want to change a country, you have to change the politics of a country. Anything that takes money from people without some type of return is injustice. For example, the gambling industry is famous for this and another is the smoking and tobacco industry. Justice is the dominant idea of the Book of Proverbs; it is doing what is right, just and fair in the best interest of the people as a whole. Thus righteousness is setting up a right and correct order of government. So how do I vote; do I vote for my selfish interest or for the interest of the people? Justice has to do with who is going to rule and who is going to defeat the tyrant. As Christians we should be concerned with the destruction of tyranny, those who are oppressing people. At the same time, we want to make sure that a person has an opportunity to become money wise. The fourth point is that in a democracy every eligible citizen rules. So we are rulers whether we like it or not.
4. Spiritual War and the Restraint of Evil
The point is to recognize that we are in a spiritual war with fools. Proverbs acknowledges this conflict throughout. Look at the following verses: Proverbs 1:22, ‘how long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Note that advocates of co-existence are dangerously naïve or subtly wicked of which all are opposed to the Cross of Jesus. Co-existence is a front to do away with what is right and correct. Other religions want to destroy the Cross and Jesus Christ. They don’t want Christ to rule them or their government. Other religions also want to destroy Judaism and what they stand for. Islam, especially, wants to do away with Christianity and also Judaism. Mohammed wanted the Jewish community in Saudi Arabia to recognize him as a prophet but since he never gave a prophecy or performed a miracle, they rejected him and then he rejected them and went against them forcing them to leave Arabia. In Matthew 12:43-45, it talks about an impure spirit returning in greater numbers to the place they had come. Thus after that, the person is worse than at first. This is how it will be with this wicked generation. If a person doesn’t have the Holy Spirit, they open themselves up to other spirits to dwell within them. But Paul says to put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the power of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. In addition to this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Eph 5:11-18) The sixth point concerns the wise restraining evil by punishing wrong doers. Proverbs 19:25 says to flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence; rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge.
5. Not Voting is voting for the Wicked
The seventh point has to do with not being involved and non-involvement is a vote for the wicked. Proverbs 24:10-12 says, ‘if you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength! Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, but we knew nothing about this, does not he who weights the heart discern the truth? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done? We see the ‘if’ here is a hypothetical lie and ‘you say’ as a defendant in a court of law. You pretend that you know nothing about it. And ‘we’ escapes personal culpability in community indifference with ‘this’ being the innocent and those unjustly perishing. Using the word ‘we’ identifies you with a group, not just an individual. The ‘does not’ demand an emphatic affirmative answer. We have ‘and; adding to his omnipotence to his omniscience. ‘Guards your life’ where the Lord will turn a blind eye to anyone who turns a blind eye to innocent victims; and lastly, ‘repay’ is where the active Lord is unlike the passive coward. It was in Germany where people said that knew nothing about what was happening to the Jews. But they saw the camps and they knew people were disappearing. We have a responsibility of guarding the lives of people around us and if we don’t, God will not protect us. This applies to the unborn; if we don’t protect the unborn we face a terrible punishment for it. If we allow unjust legislation that tyrannizes the worker, I think God is going to punish that. We are there to restrain evil and protect the lives of others and this is why we should be involved in politics. Interestingly, George Jean Nathan, an American author and drama critic, says that bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote. A quote from Plato says, ‘one of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.’ Dante says that the darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.
6. Future Generations, Apostolic Teachings and Anti-Christian Bias
The eighth point has to do with freedom and opportunity of future generations depending on the action of the present generation. The ninth is concerned with apostolic teaching and practice. Roman 13:1-8 tells us that unrighteous teaching steps out from under the rule of God. In 1st Timothy 2:1-2 there is an urging that prayer, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people, kings and those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1st Timothy was written to show us how to behave in the House of God. This is the church involved in politics. It says that if we are in authority we should govern in a way that leads to peace and quiet. But as Germany replaced Christianity with enlightenment and Hitler came to power; a demonic person lead a campaign of demonic evilness. Fifty million people died in the Second World War.
We also need to understand the difference between politics and political parties. In politics we need to name specific issues instead of political parties. Finally, for the ninth and tenth point, we have apostolic teaching and anti-Christian bias. These days if a Christian speaks out against anything, they are accused of hate speech.
III. Motivations for a Righteous and Just Government
A. The Governed
In Proverbs we have three reasons; first for emotional well-being, influential esteem, and prosperity. In Proverbs 11:10, it reads that in the prosperity of the righteous a city rejoices, and when the wicked perish, there is a shout of praise; and so the righteous use their good to promote the civic good. In Proverbs 14:34, righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a condemnation to peoples. And lastly, by (Woman Wisdom) kings reign and rulers issue decrees that are just; by me princes govern, and nobles – all who rule on earth. I love those who love me, and those who seek me. With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice, bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me and making their treasuries full. (Proverbs 8:15-21). Here, the righteous are serving other people and they will normally have money and they will use their good to help others. In the Book of Proverbs we have to distinguish between wealth and the rich man; they are two different things. Wealth is good and it promotes righteousness because with wealth you can help other people. A rich man is almost always bad; the poor man isn’t good either. Neither state is good because a rich man thinks that he is wise in his own eyes. The rich man is a spiritual state; he not only has wealth but he is autonomous; a self-made person who lives apart from God and so a rich man will never enter into the Kingdom of God because he trusts himself. We usually celebrate those who are generous and help others, but not those who try to get elected and pay others to help them. In Proverbs, ‘when the righteous triumph, the splendor is great; but when the wicked rise to power, morals must be searched out.’ Splendor refers to the public splendor of people who have come out of hiding and the rise to power entails a swing into action. Another proverb 28:28 says, ‘when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding, but when they perish, the righteous thrive.’
Ultimately a nation’s exaltation depends on its piety and ethics, not on its political, military, and / or economic greatness. In its external affairs a sinful nation among other things breaks treaties, propagandizes lies and bullies weaker nations. Additional Proverbs that support prosperity and motivation include that of 13:23, ‘the unplowed field of poor people yields plenty of food, but injustice sweeps it away.’ So this tells us that the problem of the poor in Proverbs is not God’s creation but injustice. In Proverbs 28:15, we read, ‘a roaring lion and a ravenous, charging bear is a wicked ruler over a poor people. As we look at creation, it is full of abundance. I have four apple trees on my property and this year is a bumper crop. I have more apples than I know what to do with. Interestingly in regards to a bear, they will eat eighty pounds (about 35 kg) of apples a day. In 28:3, ‘a destitute man and one who oppresses the poor – a rain washes away and there is no food.’ This is a metaphor for the one who oppresses the poor. Normally rain promotes a crop’s growth but a driving rain sweeps away both the crop and the soil. The oppressive ruler betrayed his role, inflicting ruin and squalor upon the citizens he should have enable to produce splendor. Finally, we have in Proverbs 29:4, ‘by justice a king gives a country, stability, but whoever is exacts contributions or gives them tears it down.’
Christopher Stone (Harvard Scholar, head of Open Society Foundation) says that in terms of social and economic development, high levels of crime and violence threaten to undermine the best-laid plans to reduce poverty, improve governance, and relieve human misery. Gary Haugen, the head of International Justice Ministries) says the truth is, very high rates of common criminal violence can have the same devastating impact on economic development as a civil war, economic shocks, or the worst natural disasters. Charles de Gaulle says that I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.
B. The Governing
Proverbs 20:28, he upholds his throne with kindness. We see that kindness and reliability guard the king. This involves a covenant relationship where a stronger individual helps others who are in need. What is it that makes you want to help the other person? It is the person you have a relationship with. This kindness has to do with unfailing love. Consider Joseph who moved to Egypt and married an Egypt giving his children Egyptian names. After meeting up with his brothers, he returned to his family and identified with them. He said to them, this is the kindness you will show me, you will bury me in the Promised Land. So he re-identified himself with Israel whereas earlier his family had abandoned him, he would not abandon them. So he becomes dependent on his family to do this for him. This is the kindness you will show me. This is a king who has an unfailing love for his people. Here, you can’t demand kindness or hesed as it is in Hebrew.
We see in Proverbs 24:23-25, these also are sayings of the wise: to show partiality in giving a verdict is not good: whoever says to the guilty, you are innocent, will be cursed by peoples and nations will strike him with a curse. But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, on them will come a blessing that brings good. In Proverbs 29:14, the king judges the poor through truth, his throne is established forever. This refers to a king who establishes the disturbed harmony of his realm by punishing the oppressive rich and delivering the powerless and oppressed poor through reliable witnesses and reliable data. Proverbs 14:28 says that a large population is a king’s glory, but without subjects a prince is ruined. The proverb implicitly encourages the disciple to be a competent person to whom people devote themselves, not a fool, whom they desert. Proverbs 27:23-27 is a metaphor addressing the son as an owner of flocks and probably as a ruler, admonishes him to concern himself intimately and personally with the well-being of his wards. ‘Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations. When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass from the hills is gathered in, the lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field. You will have plenty of goat’s milk to feed your family and to nourish your female servants.’ A flock is the metaphor here. The issue is how to remain a king for all generations. If you take care of your wards and your herds so that your crown will endure.
John Quincy Adams says when those who govern are righteous; their administration will be successful and stable.