What Drives Your Vote?

trump hillaryChristians in the United States are in quite the tizzy, some backing Clinton, some backing Trump, and some rabidly denying both as viable candidates, deciding to cast for Gary Johnson or not vote at all. This brings up a probing question:

What drives your vote?

Some vote on fiscal policies. Will the candidate make our country safer and more prosperous?

Some vote on moral issues. Where does the candidate stand on abortion and the definition of family?

Some vote based on a mix of fiscal and moral issues, and the combination of their hottest buttons drives their decision at the polls. Will the candidate support the legalization of drugs and uphold the sanctity of marriage between husband and wife?

But what about the MORAL CHARACTER of the candidate? As I read through Scripture, it seems that God always cared about the integrity of leaders. Always. Without exception. Perhaps it’s helpful to scan through the book of Proverbs and ask whether or not our favorite candidate really measures up to what God would expect from a leader.

REMEMBER–Our whole nation is affected by sin!

Righteousness exalts a nation,
But sin is a disgrace to any people. (14.34)

HOW DO THEY USE THEIR MOUTHS?

pinnochio         Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. (10.6)

The wise of heart will receive commands,
But a babbling fool will be ruined. (10.8)

He who conceals hatred has lying lips,
And he who spreads slander is a fool.
When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise. (10.18-19)

With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor,
But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered. (11.9)

Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD,
But those who deal faithfully are His delight. (12.22)

The one who guards his mouth preserves his life;
The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (13.3)

A perverse man spreads strife,
And a slanderer separates intimate friends. (16.28)

He who restrains his words has knowledge,
And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise;
When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent. (17.27-28)

ARE THEY PROUD?

When pride comes, then comes dishonor,
But with the humble is wisdom. (11.2)

Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling. (16.18)

DO THEY TRUST IN RICHES?

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
But righteousness delivers from death. (11.4)

He who trusts in his riches will fall,
But the righteous will flourish like the green leaf. (11.28)

helping the poorHOW DO THEY TREAT PEOPLE?

He who despises his neighbor lacks sense,
But a man of understanding keeps silent. (11.12)

He who despises his neighbor sins,
But happy is he who is gracious to the poor. (14.12)

He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker,
But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him. (14.31)

DO THEY ACT PROPERLY?

A righteous man hates falsehood,
But a wicked man acts disgustingly and shamefully. (13.5)

When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD,
He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (16.7)

A wicked man receives a bribe from the bosom
To pervert the ways of justice. (17.23)

ARE THEY QUICK-TEMPERED?

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
A fool’s anger is known at once,
But a prudent man conceals dishonor. (12.15-16)

A quick-tempered man acts foolishly,
And a man of evil devices is hated. (14.17)

He who is slow to anger has great understanding,
But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly. (14.29)

anger         A gentle answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger. (15.1)

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. (16.32)

The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out. (17.14)

Like a city that is broken into and without walls
Is a man who has no control over his spirit. (25.28)

Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
So is a contentious man to kindle strife.
The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels,
And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.
Like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross
Are burning lips and a wicked heart.
He who hates disguises it with his lips,
But he lays up deceit in his heart.
When he speaks graciously, do not believe him,
For there are seven abominations in his heart.
Though his hatred covers itself with guile,
His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.
He who digs a pit will fall into it,
And he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him.
A lying tongue hates those it crushes,
And a flattering mouth works ruin. (26.21-28)

With great sadness I detect in our country today an echoing absence of moral principle, righteous attitude, and godly direction. The United States of America has slipped so far in its ability to discern good from evil that we have put forward two reprobates as political candidates. Neither of these should be respected in our communities as righteous leaders. But maybe that’s the problem–we are no longer looking for righteous leaders.

God help us! He is still in control. Proverbs also asserts this:

The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD;
He turns it wherever He wishes. (21.1)

Widows, Coins, and Corrupt Religion

Widow's MiteWhat’s the standard line when studying the widow’s two mites? Have you heard sermons on how Jesus was pleased with the widow because of her giving heart? Was Jesus happy with her because she gave all she had, a much greater percentage of what those rich folks gave? Quickly refresh your memory from Luke 21.1-4:

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”

Does Jesus comment on her heart, her attitude, or her intent? Does He indicate whether or not He is pleased with her? Perhaps we have read it so often with that in mind that it seems as though that’s what the text says…but if you look carefully, Jesus makes no statement to that effect. He just observes that she gave everything she had; it wasn’t much, but it was more than the rich.

Rule #1 in Bible study: Keep it in Context! What came before, what comes after, and what is the main course and tenor of the larger section in question?

Immediately Before

Jesus had, in the previous chapter (Lk. 20.45-47), just warned all the people to beware of the scribes because they “like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers.” Jesus ended by asserting: “These will receive greater condemnation.”

Immediately After

Just after Jesus observed our poor widow, He began to prophesy of the utter destruction and ruin of Jerusalem (Lk. 21.5ff).

Back to the Widow

Two mitesThis story of the widow giving her two copper coins is not some simple sideline story but an intentional and provocative illustration of the subject at hand. Matthew 23 gives an even fuller picture of Jesus pronouncing woes and condemnation upon the scribes and Pharisees. They were a bunch of hypocrites who devoured widows’ houses!

“How do we devour widows’ houses?!” they would have exclaimed in furious offense. They knew it was a matter of law to watch out for strangers, widows, and orphans–it was all over their scriptures.

This little widow woman stands as living proof. Their religion glorified the rich, as they sounded trumpets before casting their bags of coins into the temple treasury (Mk. 12.41; Mt. 6.2). And their religion greatly burdened and oppressed the poor! This poor woman was giving all she had–for what?

Jesus sees the evidence of a corrupt and broken religion, for any religion built on the backs of the poor and needy is false, oppressive, and unrighteous! This poor woman was trying to live up to the religious system of her day. Rather than use what she had to live, she felt compelled to give it up, go home, and starve to death!

Using Religion to Trample the Poor

Prosperity GospelWhat does Vatican City have in common with the prosperity gospel? Have you ever seen pictures of the great cathedrals in Europe? Do you know what riches have been consolidated into the little country called Vatican City State? So much of that has been built by taxing the common, poor constituents of the Roman Catholic church; those amazing buildings were built upon the backs of the poor. Martin Luther was so disgusted by the greed, especially illustrated through the sales of indulgences, that he (at great personal cost) attempted to reform the church.

We can see evidence of the prosperity gospel all around us, manifesting itself in enormous church complexes and incredibly rich preachers who own private jets and mansions but who continue to pound their people for more money. (Check out this little clip from Kenneth Copeland bragging about being a billionaire in the kingdom of God.)

Folks, if these men were teaching the truth about God’s word and leading others to repentance godly living, I would be right behind them. I don’t care how much money another man makes. I’m not concerned with how rich someone is. I’m concerned with men who use religion to take from the poor and amass wealth for themselves! I’m concerned with false teachers who twist the Bible in order to get well-meaning poor folks to send money to their ministries–to them.

What about Us?

PovertySo much of this prosperity gospel preaching has saturated this country that we can easily fall right in line. Of course, we would never fall for major abuses, would we? But why would we look at the story of the widow’s two copper coins and seek to glorify her for what she did? Why would we consider her level of giving to the treasury such an awesome thing, instead of seeing it for the abuse it really was? Perhaps it’s because some semblance of the prosperity mindset exists in our heads.

She was so spiritual, we think. We wish we had the faith to give everything in our bank accounts…but we beat ourselves up for not being as spiritual as that lady.

Stop! God does not expect you to hurt yourself giving to some religious body! “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this,” James wrote, “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained form the world” (1.27). It’s giving to widows, not getting from them.

Don’t miss that the oppressive religion Jesus witnessed at the temple was destined by God for complete destruction. God judged that corrupt system. Don’t expect our corrupt religious systems to escape His wrath!