How to Let God Guide You During This Campaign Season
“Here We Go Again.” That was the title of a famous Ray Charles song, and it fits today in this campaign season for the November 8 midterms. Bloomberg tells us political ad spending has already broken a record for midterms, and is expected to reach $9 billion this cycle. We’re going to be drowning in information over the coming eight weeks. What should we, particularly as Christians, be thinking about as we try drinking from that fire hose?
The elders and chief priests who contended with Jesus were politicians as much as religious leaders. Jesus was in the temple with them one day and told them this parable: “A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “‘The first.’” (Matthew 21:28-31)
Faith without works is dead (James 2:17). So is a political promise.
I can’t think of a better message than this fascinating parable to consider during this (or any) campaign season. Simply put, it means we should pay less attention to what people say, and more attention to what they have done.
For example, take Tim Ryan, a Democrat running for re-election as a U.S. Representative for Ohio. I don’t live in Ohio, and I don’t have any ax to grind against him personally. But he’s typical of countless other candidates across the country running for seats in the House and Senate, for governorships, and in local elections.
Ryan paints himself as a moderate, with comments like, “I’m not someone who’s going to toe the line for my political party” and “You’ve got to be able to tell your own party, which I have, tell the Democrats no.” Sounds good. But what has he actually done? He has voted with Pelosi 100% of the time. He has voted with Biden’s agenda 100% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight, which keeps track of such things.
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He has also said that he’s not interested in the “culture wars.” According to video footage obtained by The Daily Wire, however (scroll down here), Ryan is a radical progressive who has been avoiding discussing the “culture wars” on the campaign trail not because he’s uninterested. He told the real reason when he slipped and said on camera, “These issues don’t serve us very well in Ohio.”
He says he has told the Democrats “No.” But he actually voted “Yes“ on the Inflation Reduction Act (which will increase, not reduce inflation), the Assault Weapons Ban (contrary to our Second Amendment right, but not to his security as a Congressman), the Women’s Health Protection Act (which would impose nationwide authorization for abortion on demand, at any stage of pregnancy), the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act (to codify Roe), and the Federal Reserve Racial and Economic Equity Act (which is all about the Fed being woke when it should focus on looking out for our economy). He has also endorsed the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act, which would reverse the Hyde Amendment.
Clouds Without Rain
Ryan is just one example. You know there are many more. Ephesians 5:6 admonishes us, “Let no one deceive you with empty words.” The word for “empty” in the Greek literally means what it’s translated as: empty, as in an empty bucket, or hollow.
Proverbs 25:14 says it like this: “A person who promises a gift but doesn’t give it is like clouds and wind that bring no rain.” That sounds a lot like Joe Biden, along with most Democrats and too many Republicans, who promised “gifts” during their 2020 campaigns, but whose clouds produced no rain. It’s been a severe drought instead: open borders, the highest inflation in 40 years, the worst crime wave in our country’s history, a disastrous energy policy, the most humiliating pullout from Afghanistan imaginable, and even a weaponized FBI.
We dare not fall for those empty words. The way to avoid it is by going back to Jesus’ parable in Matthew 21. What have these politicians actually done? Did they “go work in the vineyard” or not? Faith without works is dead. (James 2:17) So is a political promise.
The Things You ‘Hear and See’
Jesus Christ was willing to hold Himself to that standard. While in prison, John the Baptist sent two representatives to ask Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3) It was basically a “Yes” or “No” question. But Jesus replied, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (verses 4-5)
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In 2 Peter 2:18-19 (MSG), Peter rebukes false teachers of his day in a way that sounds like he had been watching politicians on mainstream media. He says, “They are loudmouths, full of hot air, but still they’re dangerous … They promise these newcomers freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.” In verse 22 he compares them to a dog that “returns to his own vomit.” Too many politicians are slaves to corruption. It could be obligations to donors, the love of wealth and/or power, or simply an evil heart. The day after the election, many of them will forget their promises and return to their ideologies as a dog to its own vomit.
Mirror, Mirror On the Wall …
James 1:23-24 contrasts hearers with doers. A hearer is like “a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.” I’m sure a lot of politicians practice campaign speeches while looking in a mirror. They win their elections then they go away and forget what their promises looked like in the mirror.
Every politician talks a good talk. Consider that a given as you go to the polls on November 8. Then look at what they’ve done. Do some fruit inspecting. Jesus’ point in Matthew 12:33-35 can be broken down to this: Good tree … good fruit. Bad tree … bad fruit.
Consider Jesus’ parable of the talents in Matthew 25 and Luke 19. Have these candidates been faithful in other endeavors in their lives? Look at Psalm 1:1-3 as well. Do they display the type of character that would lead you to believe they would not follow the advice of the wicked? That they would delight in the law of the Lord? That they would therefore stay planted by the rivers of water, so that anything they put their hand to would prosper, and in the right ways?
Remember, too that, believers have yet an extra dimension helping us decide who to vote for. When Samuel went to the house of Jesse to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king, David was apparently the least likely for the position. He was the youngest, and he wasn’t even in the lineup. That was true as far as met the eye. But the Lord said to Samuel, as he looked upon another son of Jesse, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Like Samuel, we can trust the Holy Spirit for guidance to show us who God’s man or woman is. Which one is the true “David” on the ballot? Spiritual discernment is crucial, because some candidates are new to politics and don’t have a voting record per se. Donald Trump was such a candidate. In this cycle there are others, like Ryan’s opponent for representative in Ohio, J.D. Vance, Dr. Mehmet Oz (Pennsylvania, Senate), and Kari Lake (Arizona, Governor).
So, remember this November, words are cheap. Consider what they’ve done, and seek God’s wisdom before you pull the lever for that candidate.
Nolan Lewallen is a retired pilot of a major airline and lives near Stephenville, Texas, with his wife, Kim. Nolan’s two greatest passions are the Bible and politics. His latest book, The Integration of Church & State: How We Transform “In God We Trust” From Motto to Reality, brings the two together.