Is it Biblical to Vote?
This week I came across a Facebook post where some remote friend of mine was asking a seemingly genuine question, soliciting the feedback of his connections on social media. His question was, “Is there any clear biblical command to vote in the upcoming elections?” I did not have time to respond to his inquiry and did not even go back and look for it, but the question kept resonating in my mind. So, here is my response.
No Votes in the Bible
First, there is no clear biblical parallel to this question. The concept of a democracy where citizens could cast a vote for their primary political leader did not exist in biblical times. In the Old Testament, God’s established theocracy did not allow for the people to cast a ballot for or against the Almighty. When they did insist on a human king, the Lord acquiesced but assigned a priest to anoint that king. Some of the kings came into rule through a victory in war, but there were no free elections. Furthermore, in New Testament times, Roman Emperors were not voted on by the people. So, very simply, there is no verse commanding us to vote in the next elections.
The Bible Does Say…
With respect to clear biblical instructions about our role in the government, I find three responsibilities:
- Paying our taxes (Mark 12:17) – Jesus affirmed the responsibility to pay taxes and did so Himself (Matthew 17:24-27).
- Praying for political leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2) – Our prayers for political leaders are required. This passage also underscores that, by praying, our attitudes and lifestyles are affected in such a way that we lead peaceful, quiet, dignified, and godly lives as respectable and effective agents of the gospel (v. 2). We change when we pray.
- Honoring our political leaders (1 Peter 2:13 & 17) – Peter compels persecuted believers to choose a godly attitude of honor toward the emperors of the day.
We are wise to remember that the government of New Testament times was more pagan, hostile, and unjust than ours. Yet, the Scripture is clear about the responsibilities believers must pursue.
I have called these “responsibilities” because the basic attitude every believer should embrace is, in fact, one of being responsible toward the government for the sake of our society and families. To pay taxes, pray, and express honor all naturally flow into other mature and thoughtful responsibilities. To this end, I would say it is definitely responsible to vote.
Just as there is no clear verse commanding us to “vote” in a national election, there are no clear biblical commands in some areas of family life. Yet a reasonable and mature person will still seek to be responsible.
- There is no verse that commands you to own a home, but most heads of a household view this as a financially responsible decision in order to provide for and protect the family. Technically, one has the biblical freedom to live in a cardboard box or a tree house, but that would likely not be responsible care for one’s family.
- There is no specific verse commanding us to own a car. We are free to walk everywhere or ride a bike – or a horse! But most parents purchase an automobile in order to responsibly transport their family members to work, school, or even a vacation. (Unless they live in a place like New York where public transportation is the norm.)
- There is no clear command to provide a comfortable bed for a child. A parent is free to lay a young one down at night on a tile floor, but that would not be caring or responsible.
- There is no command to make children wear a coat in freezing temperatures, but a responsible parent cares for the health and safety of little ones.
- There is no command to get a college education, but many parents believe it is responsible to help provide such an education for their children to enhance the future earning power for the next generation.
- There is no clear command to buy a last-minute plane ticket to attend the funeral for a parent who suddenly dies in a distant city. Yet, most individuals would view it as a wise, considerate, and responsible thing to do – if at all possible.
I think you get the point and I could go on – and on. There are many dynamics in our modern life that are not directly addressed in the Bible. Yet, godly and mature wisdom prompts us to be responsible to the best of our ability.
Over the years I have spoken often of the “stewardship of citizenship.” Just as we are stewards of our necessary taxes, prayers for leaders, and required expressions of honor – we are to steward other opportunities to contribute. To neglect the privilege of voting would be, in my view, negligent and irresponsible. Those who are irresponsible about voting abdicate their voice in the process and should likewise limit their whining about the outcomes of government direction.
Even This Election?
There is a widespread consensus that the candidates at the top of both principal parties are less than desirable. Many people in my circle of friends have little motivation to vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Frankly, I feel the same.
But, I will not abdicate my responsibility. So, how do I make a choice to be a responsible citizen when so many factors are troubling, even sickening, in the history and character of the main candidates? For me, I must look beyond the presidency to consider some other concerns that compel me to vote. Yours may be different, but here are my thoughts for your consideration.
- The vice-presidential candidate could become president in the event of an absence in the Oval Office. I will be responsible to vote with this in mind.
- The platform of each party represents the general values and vision of each respective party. I will vote for the platform I view to be most consistent with my beliefs and my conviction of what would be best for the future of our nation.
- The coming Supreme Court selections will be in view as I cast my vote. The next president might be in office for just four years – maybe less, in the case of impeachment or death. Supreme Court selections will have a key voice in vital legislation for decades.
- Fortunately, our governmental system is comprised of three branches that provide a necessary check and balance for the decisions that affect our families and nation. I will be conscientious to vote for state senators and representatives as an expression of my responsibility. Accordingly, I will be diligent to vote for local officials and judges that are also vital to the proper governing of society.
Back to Three
Having said all of this, I realize we must all make our own personal decisions about what it means to be a responsible citizen. But let us all passionately come back to the three clear choices we must make. We must pay our taxes. We must pray for our leaders. We must honor the presidency and all other offices of government. Let’s at least agree on these and embrace them for the honor of our common Lord – Jesus Christ.
Copyright © 2016 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.