Mayor, Congressman, Senator, President. What do all these have in common? They are all public offices, called to rule and serve the constituency of the people who have elected them. Should a child of God living near the end of the 20th century aspire to one of these public offices? This is the question we will consider in this article.
Let us turn to the Scripture to look for answers and examples of Christians who served in positions of leadership in Bible times. Think about the judges: Joshua, Samson, etc.; the kings: David, Solomon, etc.; and those in public office such as Joseph, Nehemiah and Daniel. These people can be divided into two groups. The first group includes the judges and kings who were called by God to primarily serve God’s people. The second group includes Joseph, Daniel, and others who were called by God to serve the general population of the land. It is this second group that serves as an example to us as we consider our question. How did it go for these men? Were they able to live as God’s people in their world while carrying out the duties of their office? They were able to be faithful to God in life, even though there were great temptations to compromise their faith in their work. They did this only by the grace of God that preserved them day by day.
The very fact that there are examples in Scripture of Christians who served in places of authority tells us that we cannot rule out this work as a legitimate occupation for a Christian today. If a Christian is blessed with talents of leadership and authority, he might consider using them in a place of government where he can use those gifts to exert his Christian influence and ability.
There are, however, several notes of caution that one ought to consider before devoting a life to public office. One of the first things to consider is this. Am I willing to spend my life serving people who have elected me to this office? Sometimes we think of President and lawmakers only as rulers and it is true that they do rule over us but their work is one of serving those who they rule over. This is true of any position of authority in church, government, or home. Those who are in authority rule, but their rule must be one that always serves for the welfare of those who are under them. A person can’t help but wonder if many of those in public office today have forgotten this after they are elected into office. If a person is seeking public office so that he can have others obey his word and command he ought to review what it means before he seeks any public office.
It would be very difficult for a Reformed Christian today to be elected into a public office if he were to let his or her light shine before the world. We believe that God has given us the Scripture not only to teach us about God and His plan of salvation for us but also as a means of instruction so that we know how we ought to live our life of thankfulness here on this earth. The Reformed Christian’s view of life is so very different from that of the world. This would make it very difficult to be elected into a public office today because the thinking of the world today is not conforming to the Scripture but rather becoming increasingly wicked. I say this even though in this election year we are hearing so much about family values. By using this term of “family values”, those running for president hope to gain the votes of the people but if those values were to be defined by Scripture, the effect would be that people would turn their votes away. There is an enormous pressure put on our elected officials to compromise their principles. If they speak out on what they believe to be wrong or right they soon find themselves offending some segment of society and become the scorn and ridicule of the media and the public. This translates into lost votes at election time. As a result, many elected officials try to take a neutral stance and appease everyone. I think this results in a weakening of their own principles and ability to differentiate between right and wrong, good and evil. Everything in life becomes relative to today’s standards and thinking instead of being judged according to Scripture, our standard for life.
Another temptation that may present itself to a Christian in public office is the temptation to defile one’s self with the worldly atmosphere of politics today. Everyone who works out in the world faces this temptation today but those in the political arena face it to a greater degree. In preparing for this article I interviewed the father of one of our state representatives. He pointed out that much of the social life of those in public office is in the form of parties held on weekends, often on Sunday. A Christian who understood and obeyed God’s will for the Sabbath Day would not be able to join in many of these activities.
A Christian in public office may also be required to do some works of necessity on the Lord’s day similar to those done by policemen and firemen. But if those works of necessity hinder a person from worshiping so often that the spiritual life suffers, we should question if it is proper and spiritually healthy for us.
In spite of these concerns and questions raised it is possible for a Christian to serve in public office. He would have to be strong in his faith and commitment to serve God and not men. He would have to resolve to do what is pleasing before the face of God and not give in to the pressure of special interest groups. He would have to say in his heart what Daniel did in Daniel 1:8, “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank.” He would have to remember what the calling of everyone of God’s people is, to be the salt of the earth and to let our light shine before men. This is going to make him stand out like a sore thumb and he will be opposed vehemently by the world. This is the way it was with Daniel too. Yet the Lord preserved him and used him for a great witness to those around him and for the good of God’s kingdom. Let’s all resolve to live that way where ever God has placed us in this life, by serving God in all we say and do, by being men and women of courage to take our place in this world and by being a light in this world of darkness.