It’s not AIG, Lehman, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, or even Enron and MCI. It’s not the national debt, budget deficits or politician’s plans for staggering tax increases which will surely damage the already fragile economy. Make no mistake, all those are bad, but they’re only symptoms of the real disease, the cancer eating away at our society — that cancer is as Zell Miller said “A Deficit of Decency” — more specifically, a lack of ethics.
First off, don’t confuse morality with ethics; morality being just an idea of right and wrong, generally coming from some absolute source (many people mistake the concept of morality for “good” morals — i.e. don’t cheat on your wife, but murderers have morality as well, it’s just bad), while ethics is “my word is my bond”. It’s possible to act ethically, but not morally.
For example, few would disagree a crime syndicate performing shake-downs of an innocent business lacks morality (“Gee, that’s a nice business you have there, it would be a shame if something happened to it”); they’re acting immorally, however, the ethics surpass those of politicians and wall street — you can be sure they’ll do what they say and won’t change, if fact, you can count on it.
Ethics and morality aren’t the same, even though they share similarities.
Perhaps the confusion comes as younger people (30 or below) don’t remember a time when a handshake was enough to seal a deal (or a time when the Interweb thingy didn’t exist either, but we digress). Believe it or not, a time existed when your word was sufficient, and people (gasp) did what they promised. They many not have acted with good morals, but their ethics were unquestionable.
That was the prevailing attitude for many, many years. Most business circles were fairly small; you simply couldn’t get away with breaking your word. Perhaps not because people didn’t want to, but because the community simply didn’t tolerate it. Ethical behavior was demanded if you desired to stay in business.
But today, even if you have a contract, it’s who has the most lawyers and $$$ to fight. It’s not about holding up your promise, it’s about grabbing as much money as possible in the fastest way possible. Ethics is thrown under the bus, even as candidates promise “change”, but don’t want you to look behind the curtain to see it’s just business as usual and the ethics continue to disappear.
That’s the real problem in Washington — a lack of ethics. When double-talking politicians try to dodge real questions with slick-talking nuance instead of solutions, and then act differently when the teleprompter turns off, that’s a lack of ethics. The goal in politics becomes how to fool people with slick oratory, but then after election turn against the flowery rhetoric and act oppositely — in their own interests instead of serving the country.
Don’t be fooled by the man behind the curtain.
It’s easy to act one way while someone looks, the real measure of ethics is what you do when no one looks, or it’s not going your way. Do the actions change? For Christians, it’s easy — the ethical standards don’t change even when you can get away with it.
Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;
In whose eyes a vile person is despised,
But he honors those who fear the Lord;
He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
He who does not put out his money at usury,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved. (Psalm 15 NKJV)
Unfortunately, not many people acting in such a manner remain, and those few are ridiculed on TV talk shows and sitcoms — the guy working 40 hours for a weeks pay and who actually performs his commitments becomes the butt of jokes.
So what should a Christian do? First off, act ethically and morally. Morals (absolute right and wrong) come from God; you must learn them (which means studying God’s Word for yourself to see what He has to say). Then in every situation, apply morality and act ethically — your word is your bond. In other words, if you sign a contract and it turns out it’s not as beneficial to you as it could be, you honor the contract and fulfill it’s terms. Naturally, you’ll never be able to be perfect, but the goal becomes to always act properly, knowing you’ll never completely live up to the goal.
But acting morally during the election season raises a question — how involved should a Christian be in political matters? And how should they determine how to vote? Some Christians don’t want to be involved at all, others abandon Biblical principles in their quest for political utopia, becoming disciples of men and worshipers of Nebo, Baal, Mammon and others, instead of God. Both are wrong. But how should a Christian determine how/who/what to vote for? What criteria should be used to determine a vote? As we said before in our commentary on Daniel:
We will be held accountable as stewards; we hired the guys leading the county. If they be Godly men and men of integrity, it’s because the people demand it. If they be men without morals and choose to promote sin, it’s because the people allow it. The politicians aren’t the problem, they’re a symptom of the real problem — the attempt to exterminate God from all corners of society. And after the elimination of God, no absolutes remain and it’s a moral free for all; it’s back to the times of the Judges once again (read the book for yourself, and see what happens when a society becomes a moral free-for-all without the absolute standard of God’s Word).
The attempt at extermination of God from society includes education, science, and of course, politics. So what should we do? Fortunately Paul has the answer — in 1 Corinthians chapter four Paul notes it is required of stewards to be faithful. As a representative democracy, citizens of the United States vote as stewards of this country; you must be faithful and exercise your due diligence in your vote; God will hold you accountable for your stewardship of your vote — you are the employer of politicians.
The hardest task becomes finding out what a candidate actually believes for the simple reason they don’t want you to know, because no matter what stand they take some people won’t like it; to avoid taking any position at all means nobody is upset. It takes work to find out what exactly someone believes (cutting through the doublespeak), as many for political expediency will simply tell you what you want to hear (not necessarily what’s best for the country). You’ve got to do some homework to determine how the candidate will likely respond to certain issues.
So who to support? By what criteria should we cast our votes? We propose a simple idea, one which every Christian should agree on — find the candidate lining up best with Biblical principles, and support them. Nothing more is needed, nothing less meets your stewardship responsibility. It’s not about putting bumper stickers on your car or waving signs on the corner — just vote for the candidate or issue best aligning with God. If all Christians did that, the country would turn around.
Of course, all candidates are flawed in some way, but frequently when you consider two candidates one lines up with Biblical principles much better than the other. In November, either McCain or Obama will become president. Which one better agrees with Biblical principles? That’s the task before a Christian who wants to be (as Paul said) a faithful steward of their vote. Find out what they believe, find out what God says, and then support the guy who is closest with what God says.
We will be held accountable for the stewardship of this country. If the government be Godly, it’s because the people demand it. If it slouches toward Gomorrah, it’s because the people tolerate it. You’re a steward of your vote; do some homework and exercise your stewardship wisely. Be like the sons of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do (1 Chronicles 12:32). It takes work and dedication, but your stewardship demands no less.
And always pray we don’t get the leaders we deserve, but the leaders we need.
For more on this subject, read our Daniel commentary for chapter nine as Daniel prays for his country and people, and note it applies to us today as much as it did for Daniel’s people thousands of years ago.