How a Christian ought to vote

by Mike Randall, former editor of the Baptist Bible Tribune (1995-2002)

The election this November will determine much for the future of this nation and the lives of its people. It will determine the leadership of our cities, our states, and the nation. Leaders have potential for great good or great evil. They provide models for behavior. They are advocates of ideas, philosophies, and policies they hope to impose on the people. They are given the power to make decisions that may impact almost every aspect of life. Because of this, the Christian should take his or her vote very seriously. It should be made after prayer, information gathering, and careful thought. To assist in that regard, the following is presented to help the thoughtful Christian decide who to vote for in the coming election.

The Bible describes the model leader

As on other important topics, the Bible speaks on the subject of leadership. Much can be gleaned from the 131 references to the words “lead,” “led,” and “leadership” in Scripture. Perhaps the most succinct statement of effective, beneficial leadership is David’s prayer upon becoming king. It is found in Psalm 101 and contains the inspired resolutions of Israel’s great king. Herbert Lockyer says this Psalm is called “The Householder’s Psalm” by some and “The Mirror for Magistrates” by others. Charles Ryrie calls this Psalm a manifesto of ethical standards of King David for himself and his administration. It is reported that this Psalm was read and pledged publicly in America’s past by leaders when they took the oath of office. Perhaps this is a reason for America’s past greatness. I consider Psalm 101 the description of a model leader for God and the people.

Psalm 101
1 I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O Lord, will I sing.
2 I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.
3 I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.
4 A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person.
5 Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer.
6 Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.
7 He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.
8 I will early destroy all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the Lord.

The personal character of a model leader

The first four verses of Psalm 101 present David’s resolutions that relate to his personal character. Six important areas are outlined in these verses.

BALANCED ATTITUDE. In verse one, the public leader declares that he would, “sing of mercy and judgment.” The language connotes the singing to be that of a strolling minstrel, suggesting this would be done as he moved about in daily living. He would also sing unto the Lord. This activity would affect his attitude of leadership, that his decisions would be balanced between mercy and judgment, exactly the attitude needed in an effective public leader.

BLAMELESS CONDUCT. Verse two speaks of the personal conduct of the leader. The words “wisely” and “perfect” suggest carefulness, thoughtfulness, integrity, and wholesomeness.

SPIRITUAL HUNGER. Verse two also approaches the spiritual with the question, “O when wilt thou come unto me?” Here is the invitation and desire to consciously experience the presence of God. This he may do through communion in God’s Word, through prayer, and praise (Psalm 22:3). This question also indicates recognition that government leaders have utmost need for God’s help to do their job.

PURE MOTIVES. Verse two concludes with the leader’s statement regarding his private walk. He says, “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.” His private life before those in his house will reveal his inner man, his motives, which he desires to be “perfect” in the sense of innocent, wholesome, and adhering to God’s moral code. Thus, he will not be self-centered, but centered in what is best for those he serves.

DISCERNMENT OF INFLUENCES. Verse three speaks of the things that might influence a leader. The “wicked things,” “the work of them that turn aside,” are influences that must be guarded against. Here, David is speaking about what is worthless, destructive, crooked, and harmful. Although he cannot prevent encountering such things or people, he resolves not to entertain them and interact with them, but to divorce himself from them. To do so requires discernment and personal discipline, which is called “personal separation.”

COMPANIONS or CHARACTER. Verse four speaks of the counselors, officers, servants, and others who surround the government leader. Of these people, the inspired leader says, a person with a “froward” or twisted, perverse, and disobedient heart, and the “wicked” or evil person will be rejected from being his companion and thus, part of his administration. David recognized that we become like those with whom we associate (Proverbs 13:20). Therefore, the choice of friends and subordinates is crucial to his personal character and his leadership.

These six areas are vital to the character of any person. They are areas of concern to a discerning electorate trying to choose those who will lead them.

The public conduct of a model leader

Verses five through eight detail the principles that will guide the model leader as he governs the people. To help in their consideration, I have gathered these principles under two headings.

Those he will punish

David pledges himself to the will of God and the betterment of his people. To do this, he has determined that certain things and conduct are not in the best interest of the nation. To better the nation, he is determined to punish four types of conduct. This is a model for leading a family and effective government.

First, he promises to punish those who “privily slandereth his neighbour,” in verse five. This is a reference to false charges or misrepresentations that defame or damage another’s reputation. The vow to punish slander is a natural reaction from an attitude that values mercy (see verse 1). This promise is also an affirmation to defend and deal in truth with others.

Second, he promises to punish elitism and the exaltation of one individual or group above another. The idea of a “high look” and a “proud heart” is superiority, arrogance, and the opposite of the attitude of the worshipper (the idea contained in verse 1). This vow is a commitment to impartiality and equality in dealing with the people he governs. It springs from a spirit of humility and reverence in the leader. Such a principle would be welcomed by any people.

Third, he promises to punish the one “that worketh deceit” and “telleth lies” in verse seven. This is a pledge to honor the truth and is a reasonable application of the ninth commandment (Exodus 20:16). Such a practice would protect the people in matters of judgment and set an example that encourages the keeping of contracts and the fulfilling of promises. It would also protect the people from those who would say anything to gain an advantage.

Fourth, in verse eight, he promises to punish the criminal and those who trouble the people. Two words are translated “wicked” in this verse. The first “wicked” person is defined as someone guilty of crimes, a violator of the law. The second “wicked” person in the verse is defined as one who commits iniquity and by his conduct troubles the nation or people. The model leader promises to be tough on crime and the troublemaker. Such people he vows to “cut off” or destroy or put away from society.

Those he would promote

The model leader does more than execute judgment. He sets an example by the people he promotes. There are two kinds of people who receive the praise and exaltation of the model leader in verse six.

First, he promotes the “faithful of the land.” The meaning of the word “faithful” in the text suggests these people are supporters, upholders, or pillars to that which is praiseworthy, worthwhile, honest, beneficial, and good. They honor God, His Word, and ways by their conduct, attitude, and influence. They are the kind of people the model leader wants to “dwell with me.” They will be promoted by the model leader.

Second, he promotes those “that walketh in a perfect way.” The word translated “perfect” is the same as found in the first part of verse two. It is a person with goals, values, ideals, and conduct like the model leader himself. He is sound, wholesome, and complete in integrity. He can be counted on to say what he means, mean what he says, and do what he promises. That is the kind of person the model leader is, and that is the kind of person he says “shall serve me.” Such a person is sought and promoted by the model leader.

Who is this model leader?

It is obvious to those who know the life of David that the description of lofty principles and ideals presented in this Psalm were not fulfilled by the great king of Israel. They were the desires put in his heart by God. Though he didn’t achieve them, he attempted to do so, and in the effort did a generally commendable job as Israel’s king. The only One who can fulfill them completely is the Lord Jesus Christ, our risen and soon coming King of kings and Lord of lords.

Who should you vote for?

The description of the model leader is a worthy goal for any who would be a leader. At the same time, it provides a scriptural pattern for application by Christian voters in any election. Such a person would be the ideal leader. He or she would be effective and welcome in serving as president, senator, member of Congress, governor, or member of the city council.

When deciding how to vote, I suggest these three steps:

  1. Compare those running for office to the criteria in Psalm 101.
  2. Discover which of them most closely identifies with these principles.
  3. Vote for that person.

This article first appeared in the October 15, 2000, edition of the TribuneSome minor edits were made for this version.