Qualifying the Candidates (I)

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We have seen that God’s plan for each of us is to be involved, in some way, in the civil government. It is essential, because it is one of the three institutions through which we will establish Jesus’ rule over the earth. We begin our involvement by voting—the entry level job.

Over 3000 years ago, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, introduced to Moses the concept of civil governing by a carefully qualified, increasingly authoritative, plurality of leadership. Today, Jethro’s idea of governmental authority forms the basis for, not only the United States’ government, but for the governments of free, self-governing nations around the world. As we approach the November elections, I want to look carefully at the qualifications Jethro laid out for Moses to follow as he built the civil government of the Israelites. I hope Christians will use these standards to guide our votes in November.

In Exodus 18:21, Jethro gave Moses four characteristics of the man qualified to be a civil magistrate. Following are the Hebrew words for each of the four and their meanings, according to Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon. 

1. “Able” (chayil) – a force, whether of men, means or other resources; an army, wealth, virtue, valor, strength:  2. “Fear God” (yare) – morally reverent: 3. “Men of truth” (‘emeth) – stability, truth, trustworthiness, faithful, right, sure. 4. “Hates covetousness” (betsa’) – inordinately or wrongly desirous of gain (usually unjust), greedy: dishonest gain, lucre.

Let’s look at each and apply them all to our two candidates for President.

Before we do that, let me mention that I have added to my list another qualification that was not an issue in Jethro’s and Moses’ time. This is an implicit quality, not often mentioned or even thought of in a tangible, specific way. However, it is absolutely crucial in today’s climate of voracious, all-powerful government. I have it listed as #5, but I believe it is the most important of all, and will examine it first. Very few candidates, or those voting for them, have even thought of this as a qualification.

 It is: 5. “Understand the job description.” Since we are looking at biblical qualifications, what does the Bible say the role of civil government is? Does the candidate understand what his job entails? How can he do it if he does not know what God has given him to do?! The Bible outlines two roles for civil government, and two roles only: 1.) To protect law-keepers (1 Timothy 2:1,2); and, 2.) To punish law-breakers (Romans 13:4). Not surprisingly, the Constitution agrees.

As we look at these qualifications and apply them to our candidates, let me exercise full disclosure. In the last election, after using this 5-point grid to qualify the candidates running for President, I did what I have done in every presidential election since 1988—voted for neither of the two major party candidates! There were three other candidates, all eliminated in the primaries, who I thought were qualified; I voted by “writing in” one of them—Ted Cruz.

Also, keep in mind that any qualification is not absolute; there are no absolutely qualified candidates for civil magistrate, any more than there are perfectly qualified candidates for church elder (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1). We are looking for the most qualified; the most mature of those who want to be President, just as we are with elders. So, I will assign my own estimated percentage in each category to each candidate.

Let’s look at Donald Trump and Joe Biden and see how they stack up against Jethro’s standard.

As you read these, keep in mind that these are my evaluations to help me vote, based on the information I have. To do a good job in this entry level assignment, each person must be well-informed, with their own method of evaluating candidates, based on Jethro’s qualifications. I encourage you to devise your own, so you will have a way to actually vote in a systematic way, not simply by how you feel about the candidate.

1. Understands the job description. In 2016, I gave Donald Trump a 50% on this quality. I knew he did not understand the biblical position of protect and punish only, but I heard rumblings of the “smaller government” position from him. In 2020, even though he has reduced the number of federal government employees somewhat, I see neither any serious effort to attack the deficit or the budget, nor any substantial attempt to reduce government overreach. He is making some promises to do so in his second term, and I realize he has been working through a COVID19 handicap, but I am not convinced that he is truly a man who sees the absolute necessity of severely limiting government. I am still giving him only 50%. 

Joe Biden is committed to having the government do everything but protect and punish! Biden gets 0%

2. Able. Even though Trump had been very successful in private business, I only gave him a 50% in 2016, since I had no clue how that would translate for him into the political field. Based on what he has done since he took office, I now give him a 90%. From my perspective, in the four years Trump has been in office, he has done things other presidents have only talked about. For example, a paper was released cataloging 260 things Trump did after only two years in office, that primarily accomplished what Obama would not do, or things were undone that Obama had done! Trump has been a “force,” per Strong’s definition, against constant, total opposition. He will not be deterred, but only seems to get stronger with every attack on him.

Biden’s positions on practically all issues have radically changed over the years. Furthermore, he seems, by all appearances, to not be able to take care of  himself, much less the country. 0%.

3. Fears (Strong’s definition – “reverences”) God. I gave Trump 0% in 2016 because of his refusal to say he needed forgiveness for his sin, and his ignorant, cavalier attitude toward Christianity. However, over these four years, after being around Christians, constantly, for the first time in his life, many of whom are his committed supporters, I have noticed a decided change—witness the instance where he dropped into a large, mega-church on Sunday morning unannounced and had the pastor pray for him!

So, I have observed Donald Trump’s fierce stance on biblical issues, such as abortion, and his 15-year record of fidelity in his marriage, since he married Melania, plus his messages at the National Day of Prayer and His Easter message. I believe, to the best of his ability, that he is fearing (“reverencing”) God. A few weeks ago, in his daily COVID19 briefings, I heard him mention, in two different briefings in the same week, the words, “Jesus Christ,” positively, in answering questions. What politician ever does that?

Jesus said an interesting thing to His disciples when they said this to Him: “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” Jesus told His disciples to leave him alone, because, “He who is not against us is on our side” (Mark 9:38, 40). To me, this describes Trump beautifully. He may not be fully with evangelicals, as he does not know all the Bible’s rules and taboos, or, as yet, he may not have the Holy Spirit within to guide him in his relationships with others. However, he is definitely not “against Jesus!” Trump’s rating, for me in 2020, on “fear (reverence) God” – 75%

Biden, on the other hand, is “against Jesus;” at least he is against all biblical issues upon which Jesus said “would never pass away.” Biden’s rating on “fear (reverence) God” – 0%

Next week, we will look at the final two qualifications, “Man of truth,” and “Hates covetousness.”

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