Last summer my sister visited from out of town, so I invited her to stay with us. Donald Trump had just said something and Hilary Clinton had just done something so I brought up the topic of politics with my sister. She started to talk and I immediately got a sick feeling inside. We disagreed on just about everything. We ended up talking way past midnight. There were really no solutions or resolutions. And there seemed to be, maybe for the first time in our relationship, some sort of wedge between us.
I didn’t sleep very well that night. One question kept popping up in my head, how important is politics? Should politics be able to tear us apart? What role should politics play in our lives?
A few months ago my sister had a birthday, and I happened to be in her town, so I took her out to dinner. We were in the middle of this seemingly endless election season, so the topic of politics came up again, and amazingly, my sister started in again and she still didn’t agree with my wise, well-thought-out, obviously correct political views. Again the question came, what role should politics play?
It’s a relevant question. This election is dominating the news. Our country is more polarized than ever. The media is getting great ratings pushing the frenzy and it is easy to get caught up in it, it is easy to get angry at all those ignorant people that don’t believe exactly like I do. But let’s take a step back. I don’t care if you are a Republicrat, a Demoderm or a Librarian, step back. Maybe you’re a Trump guy, a never-Trump person, maybe you’re feeling the “Bern” or think it’s time for a woman to have a turn. Maybe you just want to see some chaos at the conventions. Maybe your candidate is out, and you’re a little defeated. Or maybe you just don’t care, you were for Marco Rubio just because you love Rubio’s tacos. How important is politics? How important should it be in our lives? What role should politics play?
Let’s look at one story from the life and teachings of Jesus for an answer:
Watching for their opportunity, the leaders sent spies pretending to be honest men. They tried to get Jesus to say something that could be reported to the Roman governor so he would arrest Jesus.—Luke 20:20 (NLT)
In a parallel passage, Matthew explains that the religious leaders were setting a trap for Jesus. They wanted to embarrass him, ruin him and render him ineffective.
Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him.—Matthew 22:15-16 (NLT)
The story continued:
“Teacher,” they said, “we know that you speak and teach what is right and are not influenced by what others think. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” He saw through their trickery and said, “Show me a Roman coin. Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” So they failed to trap him by what he said in front of the people. Instead, they were amazed by his answer, and they became silent.—Matthew 20:21-26 (NLT)
The religious leaders were afraid of Jesus, they were insecure, thinking he was going to take their jobs. So they tried to trap him.
Did you see that? Did you notice how they tried to ensnare Jesus? This passage gives us some clarity. Politics can be a trap!
The topic of politics can embarrass us, ruin us and render us ineffective if we are not careful. Let’s be very careful that we do not walk right into a trap because someone is out to get us. Let’s be wary. Political posts on Facebook or Twitter can be like stepping into a trap—even the ones that begin with, “I don’t usually post my political views, but…” Watch out! It might be, it could be, it probably is…a trap. Let’s think twice about what we say to a sister, it can be a trap. Let’s not get tricked, politics can be a trap!
"How many politically-correct people does it take to screw in a light-bulb?"
"Look, I don't know, but that's not funny."
Jesus concludes with:
“Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”—Luke 20:25 (NLT)
We tend to stop there, but Jesus’ statement begs two questions:
Question #1. What are we supposed to give to God?
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”—Matthew 22:37-38 (NLT)
Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 and says that God gets all our love, all our heart, all our soul, all our mind.
We’re supposed to give God everything.
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.—Luke 12:31 (NLT)
Question #2. What are we supposed to give the government?
Let me make some suggestions based on New Testament teachings:
On their arrival in Capernaum, the collectors of the Temple tax came to Peter and asked him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?” “Yes, he does,” Peter replied. Then he went into the house. But before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Peter? Do kings tax their own people or the people they have conquered?” “They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “the citizens are free! However, we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.”
—Matthew 17:24-27 (NLT)
Why does a slight tax increase cost you two hundred dollars and a substantial tax cut save you 30 cents?
“Everybody should pay their taxes with a smile,” said Bob. “I tried it but they wanted cash.”
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.—1 Timothy 2:1 (N:LT)
Maybe the government is in sad shape because we’re not praying.
Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.
Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you’ll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That’s why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live. That’s also why you pay taxes—so that an orderly way of life can be maintained. Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders.—Romans 13:1-7 (The Message)
We need to be responsible citizens. If you are into politics, if you’re a political junkie, fine—don’t get trapped—be responsible. If you don’t care all that much, fine—be responsible.
Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.—Romans 13:7 (ESV)
Jay Leno quipped, “If God wanted us to vote he would have given us better candidates.”
We still need to honor the office, and honor the person.
Here is the Big Challenge: Avoid the Political Trap this week.
I was sitting in a restaurant talking to my sister about politics and the tension was mounting. Was this difference in our political views going to ruin our relationship?
Suddenly my sister’s phone started beeping and ringing and buzzing. She picked it up and screamed, “Yes! Yes!” “What’s up?” I asked. She yelled, “The Rams are moving back to LA!”
We both shouted, then we hugged. I was an LA Rams fan as a kid, she stuck with the Rams even after their move to St. Louis. We were both ecstatic. As she drove me to the airport she kept saying, “I can’t believe it, the Rams are moving back to LA!”
How important is politics? I had my answer. I hugged her good-bye and concluded, “It doesn’t matter who wins the election, the important thing is the Rams are moving back to LA!”
I need to treat my political views like I treat my football views. I have my team. And if someone roots for the 49ers or the Raiders or the Steelers or the Broncos or even the Seahawks, we can kid, we can agree to disagree, I can let them be wrong and it is not really a big deal.
I’ve got my political views, but if someone roots for another party or view or team, I can accept them and let them be wrong. But I need to be careful not to let that ruin my relationships, my reputation or more—I need to be careful. Politics can be a trap.