Is a Preacher Allowed to Apply the 8th Commandment to Modern Governments?

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Down in San Fransisco, I met a man, who identified as gay, who asked me whether I was a democrat or a republican in conviction. I told him that I was a bit of both and that I was Canadian, but I couldn’t explain further, because he started singing the praises of Prime Minister Trudeau, and then his subway took off. Anyways, he probably wouldn’t have liked to know that if I had the chance I would have told him about Jesus.

I have hardly voted in my lifetime. This doesn’t mean I don’t honour my governments, it’s just that I am too busy to vote. I have dedicated my life to the preaching of the gospel, and the teaching of the Word of God in this culture. I often include political leaders in evening prayers in worship. I have a number of informed as well as more very uninformed political thoughts. But I also believe that since Jesus is Lord, His authority speaks to politicians as well as everyone else. And when He speaks, He speaks through His Word.

We have a lot of growing clarity on very particular issues due to the abundance of discussion in the modern day church. Sexuality is hotly debated in our age. The issue of murder in the act of abortion is hotly debated in our age. Certain godly preachers feel comfortable bringing the Word of God to bear on these hot-button issues. They feel a duty from Scripture to call Christians to greater faithfulness, and unbelievers to faith in Jesus Christ where they will find the newness of the Christian life.

But when we turn to economics, somehow a comment on socialism or crony capitalism is claimed to be involvement in partisan politics, bringing lack of clarity and being highly tangential to the topic of the 8th commandment. But God does speak to economics, as well as the involvement of the government in economics. Yes, we are called to pray for our governments and honour them. We are called to render to Caesar what is his. But this does not mean that God’s Word does not speak to Caesar when he is robbing the poor.

I appreciated a comment from a friend that the government should rarely be mentioned in a sermon. It’s true. It can become a hobby-horse that distracts from the preaching of the gospel. And ultimately, life consists of a lot more than government. Government exists to put themselves out of business. But should a sermon on the 8th commandment involve no respectful criticism of government involvement in the financial affairs of our country? Many pastors definitely feel comfortable in encouraging their congregations to honour government authority in sermons on the 5th commandment. Yes, it must be clear, productive, and edifying to the hearers, as all things must be… And every preacher can grow in care with the Scriptures as well as clarity when presenting them. But they must still preach the 8th commandment and apply it to the 21st century.

For example, the Proverbs of Solomon present the way of life and the way of folly, including in financial matters. Lets say an MP or an MPP is sitting in the pew (which is becoming more common thing in CanRC and FRC churches between MP Arnold Vierssen, as well as MPP Sam Ooosterhoff and MPP Will Bouma). As Christian men who come to Church from Sunday to Sunday, they will also sit under the preaching and teaching of the Word. And they too, like the preacher himself, will need to apply this path of life rather than the path of folly to their lives. And so the Word of God must have something to say to financial matters as well.

Ministers must avoid partisan politics. They must be cautious in their application of the Word. They must listen to thoughtful responses to their applications. But they also must speak the truth of God’s Word to those in their congregation. They must fearlessly preach the truth of God’s Word about abortion and same-sex marriage… and stealing. It is their duty before both God therefore before men. If men of all sorts (whether politicians or bankers or blue-collar workers) do not know their unrighteousness, how are they supposed to come to know the righteousness of God as revealed in Jesus Christ? And so, Pastors should not fear men, but God alone.

 

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