On Putting Our Trust in Princes

With the Iowa caucuses underway, we can already feel the breezes of the whirlwind that is a presidential election year.  On the Democratic side, it has seemed like a fiat accompli that Hillary would be the nominee, though her past has made it more difficult than it might other wise have been.   The Republican campaigns meanwhile, have been in overdrive for several months now and with the phenomenon of Trumpamania there has been plenty to debate and discuss.  All of this is on the heels of an Obama presidency that has left the majority of Americans unsatisfied and seriously concerned about the future.  With fears of ISIS hovering over us, the growing refugee crisis, the immigration problem, a languishing economy, and a national debt spinning out of control, along with any number of other issues requiring strong leadership, many of us feel the urgency of the moment.  This is not a year in which we can afford to swing and miss when it comes to electing our next president.  Too much is at stake.  

That being said, we as Christians must be careful to keep a Biblical perspective or as Harry Blamiers said, to “think Christianly” as it pertains to the election.   Paul understood our proclivities in this regard for he urged the Romans not to be conformed to the “pattern of this world,” but to "be transformed by the renewing of our minds." That is, he knew that there is a perpetual danger for us to forget the reality we live in as believers.  According to the Scriptures, we live in a reality in which the Father is on His throne and Jesus, the King of kings, is at His right hand, vested with all authority in Heaven and Earth, ruling over all things for the sake of His church.  And yet, we often live with the same anxieties as our non believing neighbors, fretting over elections as if our safety and well being ultimately depend on the individual that occupies the White House.  We come to think that maybe this time around we can get the right person in there and finally all will be well. 

But the Psalmist reminds us, “do not put your trust in princes, in human beings who cannot save” (Psalm 146:3). Our trust is to be in the Lord.  Elections are important, but they occur under sovereign control the King of kings and our well being depends ultimately upon him. Yet we so quickly become like the disciples on the Sea of Galilee with Jesus, overwhelmed by the wind and the waves, forgetting who is in our boat with us.  The times we are in may be stormy, but there is no need to panic.  We know the One who can and will bring true peace.

But even this requires some teasing out.  What does it mean not to put our trust in princes?  Are we not to care who the next president is because that would be putting our trust in presidents?   The answer is, of course we are to care.  We might say that we should not put our trust in doctors either, but that does not mean that we don't go and get check ups, or surgeries when needed and do so with the best available doctors.  After all, a belief in God’s sovereignty is never an excuse for irresponsibility.  If I am going to be healed then it will ultimately be by the grace and will of God, but that does not mean that my selection of a doctor is irrelevant.  I should still try to see the doctor most qualified and not the one known for amputating the left arm of a man with a broken right index finger. 

Therefore, in one sense I need to trust doctors and it is right to do so, and to discern which doctors are worthy of such trust.  They are after all, the gift of God’s providence and His means of healing us in many cases and if we expect God to bless us, we should be good stewards of the privileges and opportunities that he provides us with.  But to “put my trust in” doctors is to ask more of them then they can deliver; to expect that they will always be able to save me from the realities of suffering and death.  Eventually even the best doctor will run up against the limits of his abilities and ultimately fail us, for while they can deal with some penultimate causes of death, they are helpless against the reality of death itself.  Therefore not even the best doctor is worthy of our ultimate trust.  

Like doctors, politicians are a necessity in this broken age of ours and they need to be men and women we can trust.  We should vote for those which we believe will lead us best, but as Christians we must never "put our trust in them."  Even the best will fail us.  Even the best is up against realities that cannot be solved with legislation or peace treaties.  At the root of many of our American problems lies a spiritual cancer that can only be cured by the regenerating and repentance producing work of the Spirit.  At most our politicians are the means of God to bless us or to judge us ( as Doug Wilson says, “in a democracy you only ever get the leaders your culture deserves”) and none of them operates independently of God’s sovereign authority.  And therefore, the decision over which individual should become our president is one of great importance and should be made with prayer, investigation, and serious consideration.  But, let us do so with Biblical heads on our shoulders, looking at the world and the election through Biblical eyes.  Let us seek a leader to trust, but let us put our trust in the Lord our God alone.