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How should we pick among candidates? What is the “heart” of the issue?
Would you vote for someone like Eliab if he were running for office? He was an impressive Old Testament character. And he was a tall and handsome man! Surely we should vote for such a person? After all, when comparing him to his little brother David (the future king of Israel), the prophet Samuel did!
The Lord said to Samuel, however: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Many of us will soon be deciding whom to vote for in the U.S. presidential election (as well as congressmen, senators, and other offices). This will be just the second opportunity for me to vote for the president of the most powerful nation on earth.
Just over four years ago, my homeland of Australia passed legislation to allow its citizens to obtain citizenship in another country, yet retain their Australian citizenship. My family and I (having lived in the USA for over 17 years at the time) immediately applied to become American citizens.
Not long after, there was a presidential election. My wife and I had to decide whom we should we vote for, and I learned a lot in that process. Here’s how we came to our decision.
First of all, as a Christian, I recognized that I needed to seek God’s direction, just as the apostle Peter and others did in Acts 1:24: “And they prayed and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen.’” So I now pray today: “Lord, please guide me as I take seriously this great responsibility to vote.”
Second, we need to remember God’s lesson to Samuel. It is not about how impressive a person is on the “outside”—it’s what is on the “inside” that counts! I was also reminded of Matthew 12:34: “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” and how important it is that “your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).
So I recognized that as we consider candidates, we cannot see their hearts. Christians must evaluate them by their actions and words—judging those actions against the absolute authority of the Word of God.
Christians must evaluate them by their actions and words—judging those actions against the absolute authority of the Word of God.
Third, we need leaders who are wise and knowledgeable. How do we determine that? God’s Word tells us that: “The fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10) and also: “The fear of the lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). Do they exhibit a reverence for the Lord and His Word?
Fourth, and probably the most applicable to each of us on a personal level, I should not consider someone’s policies in light of what might benefit me materially. After all, the Scripture tells us: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21).
As I ponder all these things, I also realize what King David said: “I know, my God, that you test the heart.” Only God can really know a person’s heart. I can certainly judge a person’s actions and words against Scripture as a test of the heart—but then I’m suddenly reminded: “But what about my own heart?” And then I ponder: “Knowing my own heart, would I vote for me?” Well, frankly I could not!
Oh Lord, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my thoughts; And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24). “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).
But how I should fall on my face and thank God that He voted for me! You see, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy . . .” (Hebrews 4:16).
Let this election time be a heart reminder!