We are in dire need for Bible-minded, God-honoring Christians to step up and run for office–NOW! The good news is there is still time for these people to file for office; the bad news is history shows many great leaders will not answer the call.
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The Lesson of the Thornbushes (Judges 9)
Judges 9 emphasizes the importance of high character people being willing to run for office and the consequences of settling for substandard leaders.
SETTING THE BIBLICAL CONTEXT
Judges 9 takes place immediately following the death of Gideon where, true to form, the people have once again rejected God and prostituted themselves before false gods. During the period of the judges, the nation of Israel was still expected to be led by God and self-governed under God’s authority. The closest thing to a governing body was the family-based Patriarchy.
One of Gideon’s seventy sons, Abimelech, born of a concubine (slave), ran a successful campaign to be selected ruler over the people. As a middle son of a slave girl, Abimelech was not the qualified ruler to replace Gideon. Nevertheless, the people allowed and chose Abimelech to the position and gave him the power. Seemingly to prove his unqualified nature he immediately hired “worthless and reckless fellows, and they followed him” (NASB). He also had his other seventy brothers murdered to consolidate his power.
Only Jotham, Gibeon’s youngest son, escaped death. Jotham confronted the people as they were gathered to crown Abimelech as King with this parable.
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According to the Biblical account:
8 One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’ 9 “But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’
10 “Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’ 11 “But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’
12 “Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’ 13 “But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’
14 “Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’ 15 “The thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’ (NIV)
Jotham then goes on to tell the people, if they chose wisely, he hoped the best for them; but if the people were foolish he warned them of the consequences. The results were not surprising; within a few years Abimelech was killed and thousands of citizens were dead as a result of immoral and weak leadership.
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The People Must Not Settle for Low Quality Leaders.
History has repeatedly demonstrated people desire good and righteous leadership but are quick to settle for any leader, regardless of character, in the absence of good leaders. In the parable, the trees, representing the people, first go to an olive tree, then to fig tree, then to a vine, and end up settling for a thorn bush as leader. They start out seeking the more qualified leaders but quickly move on to lower standards as the more desirable leaders refuse to answer the call.
We can no longer settle for thorn bush leaders. We must convince and support those with a high-quality character and strong God-centered moral convictions to run for office. This does not mean we expect perfection–even olive trees periodically produce bad olives–but it does mean we no longer settle for candidates and elected officials who clearly do not possess a solid character or moral strength.
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Qualified Leaders Need to Step Up.
In the parable each of the higher, more qualified trees, rejected the call to serve as leaders when the people called upon them. Judges 9 does not specifically portray any qualified leaders rejecting the people but there is a clear implication that the older sons of Gideon were either unwilling or unfit to lead.
First, several of the trees referred to themselves as serving “gods and humans." It seems, through this phrase, a couple of the trees lacked a proper relationship with God and choose to serve the false gods so prevalent at that time. There are many people who possess great leadership skills but lack a solid relationship with God.
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Being a good leader is often a thankless job.
Second, Judges 8:35 states, “Nor did they (the people of Israel) show any loyalty to the family of Jerub-baal (that is, Gideon), despite all the good he had done for Israel” (NLT). Being a leader, especially an elected official, can be a thankless job. Additionally, the perception of politicians is at sadly low levels. These tend to discourage high quality leaders from wanting to engage.
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Some sacrifices may be required.
Lastly, each of the trees responded with what seems to be good excuses to the effect of, “Why should I give up my productive full-time job to lead the people?” There is an errant expectation that they would have to stop their productive efforts while leading the people. There are indeed time investments and sacrifices required to serve as an elected leader; however, outside of the Federal-level, most civil government leadership positions are part-time and they were always intended to be short-term service ventures, not life-long careers.
The simple fact is this: good, quality leaders must step-up and answer the call to serve and run for office.
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The consequences of failure:
If our best quality leaders continue to not answer the call, thornbushes will. There are many thornbush-type people who are willing to run for and are subsequently elected to office. We can see the negative results to our right and left. We see it in the outward behavior of some. We see it in dark, godless policy and legislation from others. In others it comes out in the form of outright illegal behavior.
Anybody who has encountered thorn bushes knows three things: 1) they are painful to encounter, 2) they try to take over wherever they grow and 3) they are very difficult to remove. As a result of settling for thorn bushes there is much work to be done. We have to work with the thorn bushes currently in office, and often is a painful experience. Poor leaders have, in some legislative bodies taken over. Now we are faced with the tough challenge of trying to remove them from office. It will be hard, sometimes painful work, but it must be done.
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Taking Corrective Action: Encourage Godly men and women to run for office.
Encourage those you know, trust, and believe in to run for office. Do not accept no as an answer; do not let them laugh off the idea. Let them know that you think they should run for office and why. It is easier to take a step of faith when you are not alone. Often the simple knowledge that they have friends who will be with them as they take a step of faith can make all the difference.
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Run for office yourself.
Spend time in prayer seeking God guidance and direction. If you feel prompted, run for office. Do not ignore God or try rationalize a calling away. Like the great hymn says…trust and obey!
See the resources below for detailed information on how to run for office. However, here are just a few blessings you will receive when you take the courageous step to run for office:
– You will have the opportunity to speak God’s truth to the issues to people unfamiliar with God’s design.
– You will be asked questions that will cause you to dig deeper into the Bible, thus building your faith.
– You will meet and develop relationships with others, of all sorts, in the community.
– Doors to other opportunities may be opened to you.
– Even if you don’t win, you will have 1) learned for the next election season, 2) demonstrated obedience and courage that may encourage others to be bold, and 3) you will have participated in civic engagement to a level few others have the courage to delve.
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Here are more resources on this important topic:
– Go to your State elections website. They will have resources and guidance as well as a list of possible positions.
– Go to your County elections website. They too will often have links to resources, lists of open seats at the local level, and advice and guidance on how to file.
– Visit your county and city government pages and research open positions. Sometime a call to city hall is faster and easier.
– Visit your school district webpage and look for open school board positions.
– https://candidatebootcamp.com/ continues good introductory material on how to run for office.
– Political parties also continue a wealth of information and resources.
Based on the ChristiansEngage.org article "Christian Candidates Needed--a Biblical Look at Running for Office." Used with permission.
About Pastor Ric
Ric is the President and Director of the Center for Christian Civic Engagement. His passion is seeing God glorified in the world and culture today through the application of God's perfect qualities of love and holiness. Ric's commitment to the Center for Christian Civic Engagement is total. He and his family sold nearly everything they owned and invested in a truck and fifth wheel which is now their home. Their goal is to be mobile and able to go wherever God's calls them to encourage Christians to get engaged in conversations that will shape and guide future generations. His background is varied and uniquely qualifies him for the Center for Christian Civic Engagement's mission.
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Publication date: June 14, 2018