What does the purpose of God’s laws have to do with politics?
Well, politicians, especially of the Republican variety, often have principles that they say are more important than the well-being of people. For example, if we promote a healthcare solution, they argue that, even if it works, it’s evil, because it doesn’t preserve the higher principles of small government, or liberty, or pure capitalism. As the self-proclaimed “Christian Party”, the Republicans should align their morality with the Bible, if they do not want to be hypocrites. So let’s see if the Bible is more concerned with these man-made principles, or whether God’s laws are about the well-being of people.
(By the way, in looking at the purpose of God’s laws, I am in no way saying that our nation, which has guaranteed its people religious freedom from the beginning, should make its laws according to the Bible. I’m simply saying that if the Republicans are going to oppose solutions in the name of “that’s not right,” and they claim their morality comes from Christianity, then their ideologies must be biblically supported. That’s why I wrote the book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason.” It tackles their false moral arguments in depth using the Bible, economics, and history)
Fortunately, determining the purpose of God’s laws is easy, because in some cases, God even includes the reasons for the Old Testament laws in the passages in which they are given. Here are some of those passages (the reasons for the laws are in italics):
Exodus 22:21-24, “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.”
Exodus 22:26-27, “If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in? And it shall come about that when he cries out to Me, I will hear him, for I am gracious.”
Exodus 23:8, “And you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted, and subverts the cause of the just.”
Leviticus 19:16, “Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life.”
Deuteronomy 5:14, “…but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.”
Deuteronomy 6:24, “So the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today.”
Deuteronomy 14:28-29, “Every third year you shall bring out the full tithe of your produce for that year, and store it within your towns; the Levites, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you, as well as the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill so that the word of God may bless you in all the work that you undertake [NRSV].”
Deuteronomy 20:5-7, “The officers shall also speak to the people, saying, ‘Who is the man who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him depart and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it. And who is the man that has planted a vineyard and has not begun to use his fruit? Let him depart and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man begin to use its fruit. And who is the man who is engaged to a woman and has not married her? Let him depart and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man marry her.”
Deuteronomy 22:8, “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone falls from it.”
Deuteronomy 24:5, “When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out with the army, nor be charged with any duty; he shall be free at home one year and shall give happiness to his wife whom he has taken.”
Deuteronomy 24:6, “Do not take a pair of millstones – not even the upper one – as security for a debt, because that would be taking a man’s livelihood as security [NIV].”
Deuteronomy 24:14-15, “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns. You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it [“livelihood depends on it” in the NIV]; so that he may not cry against you to the Lord and it become sin in you.” [notice that God doesn’t blame the poor for class warfare here; he blames those responsible for the poor man’s condition.]
Deuteronomy 24:21, “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow.”
Deuteronomy 26:12, “When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.”
The overwhelming other-centered nature of God’s Law is a great testament to who He is and what He is about. His Law is selfless, because He is selfless. He always places our interests ahead of His, just as He did when he sent Christ to save us from the consequences of our sins.
If anyone is to say that they oppose a political policy because it is evil in God’s eyes, then they must show that it hurts people more than it helps people, because God’s law is concerned with helping people. Any man-made ideology that gets in the way of the well-being of the needy is an evil ideology.