Ruthless American Elections and Scripture: What We Can Learn
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3 ESV)
Politics are a ruthless enterprise. And here we go again. Let’s look back at the American presidential election of 1800. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were friends who ran against each other. It became one of the most vicious elections of all time.
Mud-flinging went on left-and-right. Thomas Jefferson accused Adams of being a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”
Adams’s campaign fired back and said Jefferson was “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”
Jefferson got the last word, though. He hired someone to lie about Adams, saying he wanted to attack France. It proved effective. Many Americans believed it and Jefferson won the election. Adams was so upset that he refused to show up at Jefferson’s inauguration. The two friends didn’t talk for 12 years.
Despite the falling out, the two men eventually desired to renew their friendship. In 1812, Adams wrote to Jefferson and wished him a happy new year. Jefferson responded, recalling memories of their friendship. They remained pen pals for 14 years and exchanged 158 letters.
In a twist of irony, the friends and former rivals died on the same day: July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, which they both helped write. The two men went through it all together, including the bitter pains of division caused by self-ambition. Too bad they couldn’t avoid it.
In Philippians 2:3, God’s Word warns us about divisions that come from our own selfish ambitions and instructs us to avoid them. Here, Paul was writing to the Philippian church where there was rivalry going on among some of the believers (Philippians 1:15-18). Paul was giving practical advice about how to end these rivalries. He says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition …”
The Greek word for “selfish ambition” is eritheia. It means “strife,” “contentiousness,” and “rivalry.” Aristotle used eritheia in his work, Politics, to describe candidates getting into office using unethical means. It means to use any method necessary to one-up someone.
Paul is telling us that this doesn’t ensue only in politics. It happens in the church. Believers compete at each other’s expense in order to achieve positions of leadership, celebrity, and prominence. They were to stop at once.
There’s simply no room for rivalry in the church because it causes strife and division. Christ’s Body must not be divided (1 Corinthians 1:10, 13). Instead of campaigning for ourselves, we are to serve one another the way Christ served us.
Have you ever done something out of selfish ambition that cost one of your brothers or sisters in Christ? While it’s likely you haven’t run a public smear campaign, maybe you have smeared someone’s name so that you could benefit from it. Whatever it is that you are after, it’s not worth competing if you have to divide God’s people to get it.
If you’ve been competing with others, why not try a new approach to promotion? Instead of putting people down, why not serve them? The outcome will be a win-win for both parties.
This beats having to deal with the misery that comes from running a crooked campaign.
Downsize Me – Crosswalk the Devotional
By: John UpChurch
You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. – Matthew 5:3, MSG
Let’s try to regain the shock value in the way Jesus opened His Sermon on the Mount. We’re too familiar with the statements and too far removed from the time to hear it like the original listeners. Imagine going to a fast food restaurant, ordering an enormous value meal, and the cashier hitting you with this question: “Would you like to down-size your meal for a dollar less?” Or imagine a car salesperson pausing before you sign the papers and saying, “You know what? That extended warranty is overpriced. Let’s get rid of it.”
Now you have an idea how much impact Jesus had and why the audience was so astounded. Just like we expect people to push us to buy more, the Jews at the time expected their rabbis to tell them the things they needed to do, the rules they needed to abide by. They came expecting to learn the ten steps required to earn God’s favor, but Jesus crumpled up that idea and threw it out. Instead, He revealed that God’s favor and blessings come to those who are poor in spirit.
There’s more to it, however, than simply feeling beaten down or contrite. The poor in spirit—the ones at the end of their ropes—are those who realize they’ve gone as far as human effort can get them. In terms of salvation, that’s not very far. Here’s how John Gill puts it:
The greater part of mankind are insensible of this their condition; but think themselves rich, and increased with goods: there are some who are sensible of it, who see their poverty and want, freely acknowledge it, bewail it, and mourn over it; are humbled for it, and are broken under a sense of it; entertain low and mean thoughts of themselves; seek after the true riches, both of grace and glory; and frankly acknowledge, that all they have, or hope to have, is owing to the free grace of God. (John Gill, commentary on Matthew 5:3)
The poor in spirit don’t just feel bad; they feel bad because they realize how destitute their condition. When we truly understand that “karma points” and charitable acts amount to nothing more than drops of food coloring in the ocean, then we’ve gotten the point: We can’t even approach the kingdom of God, let alone enter it, through our own efforts.
But those who look down and see the filth (and pre-salvation, our spiritual appearance is just that) are those who realize the need for God. And with that realization comes the increase of God in our lives and the decrease of self.
“For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; and reproofs for discipline are the way of life.” – Proverbs 6:23 NASB
Some seem eager to criticize, share opinions, and give advice, whether or not it was requested. But according to a recent study, criticism alone rarely inspires people to take action. What makes the difference? Practical insights, relevant perspectives, and proven principles.
We see these patterns in our spiritual lives. People want reality and faith that changes lives. They don’t want empty promises but real peace and joy. They don’t want criticism or opinions but real meaning and real fulfillment.
How do we experience such a dynamic, real faith? We start by making a radical commitment to follow Jesus, to be His disciple, to know God’s Word, and to live according to its principles. We are to be filled with the Spirit and people of prayer.
The Bible reminds us that God’s Word provides a lamp to guide us. Its teachings provide us with light. The more we know the Word, the more clearly God can lead us. The more His Word saturates our minds and hearts, the more He can speak to us. And when we sin or make mistakes, God guides us through “reproofs of discipline.” He corrects us when we need correction.
Ask God to help you be more sensitive to His Spirit. Fill your mind with His Word. Be ready to step out in faith. Believe that His power is real and available to you. Miracles still are possible. Put His Word into action.
Bearing Misunderstandings – Streams in the Desert – October 6
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
He opened not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7).
How much grace it requires to bear a misunderstanding rightly, and to receive an unkind judgment in holy sweetness! Nothing tests the Christian character more than to have some evil thing said about him. This is the file that soon proves whether we are electro-plate or solid gold. If we could only know the blessings that lie hidden in our trials we would say like David, when Shimei cursed him, “Let him curse;… it may be… that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day.”
Some people get easily turned aside from the grandeur of their life-work by pursuing their own grievances and enemies, until their life gets turned into one little petty whirl of warfare. It is like a nest of hornets. You may disperse the hornets, but you will probably get terribly stung, and get nothing for your pains, for even their honey is not worth a search.
God give us more of His Spirit, “who, when he was reviled, reviled not again”; but “committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” “Consider him that endureth such contradiction of sinners against himself.”
–A. B. Simpson
“Before you” He trod all the path of woe,
He took the sharp thrusts with His head bent low.
He knew deepest sorrow and pain and grief,
He knew long endurance without relief,
He took all the bitter from death’s deep cup,
He kept not a blood-drop but gave all up.
“Before you” and for you, He won the fight
To bring you to glory and realms of light.