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Being a good steward of my vote: Isn’t politics for the greedy and power-hungry?

nicola martin Nicola Martin
5 min

When we think about generosity, politics is unlikely to be the first thing that springs to mind. In fact for many of us, we perceive the political world as one that is full of distrust, disloyalty and greed. We would rather just avoid it altogether – isn’t that what Jesus would do?

Well, findings detailed in the Evangelical Alliance’s new report Thinking faithfully about politics would suggest differently.  We surveyed 1,380 evangelicals and found that 56% believe Jesus would use His vote, 76% believe He would befriend politicians of all parties, and 75% believe He would protest against corruption and injustice.

While there is no way of telling exactly how Jesus would engage in the British political system of today, we can look to many of his interactions to see how he interacted with the structures of power of His day. Jesus engaged with the pharisees and tax collectors, the religious and political leaders, many of whom were driven by greed and power. He would call on them to prioritise meeting people’s needs over strict laws (seen in various parts of the gospels when He challenged the hypocrisy of leaders by healing on the Sabbath) and He would urge them not to store up wealth but to use it to serve others (see His interaction with Zacchaeus in Luke 19).

Politics can be messy. We need only look back at some senior members of government’s behaviour during Covid lockdowns to see scandal is often at the centre of our politics today. But to follow Jesus means to follow Him into the (often difficult) spaces He was in – speaking truth to power.

How do we engage with politics generously?

At its most basic level, engaging in politics can simply be turning up to vote at elections. We suspect this is something Christians are already good at. 93% of respondents to our survey said they are certain or likely to turn up to vote in the next general election.

However, for many of us, perhaps we turn up to vote because it is our civic duty but we do not give much thought to how we use our vote. We vote for X party because it’s the party we have always voted for. It might even be the party our parents always voted for too. Or maybe we have consulted a trusted friend who “knows their stuff” about politics, and plan to copy how they will vote because surely that must be a safe choice?

I want to suggest that if we are to be good stewards of our vote, we need to give some more serious thought to who we vote for. We can start by taking some time to prayerfully consider what some of the big themes are that God’s Word suggests we should care about (e.g. issues like poverty and the sanctity of life are themes that are threaded throughout the bible). Once you have thought of a few policy areas that you feel called to care about, start looking at what each of the parties are saying (or not saying) about these things. To help you think about some of the big issues facing society today from a biblical perspective, check out the Evangelical Alliance’s weekly podcast, Cross Section, where we are doing a special season on the general election.

When considering how we vote, it is good to remember Christ’s instructions to His followers in Philippians 2:3 – 4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others”.

The good news is that many Christians are already thinking about others as they cast their vote. 58% of respondents to our survey said that one of the top factors determining the way they vote is which party they believe will best help others who are most in need. Only 11% said they vote for the party that will most help themselves and their family.

Engaging in politics beyond voting

It is inspiring that many Christians are already putting others first as they cast their vote, but a challenge to us all would be to ask ourselves the question of whether we are being generous in our engagement with politics beyond elections?

Political engagement, although at times messy, is a good opportunity for us to speak up about the injustices we see in our society and across the world. It provides a practical opportunity of partaking in the fasting spoken about in Isaiah 58: “to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” (v6).

When it comes to political engagement, there are many ways we can be generous with our time or money. Perhaps you want to use your finances to support an organisation who are speaking up in the corridors of power? There are a number of Christian organisations that are doing this.

Perhaps you would be willing to be generous with your time and campaign on an issue that you see as being important? A great way to start is by researching an issue that you are passionate about (or looking at some of the research done by Christian groups) and emailing your local MP or other political representatives about the issue - MPs are always keen to hear from constituents.

Perhaps, you could start a regular prayer meeting within your church or community and meet and pray over political issues and for politicians?

For more thoughts on the many ways to engage generously in politics beyond elections, take a look at the Evangelical Alliance’s election resources.

A word of warning about political engagement

Finally, a word of warning about politics. While political engagement is a good way to show love to our neighbours, politics should never become our gospel or our saviour – only Jesus can be that. Politics is only a vessel through which we can communicate the good news Jesus brings and the love he shows to all, including those most in need. 

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Written by

Nicola Martin

Nicola Martin is public policy officer for Westminster at the Evangelical Alliance. Nicola has previously worked within Scottish politics and a faith-based housing charity and has  master’s in public policy from the University of Stirling. She is passionate about seeing Christians engage within the political system with both truth and grace.