fish6.gif - 0.8 K

A Sermon from
Valley Covenant Church
Eugene, Oregon
by Pastor Steve Bilynskyj

Copyright © 2014 by Stephen S. Bilynskyj

Proverbs 28
“Good Government”
November 2, 2014 - All Saints Sunday

         How many have voted already? How many plan to vote by Tuesday? The first half of our chapter from Proverbs today has a lot to say about government in the form of a king. Perhaps it has something to say to us because, instead of a king, we have a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” We together are the rulers of our city, our state, our country. How do we avoid the implication of verse 2 that many rulers make for chaos, while a single wise ruler brings order?

         The second half of this chapter has a lot to say about making money, which we would all like to do, and which our government and economy encourages. Yet how do we avoid the warnings here in verses 20 and 22 that being in a hurry to get rich is dangerous?

         We cannot answer either question without God. Proverbs is right. To be people who, without any other guide, simply rule themselves, is to live in chaos. That’s the lesson our men’s Bible study has observed from the book of Judges for the past few weeks, the moral and spiritual disaster that resulted when there was no king or clear leader and each person “did what was right in his own eyes.”

         If we are people who make our first priority to rule ourselves, and our second priority to make money, then we double-down on the disastrous chaos. The way we do business and government will leave more and more people out in the cold. In just a few weeks we will see some of them sleeping on the floor of our sanctuary. We see more of them begging at street corners around town. Political and economic freedom by themselves are not a recipe for good human life. By themselves they are a recipe for wicked selfishness and lots of misery.

         Proverbs 28 gives us answers to both questions, “How do we avoid political chaos? and “How do we prevent economic injustice?” The answer is to look to God. Verse 5 tells us “The evil do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.” At first that just doesn’t seem true. Plenty of injustice has been done in the name of the Lord, and you and I would be the first to admit that we are frequently baffled by questions of justice. What is justice for Michael Brown and Darren Wilson? What is justice in Syria and Iraq? What is justice for Ebola victims and those who go to aid them?

         For Pete’s sake, some folks in our neighborhood association can’t even agree about what is justice regarding whether trash cans get left out on the street for a day or two after trash pickup. How can anyone understand justice completely? Mike Fargo gave you the answer last week, in the form of the two commands that sum up all that God wants of us. We understand justice when we love God with our whole being and love our neighbors as ourselves. It’s everything the law and the prophets mean to say.

         It’s no surprise then that the first part of this chapter talks a lot about “law,” using the Hebrew word torah. It’s referring us back to the basis of justice in love for God and love for each other. If we will only relate to each other and vote and work and invest seeking the Lord whose basic law is love, then we will in fact understand justice.

         When it comes to making money, we get the same answer here in verse 25, “The greedy person stirs up strife, but whoever trusts in the Lord will be enriched.” It’s no good just knowing how the market works, or how to sell a product, or how to use your skills to turn earn a decent wage. Making money without trusting in the Lord only makes you and everyone else poor. Real riches come from God.

         So how do you and I fit into all this? What has it got to do with that envelope containing a long folded piece of paper with a bunch of names and numbers and little ovals to fill in?

         Today we are celebrating All Saints, the church festival which remembers that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, something bigger than this church, something bigger than our denomination, and something bigger than the state of Oregon or the United States of America. We are remembering that we are people who seek the Lord, who trust the Lord, and because of that we are not just politically and economically free. We are free in Christ.

         We heard what that blessed freedom looks like in our reading from Matthew 5, the Beatitudes. Look how they match up with what we are reading here in Proverbs. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Luke 6:20 just says, “Blessed are you who are poor.” Verse 6 of Proverbs 28 says, “Better to be poor and walk in integrity than to be crooked in one’s ways even though rich.”

         Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek.” Verse 14 says, “Blessed are those who always tremble before God.” Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” Verse 12 says, “When the righteous triumph there is great elation.” Jesus said, “Bless are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Verse 13 says, “Those who conceal their sins do not prosper, but those who confess and renounce them find mercy.”

         Whether it’s in these proverbs or in the blessings Jesus pronounced, the Lord is showing us the kind of people we want to be whatever we are doing, whether it’s working or raising a family or voting. We want to be people who live into the blessing of God on those who obey His law of love.

         Friday morning our men’s breakfast conversation started out with Measure 92, the proposal to require labeling of genetically modified food products. One man asked what others thought about it. Another man said he was opposed. He thought the cost would be unfair to manufacturers and retailers and state government and that the aim could be met by food producers voluntarily labeling products that are not genetically modified. Then another of us said he was in favor of the measure because there are dangers to future food supply and there are unfair business advantages associated with genetically modified crops.

         Neither man changed the other’s mind. But neither of them raised their voices or accused the other of poor judgment. They listened to each other and respected each other. Then after breakfast they read and studied the Bible together and prayed for each other. In other words, they loved each other in Christ, despite a difference of opinion on what could be a very important issue.

         That is the only way ruling ourselves in a democracy can possibly work. That’s the only way a free market economy can possibly be fair. People formed in and by the love of Jesus Christ must be who they are and express their opinions and vote those opinions wrapped in Christian love. That’s at least part of what Jesus meant when He followed up the Beatitudes by saying, “You are the salt of the earth…” and “You are the light of the world.” God wants us to let everyone else know what it tastes like to love and trust in Him. God wants to us to let everyone else see how life can be lived when the saints of God show up and shine their light around.

         If you haven’t voted yet, then I hope you will spread that ballot out on your table at home and pray over it. Maybe talk it over with your spouse or other Christian friends. If you’ve already dropped it in the mail, I hope you will be praying over the results, praying for your city and your state and your country. Ask God to let His love be what is seen in your vote and in the election results.

         There’s a lot at stake in our sainthood. Being the blessed and beloved saints of God is not just a matter of what happens when we die, of getting a cushy cloud in heaven. It makes a huge difference in our world right now. As we sang before the sermon, the world needs you, needs God’s saints. The world needs saints in the Middle East. The world needs saints in West Africa. The world needs saints in Ferguson, Missouri. And the world needs saints right here in Eugene and Springfield and Cheshire. It’s the only way for now there will be good government.

         Yet whatever happens, whatever the election results, we believe that Jesus Christ who died and rose again is the true and only ruler of this world. As Advent comes around, we will study how we are waiting for Him to return and govern with righteousness and peace. We believe all His beatitudes will be fulfilled and as Proverbs 28 tells us, “the blameless will receive a good inheritance,” and “those who confess… will find mercy,” and “One who walks in integrity will be safe,” and “those who walk in wisdom will come through safe,” and “Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing,” and “whoever trusts in the Lord will prosper.” May all that be you, may it be you and I, saints together, as we wait trusting in the Lord and showing our love and trust to the world around us.


         Valley Covenant Church
         Eugene/Springfield, Oregon
         Copyright © 2014 by Stephen S. Bilynskyj

Last updated November 2, 2014