Martyn Lloyd Jones -politics, elections and referendums

There are some big political decisions coming up over the next few months.  In the UK voters will be deciding whether or not to stay in the European Union whilst in the US the Republicans and Democrats are still in the process of choosing candidates for the Presidential election later this year.So, whilst preparing last Sunday night’s teaching on the Sermon on the Mount I was fascinated to find the words below from Martyn Lloyd Jones.   He is addressing the question “What does it mean to store up treasure on earth?” and he says:

“We might digress here for a moment and look at this subject from the standpoint of the great political interest in this country, particularly, for example, at the time of a General Election.  What, in the last analysis is the real interest?  What is the real thing that people on both sides and all sides are concerned about? They are interested in ‘treasures upon earth’, whether they be people who have treasures or whether they be people who would like to have them. They are all interested in the treasures; and it is most instructive to listen to what people say, and to observe how they betray themselves and the worldliness of which they are guilty, and the way in which they are laying up for themselves upon earth. To be very practical (and if the preaching of the gospel is not practical, it is not true preaching), there is a very simple test which we can apply to ourselves to see whether these things apply to us or not.  When at the time of a General or local Election, we are called on to make a choice of candidate, do we find ourselves believing that one political point of view is altogether right and the other altogether wrong? If we do, I suggest we are somehow or another laying up for ourselves treasures on earth. If we say that the truth is altogether on one side or the other, then if we analyse our motives we shall see it is because we are either protecting something or anxious to have something. Another good way of testing ourselves is to ask ourselves quite simply and honestly why we hold our particular views.  What is our motive?  What, when we are quite honest and truthful with ourselves is really at the back of those particular views that we hold?  It is a most illuminating question if we are really honest. I suggest that most people will find if they face the question quite honestly that there are some treasures upon earth about which they are concerned, and in which they are interested.”[1]

He then goes on to add a further couple of tests including:

“The next test is this. To what extent are our feelings engaged in this matter? How much bitterness is there, how much violence, how much anger and scorn and passion. Apply that test, and again we shall find that the feeling is aroused almost invariably by the concern about laying up treasures upon earth.”[2]

Now, I don’t agree with everything Lloyd Jones seems to say. There’s a couple of points where he seems to come close to encouraging a pietistic separation out of the world and many times, the passion and emotional engagement he describes will come from a genuine concern for justice.

However, I find his comments helpful as we continue to think about how we engage with these big questions.  Over the next few weeks, we in the UK will be told that how we vote will lead to greater prosperity, peace and freedom or to chaos and abject poverty.  Both camps will try to persuade us that they are right and of course, we will have to eventually choose.  However, I am challenged by Lloyd Jones. Do my own political preferences blind my eyes and deafen my ears so I cannot hear he other side. Can I acknowledge that even when I disagree with someone that they may have some valid points to make?

Will I be voting out of selfish interest – just what’s best for me?  Or will I be taking time to pray?  How will the decision affect those things that God values?

After the referendum in the UK and the Presidential election in the US, one side will have won and the other lost.  Both votes come down to a straight choice between two options. If the side I vote for wins how will I respond, how will I feel. Will I be triumphalist? Will I be tempted to assume that this guarantees a positive future? Or will I recognise that true hope is not found in the EU or in British independence, not in Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders or Hilary Clinton but in Christ alone? And what if my preference loses? Will this lead to despair? Will hope be vanquished? Or will I have that calm certainty that God will still be on the throne the day after the vote, just as he was the day before?

[1] Martyn Lloyd Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 493.

[2] Martyn Lloyd Jones, The Sermon on the Mount, 494.

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