All my life I have heard it said, in way or another, “If you don’t exercise your right to vote then you lose your right to complain.” I won’t debate the merits of this adage; it may or may not be true. However, what is indisputably true is that governments are appointed by God. He sets them up and He brings them down (Romans 13:1–2). Ultimately, therefore, they are accountable to God, not to the voter. Such a God-centred mindset of those who govern would go a long way towards true reformation of a government. Such a mindset would so motivate the actions of a government that the result would be a lot less things to complain about!
Governments are established by God with the responsibility for the safety and security of those whom they govern. If they fail the populace here, then they deserve to be held accountable—by God ultimately, and by the populace temporally. And with accountability comes the possibility of criticism—and complaint.
We here in South Africa have plenty to criticise when it comes to those entrusted with the governance of our nation. Corruption, inefficiency and incompetence abound. This is not to say that there are not some wonderful government officials. I thank God that there are many who serve us and who serve us sincerely and who serve us well! May their numbers increase, causing our concerns and criticisms to decrease. But in the meantime, many will continue to complain because of malfeasance and because of the general failure of those who abuse the trust for which they are responsible. But … I wonder …
I wonder if the average Christian in South Africa has the right to criticise our government? Specifically, I wonder if the average professing Christian in South Africa has the moral right to complain about government’s failure to keep promises and to fulfil its mandated responsibilities? In many cases, such criticisms are like the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. You see, I wonder about this because many who claim to be a Christian fail in their sacred trust to obey their Lord.
Consider, for instance, Christian homes where the husband and father breaks his sacred trust to faithfully love his wife and to shepherd his children as he trades this in for the voyeurism of pornography, or for the idolatry of physical fitness, or for the ever prevalent, selfish obsession with career advancement and the accumulation of things.
Or consider professing Christians who treat their marriage vows like some government officials treat their constitutional responsibilities: as negotiable. It is tragic that many professedly Christian marriages do not see their vows as binding and so easy divorce litters the evangelical landscape.
Again, consider Christians who give little heed to their responsibilities to their local church. Like irresponsible government officials who fail to attend their parliamentary obligations, many who take upon themselves a vow of church membership consistently blow off the gathering of the saints.
There are those in government who abuse the public purse, but many who are Christian church members likewise misappropriate the funds that God expects for them to contribute to the ministry of the local church. The greedy spirit of Ananias and Sapphira was not buried with their bodies; it continues in the hearts of many to this day.
Christians often complain that the police are derelict in their duty to confront and curb crime. Though there is no doubt legitimate concern here, nevertheless, the Christian who refuses to confront sin in the life of another church member is equally guilty of dereliction of duty. And the result of such neglect may have eternal, not merely temporal, consequences.
Further (if you have dared to read thus far!), like those in government who are rightly criticised for using their position for self-advancement rather than as servants of the people (which is precisely the meaning of the word “minister”), too many Christian church members function from a consumer mentality (“what can I get out of it?”) rather than from a servant’s worldview (“how can I help others?”). The result is a church full of chiefs while those who are servants are exhausted.
If you are guilty as charged, then my appeal is twofold.
First, repent. As a member of a biblical local church you have been blessedly entrusted with a wonderful privilege and with an attendant responsibility. If you are guilty of wilfully neglecting this trust, then ask God, and perhaps your elders and congregation, for forgiveness. Reaffirm your commitment to Christ and to the local expression of His church.
Second, if you won’t repent, then at least exercise a modicum of integrity and stop your griping about those who are failing in their duties in a far less important sphere, that of worldly government. Do those who have voted have an inherent right to complain? I don’t know. What I do know is that Christians who refuse to fulfil their sacred obligations to their Saviour and Lord, the ultimate Governor (Isaiah 9:6–7a), have little business complaining about the failures of others. I seem to recall our Lord saying something about splinters and logs? May God graciously empower us to pursue a life of faithful integrity; we will then see far more clearly. And we will probably complain a whole lot less.