God expects a lot from Democrats. Democrats need a word from the Lord.
Now that Democrats control both houses of Congress, the majority of governorships and more state legislatures than Republicans, they need a watchword from the Bible. They need a verse that guards them from the temptation of pride that can lead to the abuse of power. They need a passage that safeguards them from the sins of sloth, moral indifference and political passivity.
Luke 12:48 is a good verse for victory: “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”
This verse ought to weigh heavily on Democrats of faith, who must move swiftly from faith talk to faith walk. It also should grab secular Democrats, who have promises to keep.
So, what exactly is required? What is demanded of those entrusted with the stewardship of power?
Unfortunately or fortunately, the Bible provides no proof text for public policy, no blueprint for moving from the divine expectation to the human implementation. That’s why people of faith must practice discernment about what the Lord requires and demands in the application of faith in politics.
While the Bible hands us no roadmap, the biblical witness does give us pointers.
From the vantage point of the biblical witness, here are two for Democrats of faith.
First, Jesus warned against leaders parading their piety.
Jesus spoke against self-serving displays of public religiosity. He spoke for prayer in private; simple public prayer and charity without acclaim.
Reserved piety suggests humility, a rare and much-needed virtue that Democrats ought to seek.
The public thumped the Republican Party and the Religious Right because of their moral self-righteousness and grandiose religiosity. Republicans and their theocrats talked moral superiority and walked moral inferiority from Daley to Ney, from Cunningham to Allen, from Reid to Russ, from Foley to Haggard. They sanctimoniously claimed for Terri Schiavo what just wasn’t so and then failed to fess up when proven wrong. They habitually overstated progress in Iraq when none was apparent and insulted the patriotism of those who questioned what they asserted.
Given their new political power, what is required of Democrats is humility. The nation hungers for a politics of humility that pursues the common good. If Democrats of faith will demonstrate their authentic faith with public service, then they will be well received and their inevitable mistakes will be judged less harshly.
Second, Jesus said leaders should pay attention to justice.
He talked about the Pharisees who spent too much time doing ritual religion and neglecting justice. He said the standard for social engagement was the Golden Rule. He said love for neighbor was beside love for God.
Jesus stood in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets Micah, who said justice was what the Lord required, and Amos, who said God wanted a society where justice irrigated the land. Jesus came to fulfill the law and the law-giver Moses said the character of God was defined by executing justice for orphans and the widows.
Tending to justice ought to be first on the agenda for Democrats of faith, not the Justice-Sunday kind of justice that centers on judges and punishment.
Biblical justice is about delivering fairness to the powerless, sheltering from harm those at the edges of life, helping the lame walk, making the common good, seeking peace that ensures human rights and guards the innocent, advancing the welfare of the entire global community.
Entrusted with political power, both faithful and secular Democrats would do well to move forward in humility with a commitment to do justice.
And both would benefit from remembering and reciting “to whom much has been given, much will be required…to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics and executive editor of EthicsDaily.com.