What is it that truly makes a nation great? What sets a nation above the others? Economics, military might, and culture are all important; some nations do have stronger economies, greater militaries, and superior cultures, but these things are not what truly makes a nation great. Proverbs 14: 34 says,
“Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”
It isn’t really economics, politics, or militaries that exalt a nation. It’s righteousness! A nation that is morally upright will be exalted. Why is that? Is it because God reaches down from Heaven and exalts righteous nations? Yes and no. Certainly God does bless those nations that are righteous, but I believe that being righteous exalts in and of itself. That is what the verse says; righteousness exalts a nation.
If you are reading the Ministry Wire, you are probably American. Many Americans, myself included, feel a great sense of patriotism and pride for their country, and I think rightly so. No nation is perfect, and the US has certainly had its faults. Yet the United States has been a force for good and source of hope for many. The promise of America has spurred positive change around the world. The reason for America’s greatness is not that we simply had more natural resources than others. It’s not because we oppressed other peoples. It is because the values and principles America was founded on are righteous. Some of the Founding Fathers were Christians, and some were not, but they all possessed a respect for the Bible. Their moral and political beliefs were undoubtedly shaped by it. The righteous principles of freedom, equality, liberty, and justice, as well as a strong moral sense imbued from a Christian heritage led to the success and prosperity of America.
One need only look at the multitude of fallen kingdoms to see that the other side of the verse bears true as well. Sin is indeed a reproach to any people. Many once great nations have fallen due to sin, like the oppressive Soviet Union or morally debauched Roman Empire.
There is great danger in forgetting the truth of this verse; unfortunately I am afraid that Christians in America may be doing just that. It is egregious to see the way some Christians ignore clear biblical commands. I frequently read or hear Christians accepting sins like homosexuality and transgenderism, and I was recently shocked to read a supposedly Christian forum where at least half seemed to advocate having sex before marriage. How is there even debate on something the Bible is so clear about?
I’m not referring only to lax standards and morals among those who claim to follow Christ. I assume that if you are reading this, you are probably conservative, both in your doctrine and in your political views. I have felt a growing concern over the last few years about a different issue among conservative Christians. To be frank, I’m afraid that conservatives have become extremely tolerant of sin in our political leaders, so long as they belong to the Republican Party. More and more egregious behavior is excused or simply ignored by Christians that would vociferously denounce much lesser sins from a Democrat. I believe much of this started with the election of 2016, and the election of President Trump.
I do think that much of President Trump’s policy has been good, and I am thankful for that. I believe we should be thankful and praise him when he does good, and criticize him when he does bad. Yet I feel many Christians have not been thoughtful or biblical in their approach to the president. It seems to me that many are willing to ignore, tolerate, or even celebrate sinful and foolish behavior from the president. I’ve seen many who express how much they like the President’s style of rhetoric. Yet the President frequently lies, slanders, demeans, and mocks anyone who criticizes him. He frequently praises those who compliment him, no matter how evil that person may be. Is this following the biblical exhortation to use speech that is gracious and “seasoned with salt”? Don’t get me wrong, sometimes truth needs to spoken strongly! One of my favorite presidents referred to the Soviet Empire as an “evil empire”. Yet the truth must be spoken in love. This is not the same as lashing out childishly at someone who slights you.
What about the tawdry and unbelievably gross scandals the President has in his sordid past? A tape came out shortly before the election of Trump saying he would walk up to woman and kiss them or group them. This is sexual assault. If you make excuses by saying it’s “just words”, or “they let him do it”, you are lying to yourself. You know it’s assault. Would you defend Obama if he made those claims? Would you defend someone who behaved this way to your loved one? You would not; so don’t make excuses for Trump. Why on earth would anyone who claims the name of Jesus Christ defend this horror? You may say that this is all in the past, but it is still a relevant example of the sin that Christians seem to be willing to defend, ignore, and excuse when someone is party of our political party.
There was some debate over whether Christians should vote for a man like Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Whatever decision you came to during the election, that moment is past. The election is over; it is now the duty of every Christian to champion what is right. It is our duty to live righteously and demand the same of our leaders. Don’t make excuses for Trump, or any other leader. Their sin is a reproach to our nation. It’s shameful! It brings chaos and destruction. It doesn’t matter if you happen to like the president who makes sinful decisions. Sin is still wrong, even if it’s committed by a president you like. We as Christians need to hold Trump, and every leader, to biblical standards for their conduct. Immoral behavior has often been excused by the phrase, “we didn’t elect a pastor”. This is a straw man argument. No one expects the president to be a pastor, but every Christian should expect their leaders to act morally. Proverbs 14:34 applies to everyone, even political leaders. Do you really want a nation where we don’t care about the character of our leaders? That’s a sure way to destroy America. The Trump slogan is “Make America Great Again”; but America will never be great again if we don’t live righteously, and that includes our leaders. America won’t be made great again by tariffs or loud denunciations of the media. America can only be made great again through righteous living.
To be sure, this verse should start with us. Are we living lives that honor Christ? Are we righteous in our actions and attitudes? The way we live brings either exaltation or reproach to our nation. Character matters, both in our lives, and in the lives of those who lead us. We should expect our leaders to be righteous men. To do otherwise will bring reproach, no matter how tempting the short-term gain may be.