Proverbs versus President Trump
May God have mercy on us all. Many people around the world will express a sentiment along these lines as Donald Trump becomes President of the United States of America this week.
A long time ago, as Trump began to make headway in his seemingly-unlikely campaign to become the Republican candidate for the presidency, I was reading through the book of Proverbs. This is perhaps the most practical book in the Bible, defining and describing what godly character looks like, and what it doesn't. Proverbs contrasts the wise person with the fool, admonishing the reader to get wisdom and avoid folly.
Unbidden, Trump's face and antics began to appear on every page. It was almost uncanny how particularly and spectacularly he fails the basic biblical tests of character in Proverbs, and how he revels in doing so. It would have been comical to me - as well as none of my business as a citizen of another country - were it not for Christian leaders in America approving of and even anointing Trump to be their representative.
Now, not as many evangelical Christians voted for Trump as we've been led to believe, and leaders like Russell Moore have spoken with courage and righteousness against what has happened. Of course I know that people, and therefore politics, are messy and complicated, and I'm aware that Hillary Clinton had plenty to discredit her to the conscience of a Christian voter. But the ungrudging nature of Trump endorsements, the lack of caveats or regrets expressed by men who should know better demands comment. I leave those comments to the book of Proverbs, of which these are just a sample...
There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers. (6:16-19)
When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (10:19)
Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool,
but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding. (10:23)
Whoever belittles his neighbour lacks sense,
but a man of understanding remains silent. (11:12)
The vexation of a fool is known at once,
but the prudent ignores an insult. (12:16)
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion. (18:2)
A fool's lips walk into a fight,
and his mouth invites a beating. (18:6)
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets;
therefore do not associate with a simple babbler. (20:19)
A wicked man puts on a bold face,
but the upright gives thought to his ways. (21:29)
Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble
is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips. (25:19)
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
a stranger, and not your own lips. (27:2)
There are those who are clean in their own eyesSo Proverbs points at the fool with disdain: and I saw Trump. And as I saw him, day after day, I began to notice how often I was noticing him - and this concerned me. I don't read the Bible looking for anyone in there except God, and the person who I'm most concerned with warning and rebuking from its instruction is me. Proverbs itself tells me to do this, but too late I realised that I had fallen into a trap. Remember a few moments ago as you read those Proverbs, how you nodded along, maybe even laughed wryly as you saw Trump's character laid bare? Here's the sting:
but are not washed of their filth. (30:12)
Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?I am still convinced that those Christian leaders who happily endorsed Trump were wrong, by the terms of God's own book. But I also know that congratulating myself for recognising this puts me in more danger than a fool. May God have mercy on us all.
There is more hope for a fool than for him. (26:12)