[Borrowing a page from my betters here, I'm reposting something from my blog, a bit updated. Actually, it was my second-ever post, from 2004. Do you see this perspective as the same? Different? The same, but different emphasis?]
But by the mouth of wicked men it is torn down
(Proverbs 11:11, my translation)
The interpretive key to understanding many of the Proverbs from 10:1 on is in knowing the nature of Hebrew poetry, which does not tend to rhyme sounds as much as thoughts. That "rhyming" can be synonymous, or it can advance or complete the thought, or it can be contrastive. In this case, the "but" clues us that it is contrastive. Solomon is giving us two contrasting pictures.
That will help us understand each line. "The blessing of upright men," by itself, could mean the blessing they receive, the blessing that they themselves are, or the blessing that they speak. Any of these could be true, if the line stood alone.
If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (Cf. James 3:1-11)
What does any of that have to do with Christians shutting up?
Since "evangelicals" (whatever that means, anymore) and generally the religious have shown some electoral presence, there has been an uptick in noise about the role of "the religious" in society. Some Christian leaders have advocated that Christians not be politically involved, but focus instead on evangelism. Others urge a Christian presence in the affairs of state.
Now, let me say first and clearly that the very best thing a Christian can do for the health of his nation is to grow in godliness, and to disciple others to Christ for all he's worth. I know that without a doubt, because that is a natural outgrowth of what Jesus singles out as the two greatest commandments: love God with everything we've got (which necessarily will mean growing in godliness), and love our neighbor as ourselves (which necessarily will mean pointing those who do not know Him to the Lord Jesus; Matthew 22:36-40).
But by this same token, this will also necessarily mean Christian involvement in civil life.
Why? Because God isn't segregated. He has something to say about every area of life. Abraham Kuyper was right: "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'" If we love Him, we will keep His commandments, which necessarily means learning to think His thoughts after Him — in every area.
What is politics about? Is it not about justice, personal wealth, freedoms, responsibilities, values? Is it not about the poor, the sick, the weak? Is it not about life and death issues?
Does God have something to say about possessions, and personal wealth? Does God have something to say about justice, the poor, life and death? I've read the Bible a few times, and I'd have to say... Duh! God has a great deal to say about all those issues.
So what is the Christian to do? Is he to clutch those truths to his breast, and let his country go to ruin as he coyly refuses to tell it anything except how to be saved? Is that love for his neighbor?
"But," one will say, "promoting values alone without Christ is mere civil religion, it is works-righteousness!"
And here's the problem: that facile bifurcation. Why is it an either/or? When we preserve a Christian framework, are we not building the sort of society that will afford us the greatest opportunities for preaching Christ? Besides, who is advocating anything like "Repeal Row v. Wade, and you will go to Heaven (— or bring Heaven to earth)!"?
Moreover, does any of us do this with our children? Do we teach them nothing until they make a credible profession of faith, get baptized, and join a church? No manners, not whether to hit their sister or not, not to keep their hands off others' possessions, not to obey us cheerfully and instantly, not to say "please" and "thank you," not to use the toilet instead of the sofa?
Here is the bottom-line. Our lost peers do not know what to think of life. None of it. They do not know what to make of values. They don't know where riches fit in, what justice is, or how to care for the poor. Worse still, they do not know that they do not know.
But God does know, and He has spoken. Some listen to Him, most don't. We claim to have listened to Him.
So: do those who by His sovereign grace alone have heard Him bear any responsibility to their still-lost neighbors? When their neighbors cry, "What do we do about the unborn?", or when they thunder off to do the wrong thing, do we respond, "Well, I know, but I won't tell you. Instead, let me share the Four Spiritual Laws. Meanwhile, vote however you want on that one"? Do we just let the little ones be shunted off to death, as we say, "Sorry, won't help you; but we are planning an evangelistic campaign!"?If we see a gang of thugs beating up someone, and some of our neighbors say "Let's go save him," do refuse to participate until they give us their testimony and basic credo? Or do we join in, regardless of their motives, because we know it's the God-honoring thing to do?
Would that be loyal to God? Would that be loving our neighbor?
The wicked are set on destroying their city. They may mean it consciously, they may not. It does not matter. God knows, and He has spoken. Their path seems right to them, but it leads to death and destruction (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25) - theirs, their children's, our children's. It is ours to stand athwart that path and say, "Stop! Go this way instead!"
Hating and not understanding Christians, and seeing in us only that we stand between them and their (ultimately ruinous) desires, worldlings will tell us to shut up. They will tell us to go back to church, sing hymns and pray, and leave the steering of society to them. Hitler said this, and many German pastors acquiesced. Liberals said this at the start of the 20th century, and great sections of the American church acquiesced... and we are living in the backwash of that miscalculation today.
Told to shut up, we must respond, "Thanks for the suggestion, but no." We have the Constitutionally guaranteed right to speak up and be involved (First Amendment), and we have a responsibility from God to do so.
Much is expected from those to whom much has been given.
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
12 If you say, "Behold, we did not know this,"
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not repay man according to his work?