Many times over the last sixteen years especially, I have noticed that a phrase has been touted during every political contest. This phrase has become so ingrained in the American psyche that it has become second nature and a philosophy by which we seem to live our lives.
Let me give you a few examples. You can see our use of it in the way we choose which food we will eat based upon how we feel toward it versus the other choices, and how we will go to lengths to justify eating the one we desire. It is apparent in the way we choose what style to wear by comparing ourselves to others (“Well, at least I don’t look as bad as so-n-so…”). And do not forget the “I know he/she doesn’t stand for everything that I do but at least he is better than the alternative.” The phrase has been used to excuse some very poor choices from our diets to our clothing (or lack thereof) to which candidate, regardless of the arena, our vote will be given.
Have you guessed the phrase yet? Let me ask you to do a little introspection and determine how often that you succumb to the philosophy of choosing the lesser of two evils? It was a wakeup call for me too when I began to think and really look at this philosophy. I began to see just how far it has wormed its way into my thinking and my daily dealings. But lest you think that I am just snapping at straws, let us examine this philosophy, for so it is, in light of the Scriptures and the Christian’s life.
The Lesser of Two Evils in the Light of the Scriptures
When God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning (Genesis 1:1), He created man in His image (Genesis 1:26-28). Man became a living soul with a will (Genesis 2:7) and the ability to reason and to choose, a fact that was not overlooked by Satan (Genesis 3:1-6). In fact, man’s first choice of momentous impact was a good versus evil contest. And we know how that contest turned out by reading Genesis 3. But we also see the consequences of that choice by reading the entirety of the Bible and by understanding Romans 5:12 that by one man sin entered the world and death passed upon all men because of their sin. That is a pretty big consequence there. Yet in the context of Romans 5:12, specifically verse 15-16 states that even though Adam’s choice brought sin and death into the world, Christ’s choice brought grace and justification to the world.
Did Christ really have a choice? Philippians 2:5-11 shows that Christ was equal to God but that He chose to be submissive to the will of God rather than holding on to His position of equality. He could have chosen not to endure the suffering, but He chose to come and do “the will of Him that sent me (John 6:38)” and learned obedience through that suffering (Hebrews 5:5-10). Even in the temptations of Christ, as recorded in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13, we see that there was a choice offered. On the one hand, He could have submitted to the devil and been spared the suffering of the cross, certainly less painful. But that would have still left us to die in our sins, those same sins that separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). On the other hand, He chose to submit to the will of the Father and proceed to the death on the cross.
Throughout the history of the human race, there have always been choices. Yet never once is there found in the Scriptures, the concept of choosing the lesser of two evils and still being acceptable to God. Throughout the ages, it is always shown to be a choice between right and wrong. When Saul was sent to destroy the Amalekites, his choice was to obey God and kill every man, woman, child and animal of them (right), to disobey God and not kill any of them (wrong) or to spare the best and kill the rest (wrong and what he chose to do) (I Samuel 15). Saul chose what he considered to be the lesser of two evils sparing the best and claiming that they were to be a sacrifice to God, yet God did not accept his reasoning calling it disobedience, rebellion and stubbornness (vs. 11, 22-23).
Thus we see that, even though we think that to choose the lesser of two evils is acceptable, God says that way leads unto death (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25). He pronounces a judgment against this thinking by proclaiming in Isaiah 5:20-21: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” God never accepts the lesser of two evils as being right and acceptable.
The Lesser of Two Evils and the Christian’s Responsibility
Having established that God does not approve of the philosophy of choosing the lesser of two evils, what then should the Christian do in the cases, such as our upcoming political choices? It would be too obvious to state that we should not choose the lesser of two evils, for evil is evil whether great or small. What does Jesus say on this matter?
First, He says that no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24) and this is true regardless of the circumstance. You cannot serve God and wealth, God and self, God and <insert any item here>. As Peter and the apostles put it in Acts 5:29: “We must obey God rather than man.” This means that we must stand for God and His truth or as Jude put it in Jude 3: “contend earnestly for the faith…”
Second, He says we must stand for truth. God’s word is truth (John 17:17). The Hebrew writer states that we must “give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard… (Hebrews 2:1-4)”. Why should we? Because if we fail to hold them fast, we shall receive a similar judgment as those who let them slip. We are called to be salt and light to this earth (Matthew 5:13-16). We were not called to be slightly more flavorful than the rest of the earth for if salt has lost its flavor, it is worthless (Matthew 5:13). We were not called to be slightly lighter than the world around us. We are to be light so that people may glorify God (verses 14-16). How is that any different than the Laodicean church of Revelation 3:14-22? Paul states that we are to abhor evil and cling to that which is good (Romans 12:9). He further exhorts us to abstain from the very appearance of evil (I Thessalonians 5:22). This includes our actions in the political realm.
Third, He says we need to stop trying to sin that grace may abound (Romans 6:1). If the lesser of two evils is still evil (and it is), then how can we justify our actions before the high court of God? In the political realm, each election, here in America, we choose people to represent us. If we choose the lesser of two evils to represent us, we are choosing evil to speak for us. Brothers, this is a serious charge to be laid at our feet! If we cast our vote for the lesser of two evils, we give our blessing to these people. We are calling evil good! We are bidding Godspeed to one who does not hold the laws and morals of God (II John 9-11)! Let me ask you, How much fire can a man take into his bosom and his clothes not be burned? (Proverbs 6:27). How much evil can we condone and still be pure? Is abortion murder? Is homosexuality sin? Is marriage between one woman and one man? Is man allowed to determine his own morality or is there a standard of right and wrong that is absolute? Reread Romans 1:18-32 and understand that 1.) There is an absolute standard which is not open to negotiation; and 2.) We know the judgment of God on these issues. Are you ready to condone that candidate?
Fourth, He says we must be wise (Matthew 10:16). Ignorance is not an excuse (Acts 17:30). If we are choosing men to represent us, why should it be any different for the political arena than it is for the men that are to shepherd us? We need to research these candidates. We need to know about their pasts and how they have determined their stances on these issues. We need to look at their promises in light of their fruit for “by their fruit ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:18-20). This is not just a command pertaining unto false prophets. We also need to bring forth fruit (John 15:1-6; Romans 7:4-5).
Throughout the years, a dangerous philosophy has invaded and now permeates the Christian’s psyche. We have been taught that we have to choose the lesser of two evils; that there is no perfect candidate, therefore we need to choose the one that comes closest. At its very core, this philosophy teaches that we may choose which laws of God we will hold and which we may compromise. It sets us up as the ultimate judge of what is moral, acceptable, and righteous; in other words, self has become god.
Christians need to recognize that we are to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:14-17). That we are the salt of the earth and are to flavor the world not let it flavor us (Matthew 5:13-16). We need to stand for the morality of God realizing that these “social” issues affect all other ones as well. We need to stop trying to be conservative, conserving what we have left, rather we need to be the preservative that God put into this world (salt is a preservative, a cleanser, a purifier just the same as light cleanses the darkness) preserving the faith, the laws of God. God granted us the right to life (Genesis 1:26-28); the ability to choose (Genesis 2:7, 16-17); the right to obey Him (Romans 6:12-18); the right to worship Him (John 4:22-24).
God has never, according to Scripture, condoned the choosing of the lesser of two evils. He has always declared that the choice is between right and wrong. Evil is evil regardless of the circumstance.
To those who vote, a vote for one who has actively promoted evil in any form is a vote for evil. Regardless of your party affiliations, a vote for one who promotes abortion, approves of those who practice homosexuality, denies and actively seeks to destroy the law of marriage that God instituted from the beginning, and is a poor steward of that which God has given into his care, is to give your blessing to their evil deeds. And I am not just pointing at one candidate for both primary candidates stand accused of these wicked deeds. I, for one, choose to serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15) and refuse to compromise His laws any longer. If there is not a candidate on the ballot who reflects the godly values and morals, I shall write one in who will.
The Freedom to Choose was written and submitted to Church of Christ Articles by Levi Westphal.