"If you don't vote, you can't complain." Maybe you've heard a friend or colleague say something like this, or maybe you've read it on social media. But such a statement begs the question: Does voting in an election give me the right to complain about the outcome and reverberating effects of that election? Let's think about it for a minute.
First of all, this kind of statement is made because there are many who will not take advantage of the privilege and responsibility of voting. They won't let their voices be heard at the polls, yet they will gladly lift their voices in complaint and criticism from their couches. So, often when people say, "If you don't vote, you can't complain," it's a general call to be a responsible citizen rather than a clanging complainer.
But that brings me back to my question: does voting give me the right to complain? I believe the answer is no, and I believe this is especially true for the Christian who votes. Let me give you two reasons voting Christians shouldn't complain.
First of all, complaining is disobedience. "Do all things without grumbling or disputing..." (Phil. 2:14). What's the context of such a command? Paul is writing to Christians living in "a crooked an twisted generation" (2:15). It's a society where Paul says it's their privilege "not only believe in [Christ] but also suffer for his sake" (1:29).
Please be clear. Discussing what is wrong with our society - what's crooked and twisted - and what needs to change is not the same as complaining. Yet, the attitudes, tone, and words we use will reveal whether we are pursuing good or pouting. Christian, you can't complain because it would be disobedient.
Secondly, complaining is unbelief. Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 clearly speak to the fact that God is the One who places people in positions of authority. So, as I filled in the ovals on my ballot this morning, my voice was heard. But at the end of this day, a Voice behind all our voices will speak. He will put people in office.
To complain, then, is to say God made a mistake in His sovereign work. It questions God's goodness and wisdom. We may mourn the ungodliness of our leaders. We may mourn the foolishness they display. We may pray for God to change them or even replace them. But we must not question God's goodness and wisdom.
After all, consider this. We live in a society that is flooded with ungodliness and foolishness. Should we be surprised that God would give us ungodly, foolish leaders as an act of judgment? Ponder what John Calvin wrote in his Institutes: "...they who rule unjustly and incompetently have been raised up by [God] to punish the wickedness of the people." The outcome of an election shouldn't have us complaining against God but considering the state of our society.
In the end, it's pretty simple. As a Christian, you should vote. God has providentially given you the opportunity to be part of selecting the next leaders of our community, city, state, and nation. God has also commanded you to love your neighbor as yourself, and it's loving to want our neighbors to live in a society with wise and just leaders. Voting is one way to achieve that.
Voting is good. Voting is right. But voting doesn't give us the right to complain.