Much ado has been made this week about the Bible upon which Donald J. Trump placed his hand when he was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. It wasn't just any old Bible. Along with the one he was given as a child, he was sworn in with "The Lincoln Bible"... the Bible used during the inauguration of Honest Abe in 1861.
Media and pundits are inflating that image to advance their own agendas and perspectives on the Trump presidency. Let me be clear. I'm not interested in advancing any political agenda or judgment for that matter. But I am curious about all of the fuss being made over this particular element of the swearing-in ceremony. It got me thinking... is a Bible required for the inauguration and, if so, does it have to be a special Bible with some sort of celebrity status? The answer to both is "no." This particular inaugural detail is drawn from tradition, not the Constitution.
So if it's not required (although most presidents have kept the tradition), why does a new president swear on a Bible? For that matter, why do any of us swear on the Bible? I guess the assumption is that when you place your hand on God's Word and take an oath, you are more compelled to refrain from lying and to "tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth." But think about that. If you are a Bible-believing Christ-follower, isn't that an automatic? We seek to honor and obey the Lord by always telling the truth... whether a Bible is present or not. Consider what Jesus has to say about invoking the sacred to strengthen the integrity of an oath.
"Again, you have heard that the ancients were told,
'YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.' "But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING.
"Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.
"But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes ' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil."
(Matthew 5:33-37, NASB)
It's not that Christ is forbidding oath-taking. Rather, He is telling His followers that their reputation for honesty and strong moral character should be so clean that no one would even think to question their trustworthiness in fulfilling their vows.
Hmmm... there's some good food for thought for all of us - not just those who took the oath of office today. The Bible shouldn't be a witness for us. We are called to be witnesses for the Bible... living out God's Word so convincingly that the world doesn't need to see us holding Bibles to know we are Christ-followers.
Back to all the buzz about the use of the Lincoln Bible during the inauguration. I deeply value the Christian roots of our country and the traditions that reflect our foundations. And placing one's right hand on the Bible when taking the oath of office is just that... tradition. But we veer way off-course when we are more wowed by the original owner of a Bible than the Word itself. Years ago, a colleague arranged a blind date for me with a guy who allegedly shared my love of the Word. When we got to the topic of faith, he was quick to brag that one of his greatest treasures was a Bible that once belonged to a popular sports star. I guess he thought that would impress me. Indeed, I love God's Word and I love sports... but seriously?! Needless to say, there was not another date.
No matter your political views, I hope you watched the presidential inauguration. This only happens every four years and it is truly history in the making as the leader of the free world steps up to accept the responsibility he has been given by the people, and ultimately by God Himself. But let's avoid assuming (as some in the media have) that the Lincoln Bible or any celebrity Bible somehow brings to the platform heightened spiritual mojo. President Donald J. Trump will either be a man of his word, or he won't. Only time will tell... not the presence of Honest Abe's good book.
And one more note... when the Lincoln Bible was donated to the Library of Congress by the widow of Robert Todd Lincoln, markers had been placed in Deuteronomy 31 and Hosea 4. Check out these Scriptures... and then earnestly pray for our country and our new president. In the years ahead there's a lot at stake... and we will be judged by the choices that the president and we make.
God bless President Trump and God bless America.