Friday, November 9, 2012

Our Obligations to the Government


OK, I said that the last post would finish my line of thought on politics, but after receiving many interesting and appreciated comments regarding this topic, I knew that I had to address a few more issues.

We need to begin by looking at the Bible's guidance as to what our obligations are to our civil governments. We find most of this in Romans.

Romans 13:1-7 (KJV)
1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

From verse 1 we find that it is God who has "ordained" the governmental powers. The word "ordain" means to establish. What this is saying is that God has put into place the concept of governmental rule. This does not mean that God has put evil rulers in place. However, God is sovereign and in our fallen world He has allowed evil rulers to sometimes come to power. We don't understand the reasons for this, but I can point to the fact that Christianity grows when the government is hard on Christians, and Christianity wanes when there is affluence and agreeable government.

Verse 1 also tells us that we are to obey the governmental authorities and verse 2 points out that by disobeying we are resisting God. Verses 3 and 4 speak about the reason for government, to promote the good and to punish evil. God has given government the authority to punish perpetrators of evil deeds. Then verses 6 and 7 speak about our obligation to pay our taxes and to give the governmental authorities what is due them.

So what about people who protest against the government? In the Gospels, Jesus made it clear that we are always to obey God first. So, if the government is doing something contrary to the Word of God we are allowed to disobey, but be prepared for the consequences the government will impose on the one who disobeys. Plus, any disobedience cannot be violent or cross into evil. I am reminded of Corrie Ten Boom whose family hid Jews during World War II. Her family was right in what they did, but Corrie eventually was imprisoned for her actions.

There were several comments on Google about whether or not we are instructed to vote. Is that required by the Bible? No, it is not. But we also have to take into consideration the culture of the first century. Israel was an occupied nation. The Romans held control of the country. There was no political system to even participate in. No wonder voting, etc. is not even spoken about. It is similar to the complaints made regarding slavery. Since nothing was said about the abolition of slavery the Bible somehow condones it? But that isn't sound reasoning. The culture included vast numbers of slaves. The Bible dealt with the situation that existed and taught slaves how to live under slavery. At the same time, I am reminded of Paul gently encouraging Philemon to free his slave Onesimus.

But when America was founded we were given a great privilege, to participate in the selection of our rulers. Ideally, we should have a government that works well for its citizens. But this only works when everyone votes. And when Christians vote we can impact the nation for those principles that are in accord with the Word of God.

Lastly, I received a lot of comment on how politics and religion should be kept separate. Some well-meaning Christians even claimed that they were not religious, that they were only people of faith. But it seems to me, that there is a misunderstanding of what religion is. The definition of religion is, "Any system of faith and worship" For Christians then, whatever faith and worship practice someone has is in fact religion. And I don't mean necessarily any particular organized religion. We can practice faith in God totally without any denomination or "ism" and it is still our religion. Go beyond this and we have to recognize that secularism or atheism is also "religion". It is what a person believes in. When we realize that religion, for all intents and purposes, is simply what we believe in, we also should understand that when we vote, our beliefs or our religion informs how we vote. So really, whenever a person votes, he or she votes his religion.

This then is what must be determined, "Which candidates' values reflect those values that God is most pleased with?" And if we vote our religion and the vote causes laws to be implemented that restrict our rights as Christians and citizens (read socialism), or cause Christians to violate their consciences (read paying for abortions, forcing employers to pay for abortion coverage, force churches to employ homosexuals, force schools to actively promote abortion or homosexuality), we have not voted according to a Christian worldview, but have voted evil into place.

History will tell us the result.


  1. I consider it a tremendous privilge, if not duty, to cast a vote. It's a powerful means of standing up for something/someone, or standing against. It helps me understand what Edmund Burke had in mind when he spoke so eloquently:
    "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

    I'm grateful there remains good men/women. Those numbers may be dwindling, but so goes the way of the world. As things heat up here "on the ground", we can joyfully & expectantly connect the dot to the promised return of the Lord.

    Another thought-provoking & good post!

  2. Thank you for the encouraging comments! The quote from Edmund Burke says it in a nutshell, doesn't it? But, in spite of what is happening in our world, you remind us of our hope and future when the Lord returns.