What’s the government for?
Before going there – how about another question –
Why should we even care?
This is one from my old site. Written October 1, 2010. But you know what "they" say: The more things change, the more they stay the same. I'll put updates in text like this, so you can tell what's new.
Before we even get to the topic – it’s good to be “back” – having time to do this again. Too much work – not enough time for God. Not good. Unfortunately, we have to make a living – but sometimes it seems like we’re forced into, at least temporarily, choosing the wrong god.
Since that time, I’ve realized that it doesn’t have to be choosing the wrong God. It can / should be bringing the right God to the paces of the wrong “god”.
Now that I’ve retired, it’s more a case of bringing the right God to the often time wrong “god” of the Internet.
Anyway – why this? Well – the elections are coming up soon.
The left is pushing their “progressive” (liberal) agenda.
The right is pushing it’s conservative agenda.
Well – those who are at least somewhat honest about which side they are on are doing that.
Sometimes it seems as if the left is anti religion – especially anti Christian.
Sometimes it seems as if the right is pro religion – especially pro Christian.
As I said – the more things change …
I also want to point out the words – “it seems as if”. I don’t think either side really shows their true colors.
Both try to hide behind what they think certain people will want to hear.
Both claim will will be the party of “all the people”.
That’s such an outright lie – I can’t believe anyone falls for it!
In a country as divided as ours – how can anyone possibly be for – let alone actually do – anything that will be for all the people?
Answer – they can’t.
So they lie.
And we believe them.
For example – the left claims to be Christian – while supporting and passing laws that are clearly against the teachings of Jesus.
And the right – no better – claims to be Christian – while also supporting and passing laws that are clearly against the teachings of Jesus.
But “our” religious leaders endorse one side or the other.
And we believe them.
The more things change …
Going all the way back to Jesus’ time.
Going all the way back to the beginning – to Genesis.
Whether you agree with what I just said or not – maybe the real question is – does it really matter? What’s the place of government in religion – or of religion in government?
Even more basic – what’s the real point of the government?
This actually came up because I’m reading John MacArthur’s book, Why Government Can’t Save You. I was expecting it to actually talk about why the government can’t save our souls. To be sure – I haven’t finished it yet – so it may very well do that.
But it takes an interesting path to get to whatever the conclusion will be.
He starts off with a Christian perspective on political involvement and our responsibility to authority. Very interesting – and I invite you to read it.
Then he gets into the Biblical purpose of government. And that’s where this article comes in.
I was reading part of the book that talked about the prison system and capital punishment – which I’ll probably get into later – talked about it with my wife – got into social justice from there – and decided to check that out too.
So – what’s the point of government, anyway? Chapter 3 starts off with –
You can settle the argument over government’s basic purpose and the extent of its activities much more easily if you simply use Scripture as the starting point.
Keep in mind – this book was written 10 years ago, in 2000.
If you’ve read what I wrote about Inside the Revolution – you’ll remember that Thomas Jefferson is one of the main characters – and those who still follow his perceived intentions. That was back in the 1700’s.
Inside the revolution is a 6-part series - still on the old site.< br /> I've made a note to put a link here after I start to move it.< br /> If you follow this site, you will get an email when it's here.
Well – Jefferson is a central figure here too.
Also from Chapter 3 –
When in February, 1791, Washington called upon Jefferson and Hamilton to submit their opinions on the constitutionality of legislation chartering a Bank of the United States, national political affiliations had already been well defined in terms of broad and basic interests. Though the letters they wrote in reply were couched in the language of the Constitution, the rival Secretaries wrote primarily as leaders of their respective parties. Fearful of extending the powers of an administration so deeply committed to the interests of Federalism, Jefferson spoke the mind of his party when he declared for a “strict” construction of the Constitution: his was a philosophy of limited government. Congress, he argued, had been delegated specifically enumerated powers; its further power “to make all laws necessary and proper” for carrying them into execution must not be loosely defined. “Necessary and proper,” wrote Jefferson, mean “essential.” A bank was not essential for carrying out the enumerated powers; therefore the Bank Bill was clearly unconstitutional.
For those whose interests were so well served by the ever more powerful Federalist-dominated central government, Hamilton as vigorously defended the Bank Bill. His was a “loose” or “broad” construction of the Constitution. Implied in the Constitution, wrote the conservative Secretary, was the power to pass even those measures that were “no more than needful, requisite, incidental, useful, or conducive to” carrying out the enumerated powers; the Bank Bill fell into this category and therefore was constitutional. Ultimately Washington accepted Hamilton’s opinion and signed the bill. Since that time the doctrine of “implied powers” has been used to extend the functions of government to a point even Hamilton could not have foreseen.
“Implied powers” – states rights – health care – immigration – all sorts of conflicts arise over this issue of implied powers.
Continuing the left / right comparison from above –
The left generally goes for implied powers – to expand the role of government.
The right generally goes for strict construction – meaning anything that’s not covered is not allowed – nothing is allowed except what’s necessary. (At least it used to be that way more often than not.)
So – after the short history lesson – sorry, but it’s important – let’s get back to biblical basics.
MacArthur points to what Paul wrote in Romans 13 to show wh intended for governments –
Submission to the Authorities
Ro 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
Ro 13:6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
So then – what it comes down to is that all authority is established by God.
Not the right –
not the left –
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Those who do right – have nothing to fear from authority.
Whose who do wrong – have something to fear from authority.
Of course, who decides what’s right and what’s wrong is a major issue.
Again – doesn’t matter whether it’s the left or the right – the role of government is to restrain and punish those who do wrong.
But – what about when that doesn’t happen? That’s what I immediately wrote as a note to myself after reading this part of the book.
Please note – that’s not a left or right question either. It’s just the way it is.
And then I start to think about some of the really awful regimes that have been and still are in the world. What about them? How can they be restraining evil? It seems that they themselves are evil.
Fortunately, this is the next thing addresses in the book. Guess that means I’m not alone in thinking this way.
Anyway – he makes an interesting point.
For major crimes – things that are inherently evil, like murder, rape & theft – they are actually lower in totalitarian countries than they are in democracies. Ouch! How can that be?
From Genesis 2:15-17
Ge 2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
Well – as we know – they ate the fruit – and gained the knowledge of good and evil.
Not to say that everyone actually does good all the time (obviously we don’t!) – but the knowledge is there. And when governments reach the point where even they don’t enforce some minimal level of moral conscience – they fall. But until that point – even the worst of them generally maintain some level of basic safety for their people.
And what about Jesus – did He change any of that when He came to earth? Does the government have more authority from God after the New Testament? Is that where social justice comes from? Let’s look at Matthew 22:15-22 –
Paying Taxes to Caesar
22:15-22 pp — Mk 12:13-17; Lk 20:20-26
Mt 22:15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Mt 22:18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”
Mt 22:21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Mt 22:22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
Not here. Give to Caesar (the government) what is his – and to God what is His.
The Apostle Paul even appealed to the Roman government – which was persecuting Christians (torture and death). For instance, Acts 22:22-29
Paul the Roman Citizen
Ac 22:22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”
Ac 22:23 As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered Paul to be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and questioned in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. 25 As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?”
Ac 22:26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.”
Ac 22:27 The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”
“Yes, I am,” he answered.
Ac 22:28 Then the commander said, “I had to pay a big price for my citizenship.”
“But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied.
Ac 22:29 Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.
So what about when things are really, really bad?
What about when the truly evil government takes control?
It’s not a popular thing to say – but that must also come from God. People have been absolutely demonized for saying this. But is there really an alternative? If God is in control of everything – and evil comes to power – must that not be His will? We cannot have it both ways. Either He’s an all powerful God or He’s not.
For example – see Ezekiel 7 –
The End Has Come
Eze 7:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, this is what the Sovereign LORD says to the land of Israel: The end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land. 3 The end is now upon you and I will unleash my anger against you. I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices. 4 I will not look on you with pity or spare you; I will surely repay you for your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that I am the LORD.
Eze 7:5 “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Disaster! An unheard-of disaster is coming. 6 The end has come! The end has come! It has roused itself against you. It has come! 7 Doom has come upon you—you who dwell in the land. The time has come, the day is near; there is panic, not joy, upon the mountains. 8 I am about to pour out my wrath on you and spend my anger against you; I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices. 9 I will not look on you with pity or spare you; I will repay you in accordance with your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that it is I the LORD who strikes the blow.
Eze 7:10 “The day is here! It has come! Doom has burst forth, the rod has budded, arrogance has blossomed! 11 Violence has grown into a rod to punish wickedness; none of the people will be left, none of that crowd—no wealth, nothing of value. 12 The time has come, the day has arrived. Let not the buyer rejoice nor the seller grieve, for wrath is upon the whole crowd. 13 The seller will not recover the land he has sold as long as both of them live, for the vision concerning the whole crowd will not be reversed. Because of their sins, not one of them will preserve his life. 14 Though they blow the trumpet and get everything ready, no one will go into battle, for my wrath is upon the whole crowd.
Eze 7:15 “Outside is the sword, inside are plague and famine; those in the country will die by the sword, and those in the city will be devoured by famine and plague. 16 All who survive and escape will be in the mountains, moaning like doves of the valleys, each because of his sins. 17 Every hand will go limp, and every knee will become as weak as water. 18 They will put on sackcloth and be clothed with terror. Their faces will be covered with shame and their heads will be shaved. 19 They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be an unclean thing. Their silver and gold will not be able to save them in the day of the LORD’S wrath. They will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it, for it has made them stumble into sin. 20 They were proud of their beautiful jewelry and used it to make their detestable idols and vile images. Therefore I will turn these into an unclean thing for them. 21 I will hand it all over as plunder to foreigners and as loot to the wicked of the earth, and they will defile it. 22 I will turn my face away from them, and they will desecrate my treasured place; robbers will enter it and desecrate it.
Eze 7:23 “Prepare chains, because the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of violence. 24 I will bring the most wicked of the nations to take possession of their houses; I will put an end to the pride of the mighty, and their sanctuaries will be desecrated. 25 When terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none. 26 Calamity upon calamity will come, and rumor upon rumor. They will try to get a vision from the prophet; the teaching of the law by the priest will be lost, as will the counsel of the elders. 27 The king will mourn, the prince will be clothed with despair, and the hands of the people of the land will tremble. I will deal with them according to their conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the LORD.”
This is awful stuff.
And like it or not – it’s God’s word. Christians can choose to ignore parts of the Bible like this one – at our own peril.
Or, we can choose to believe it and learn from it.
We can choose to demonize those who would call attention to these warnings and call for us to recognize them and turn around.
Or we can join the crowd and pretend that this isn’t part of our faith,
or we can recognize it for God’s word and learn from it.
You see – we have a choice. We can do what is right –
or we can choose to do what is wrong.
We can elect our leaders – at least in this country, as well as many others. We can choose to elect those who will do what is right –
or we can elect those who will choose to do what is wrong.
We can get hung up on one little “litmus test” – one thing that we care about and will decide our vote for us, no matter what else the candidate believes in –
or we can look at the overall package.
We can look at what we want from government –
or we can look at what God intended for government.
We can realize it’s not a question of left or right –
but what does that person actually stand for?
Political party labels don’t define a person.
What they actually do as leaders defines them.
Ultimately – it comes down to a question of who is in control.
If it was the government – made up of people – it’s pretty much hit or miss as to whether things will come out OK or not.
If it’s God – even though we may not realize it – things will come out OK in the end.
But – the path that we take to reach that end –
that’s up to us.
Do we want the government to save us –
or do we want God to Save us?
Or – in other words –
is our “god” the government – or God?
Someone asked me yesterday if it would be best to not vote. I said we should vote.
But we need to vote based on our Christian beliefs.
Realize what the point of the government really is.
Realize that none of the candidates, no matter what they say, will actually follow Christian beliefs.
Realize the Jesus sends us out into the world – not to hide from it.
If the government we have – good, bad or indifferent, is from God – withdrawing doesn’t seem like an appropriate thing to do.
Wouldn’t refusing to participate – hiding from the process – be like hiding from something God gave us?
As I pointed out earlier –
sometimes we have the rulers we need,
sometimes we have the rulers we want,
and maybe – sometimes what we want is what we need.
Although – maybe what we think we need and want doesn’t match at all with what God thinks we need.
So – when you vote – be careful what you want – what you ask for.
Our vote is sending a message to God. Sounds like a prayer, doesn’t it?