A STUDY BY
In seeking a Biblical standard of good
government, I have sought to look beyond the governments mentioned in
Scripture to the standards by which those governments are judged. At
the same time, I have tried to avoid subjective speculation while
concentrating on truths clearly stated in Scripture. The first of those
truths is found in 1Timothy 2:1-2.
WILL FOR GOVERNMENT
"I exhort, therefore, that, first of
all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be
made for all men, for kings and for all who are in authority, that we
may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty."
This passage makes
it clear that, when God's will is done we will be free to live "a quiet
and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." Moreover, since both
criminals and tyrants can keep us from living quiet and peaceable
lives, we can be certain that God wants government to punish criminals,
thus making the streets safe, while otherwise leaving us alone so that
we might live in peace.
Looking a bit
deeper, let us consider the fact that we can only live quiet and
peaceable lives when our life, liberty, and property are secure. This
is true, because without such security we would constantly be forced to
fight those who would deprive us of life, liberty, or property while
living in fear of them. Therefore, a government that is being
administered according to the will of God will respect our right to
life, liberty, and property, and the fruit of such government will be
peace, law, and order.
still, consider what a beautiful description of freedom and free
government is given to us in the words, "a quiet and peaceable life in
all godliness and honesty" (1Timothy 2:2). That expression of freedom
is so fundamental that the words, "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of
Happiness" can only be understood in a Biblical way when they are
interpreted to mean the same thing. In short, the pursuit of happiness
is only a righteous goal when it is pursued in all godliness and
FORM OF GOVERNMENT
While the words, "The LORD is our
judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us,"
divide the functions of government into three branches (legislative,
judicial, and executive), what the Bible says about human depravity
makes it clear that it is not wise to allow one person (or group
of people) to control all three branches (Isaiah 33:22, Jeremiah 17:9).
Furthermore, the words, "concerning any of the priests and… ministers
of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute,
or custom, upon them," tell us that the church is to be separate from
the state and, therefore, exempt from taxation (Ezra 7:24).
PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT
One statement of
scripture tells us that the ruler is a "minister of God… a revenger to
execute wrath upon him that doeth evil," while another tells us that
rulers are sent "for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of
them that do well" (1Peter 2:14, Romans 13:3-4).
make it clear that when government is administered according to the
will of God, criminals will receive swift and sure punishment.
Moreover, a comparison of those statements with 1Timothy 2:11 tells us
that good law enforcement goes hand in hand with the freedom to "lead a
quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." [See
Ecclesiastes 8:11.] Furthermore, if rulers are honest in their "praise
of them that do
well," they will not try to regulate them as if they could not be
trusted, but will instead trust them
with the responsibility to conduct their own lives in all godliness and
honesty (1Timothy 1:9).
GOVERNMENT AND ECONOMICS
Contrasting the way
of the world with His will for those in authority, Christ said, "The
kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and they that
exercise authority over them are called benefactors. But ye shall not
be so," (Luke 22:25-26).
In order to
grasp what Christ is saying let us consider the words, "lordship" and
"benefactors." Since a ruler exercises lordship over people when he
deprives them of their life, liberty, or property and a "benefactor"
provides something of value, rulers exercise lordship over us when they
take our money, and they are called benefactors when they give to some
what they have taken from others. This goes on all the time, yet Jesus
condemned it and told His followers that this was not what He wants
done. Furthermore, by taking our money (high taxes) rulers punish those
who work, and by giving it to others they encourage them not to work. That sort of thing
always hurts the economy. [2 Thessalonians 3:10,12]
referred to rulers in this passage, what is said clearly applies to
politics. Therefore, since He goes on (verse 26) to tell His followers
that they should seek to serve, it is clear that He wants rulers to
think of themselves as public servants rather than lords. In that
regard, I would like to share four thoughts.
No servant is above the law. A servant is not only subject to his
master but to every law that his master is subject to. For that reason,
any ruler who is truly a public servant will be subject to the same
laws that the people are subject to, as well as any limitations that
they place on his power.
SECOND: Any authority that a servant
has comes from his master. A servant only has the authority to do what
his master has authorized him to do. Therefore, any ruler who is truly
a public servant will not have the authority to do anything that the
people have not authorized him to do.
THIRD: No servant is ever justified in
usurping authority that has not been granted to him by his master, or
in taking something that has not been given to him by his master.
Therefore, any ruler who is truly a public servant is never justified
in usurping authority that has not been delegated to him by the people,
or in taking anything that has not been given to him by the owner.
FOURTH: No master can give his servant
authority or property that is not his to give. In short, if a master
does not have the authority to take his neighbor's property, then he
cannot give his servant the authority to take that property. For that
reason, the people can never give a ruler authority or property that is
not theirs to give.
GOD GIVEN RIGHT TO OUR PROPERTY
God's words, "In
the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the
ground;" gave Adam the fruit of his labor to live by. For that reason,
we have a God given right to keep the fruit of our labor, and the
commandment, "Thou shall not steal" reaffirms that God-given right
(Exodus 20:15). Moreover, because part of the right to the fruit of our
labor is our right to give our property (or will it) to those whom we
choose, government has no business confiscating anyone's inheritance.
When rulers perform
a service by protecting us from the violence and injustice of evil and
selfish men, we have a responsibility to pay for that service (1 Samuel
25:21). In fact, fair taxation is simply a bill for that service.
However, God has never given any ruler the right to simply take our
money or property, either to make himself rich or to appear as a
benefactor at our expense. Furthermore, deficit spending on the part of
government is little more than a way of robbing future generations, for
they will be the ones who have to pay the debt (2 Corinthians 12:14).
AND JUSTICE FOR ALL
Since it is clearly
the will of God for rulers to punish evildoers, while protecting and
defending the law-abiding, those who would protect evildoers while
condemning those "who do well" do not have the authority of God behind
what they do. In fact, a government that forbids schools to teach the
Ten Commandments, while punishing parents who homeschool their
children, is just as tyrannical as a dictator who kills law-abiding
Jews. As Christians, we should be grieved by injustice, and want to see
justice done. To that end, we need to seek God's help in sending "men
to the legislatures who cannot be bought, who refuse to connive with
evil, and will stop the enactment of legislation contrary to divine
Law!" (From the sermon, GOD IS OUR DEFENSE, by Dr. Walter A. Maier)
The naive belief
that government can solve every problem led the children of Israel to
exchange the freedom they had under the judges for a hollow promise of
military security under a king (Judges 21:25, 1 Samuel 8). They saw
corruption in the government that they had, and assumed that giving a
ruler more God-like authority would make him more God-like. However,
they learned the hard way that nothing could be further from the truth.
Giving rulers greater authority only gives them more authority to
abuse. In fact, freedom can only exist when the power of government is
limited, when rulers are required to obey the law, and when a division
of power makes it possible to punish those who abuse their authority.
Therefore, in the cause of freedom, let us all work for less
government, more individual responsibility, and with God's help, a