Christians and Their Government

MEMORY SELECTION: “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” —Romans 13:7

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Luke 20:20-26; Romans 13:1-7

RESPONSIBLE government renders many services to its citizens. And as citizens we often owe much to the powers that be. In Jesus’ day the Roman government provided law and order, security from roving bands of outlaws and foreign powers, and even religious freedom for certain faiths. In today’s world the democratic system has attempted to become the voice of the people. Unfortunately all systems of government are subject to human frailties and abuses. All must eventually give way to the glorious government of earth’s new King. Throughout the history of the world there have been various forms of government, many of them corrupt; and all have failed in one degree or another to bring lasting benefits to their people. However, we must acknowledge that any type of government is vastly superior to none. Without some form of law and order, anarchy would be the rule of the day.

Neither Jesus nor any of the teachers in the Early Church interfered with, nor advocated interference with, the powers that be. They taught that we are to submit to these governments, obey their laws, and respect those who have positions of authority—leaving all judgments concerning abuses to God who will deal with all according to his own design in due time.

The selected scriptural reading for this week’s lesson shows how Jesus answered those who questioned him and sought to entrap him in connection with his allegiance to the government and those in authority. “And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.” (Luke 20:20) Then they put the question to him (vs. 22) “Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no?”

If he were to respond to their question—with either a yes or no answer—he would be outwitted, yet he was too wise to fall into their trap. Instead, he asked his inquirers to show him a penny. Then he said (vss. 24,25), “Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar’s. And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.” This was a tactful answer, which showed no disrespect for the authority of the government under which he resided, and neither did it sidestep acknowledgment of God as the Supreme Ruler over all.

The Apostle Paul took a similar view of the government under which he lived. He said (Rom. 13:1,2): “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. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation (judgment, ASV).” Paul acknowledges that the state, in principle, is an institution established by God for the ordering of human life. Without it there would be no law or order and no form of organized society.

It is necessary to maintain a proper balance between the civil government on one side and the laws of God on the other. If a conflict should occur, God’s laws are to be obeyed, otherwise compliance with the laws and regulations of the state must be adhered to. We should be careful to observe the laws, customs and regulations of the society in which we live insofar as these do not infringe upon our consciences and the meeting of our obligations to our Lord and the truth.

The Apostle Paul, in our memory text, admonishes us to “render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” Yet the thoughts, actions, and motives of our Christian lives should be focused on things above, even as the apostle also points out (Phil. 3:20, ASV), “For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are pilgrims and strangers in this world, with a responsibility to live our lives as ambassadors for Christ. Although we live in the world we are not to be part of it. Whatever we do in thought, word, or deed should be done in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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