Believers are supposed to fulfill civic duties

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Bob Lanning

As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, let us remember our responsibilities to government and its responsibilities to us.

The Bible teaches that believers are to be law-abiding citizens; they are to “be subject unto the higher powers,” because “the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1).  Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth to obey the Roman government’s decree that a census be taken.

Believers are to pay their taxes. Jesus taught that the Jewish people of his day should “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,” which meant paying taxes even to the foreign government that then occupied their land. Paul commanded believers to render “tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom is due.”

Believers are to pray for public officials. Paul exhorted believers to pray “for kings, and for all that are in authority,” that “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”

Abraham prayed for Abimelech and his household, and Ezra prayed for the Persian king, Darius, and his sons.

Believers are to treat public officials with respect. Paul publicly apologized after he had unknowingly called the Jewish high priest a  “whitewashed wall,” because the Bible said, “Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.” Peter exhorted believers to “honor the king.”

The Bible records many instances of believers serving in government. Job was an elder in his city, and Joseph became ruler over all Egypt.  Daniel was the administrative ruler over the province of Babylon, and Nehemiah was a cup-bearer to a Persian king. Erastus was the treasurer of Corinth.

At times God has led believers to confront government officials about their wrongdoing. Under God’s direction, Samuel denounced Saul for his disobedience to God’s commands, and Nathan confronted King David about his immorality.

Elijah spoke against King Ahab and Jezebel for their idolatry and murderous covetousness. Daniel urged King Nebuchadnezzar to turn from his sins, and told Belshazzar his kingdom would soon end because of his proud idolatry. John the Baptist criticized King Herod for his immorality.

According to the Bible, governments also have responsibilities to their citizens. God has ordained rulers “for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well” (1 Peter 2:14). They are “to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil;” and, as Pharaoh honored Joseph for his wisdom, and Nebuchadnezzar honored Daniel for his insight, rulers are to honor those who bring blessing and benefit to society.

Moses urged that rulers be “wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes” They should “judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with them.” They should be impartial in judgment, listening to “the small as well as the great.” David said that those who rule over men “must be just, ruling in the fear of God.”

If you are a believer in Jesus, God wants you to fulfill your civic responsibilities. If you are in government, God expects you to act in a way that pleases him.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,” (Psalm 33:12).

Bob Lanning is pastor of Cornerstone Bible Church