Higher Powers

Why has God ordained government? (Ro 13:1) What is its purpose and role?

US Capitol, Washington, D.C.

Asked another way, if all people were basically good, everyone loving one another as themselves, what need would there be for a State, rulers forcing us to comply with its laws? In such a world, what could government do more effectively than charities and businesses?

But we aren’t there yet, not even close, so God commissions rulers to punish evildoers. (Ro 13:4) This requires officials to use force, to have an army and police. which costs money, so we must pay them for what they do.  (Mt 22:21)

Government’s right to take our money by force implies a duty to limit its scope to the tasks God’s given it, and to divide and balance its power to deter corruption. Excessive, unchecked government invariably abuses this authority, usurping the people’s right to do with their own resources as they wish, placing a privileged few in control and presuming they know better, which they seldom do.

But the fact that a few always have much more than they need while others are struggling, tempts us to legalize Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to help the poor. Call it Communism, Socialism or whatever we like, entitling people to healthcare and welfare, comfort and security, apart from their own labor and industry is problematic since it rewards laziness (2Th 3:10) and foolishness. (Pr 13:23) There’s a basic natural law at work here, violated at our own peril: God feeds the birds (Mt 6:26), but He doesn’t drop it into their nests. Enabling and/or rewarding irresponsible behavior isn’t love. (2Jn 1:6)

The purpose of government is to protect its citizens, punish evildoers, and praise those who do well (1Pe 2:14), while enforcing laws which are consistent with God’s Law. Torah enables the poor to help themselves to the resources of others only in an extremely limited context (De 23:24-25), but it exhorts us all to voluntarily help each other out when in need. (De 15:7-8) There’s eternal wisdom here which we do well to heed.

Healthy government focuses on the role God’s given it, and divides and balances its power to mitigate abuse. Let people cooperate voluntarily in meeting the remaining needs of society as they see fit. The closer to this model we can get, the better off we’ll all be.

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3 thoughts on “Higher Powers”

  1. God’s laws provide for the poor, requiring those with means to enable those who are struggling to avoid starvation and destitution, but not through taxation and wealth redistribution, handouts or entitlements. He prevents monopolies through periodic releasing of debts and restoration of private property at generational intervals, but never makes people comfortable who aren’t doing all they can to help themselves. God encourages hard work, industry and creativity by allowing us to reap the rewards of our labor, and positions the extended family as our primary primary safety net. His laws tend to ensure that the family is very strong and that people are given ample opportunity to better themselves.

  2. Political leaders who appeal to the poor, the alienated and underprivileged in order to obtain and maintain political power are naturally tempted to enact policies which increase poverty, promote racial and cultural divisions, and limit opportunity for self-improvement, for this tends to enlarge and energize their support base and promise them more votes. The bigger government gets and the more people are dependent on it, the more powerful such leaders become. As long as voters continue to believe in them, these types of politicians further themselves by actually making societal problems worse, while urging voters to trust in government all the more to solve them.

  3. In God’s design, everyone is armed and trained for warfare, able to defend themselves and their loved ones from evildoers. (Jos 22:12, Jdg 3:2) Armies are critical to protect us from other nations, and police are necessary to maintain order in society, but these can’t actually protect us from the wicked within, who live among us; all they can do is show up afterward and clean up the mess. Taking this primary power of self defense away from the people is the first step of any authoritarian regime; disarm its citizens so no one can challenge it.

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