Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Apostle Paul Supports the Good that Government Can Do

So to start this piece, a bit of scripture to provide some reference.

Romans 13:1-7 (NIV)

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 

Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 

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 you will be commended. 

For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 

Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

So Paul has always been an interesting character in New Testament scripture. He was an apostle, though he never personally touched Jesus as the others did, he was a man of the law, and was part of the establishment in authority. Paul was also legalistic, bold, direct...however a bit on the verbose side.  He often condemned hedonism or those who indulged in excesses.  And he was a staunch opponent of government corruption, but a supporter of government.  

So, Romans 13 discusses how we should act in regards to government.  So with government, Paul calls government the servant of God.  Now this doesn't mean it's a proxy for God, but that God establishes government for your good and your well-being.  Government is the arbiter of justice, the arm which temporal authority is dispensed.  Paul was a firm believer that government served the common man...which would make sense that he opposed corrupt government.  Corrupt government, to Paul, would be deeply offensive.  If men were expected to follow the law, but the arbiters of the law were themselves corrupt, then so was the law they dispensed.  Such a catch-22 was very problematic for Paul as one whom, himself was a dispenser of the law.  

Paul's argument is about the following things:

1) Follow the law.

2) Follow the law both out of fear, but more so out of a sense of conscience.

3) By following the law, you honor God.

4) Government is established to do you good.  To serve you as a citizen.

5) Pay what the government says to pay.  If it wants 50% or 60% of your income, then pay it to them, because it is the law.  

6) Government is to be moral, ethical, and just.  Free from corruption, free from coercion, and the pinnacle of impartiality regarding the matters of men.

7) It is by God's will that government is established, and by serving government, you serve God.  That is to say it's not meaning that a particular government is "favored" by God, but that it is by government that terrestrial justice is dealt.  And also, I'm not saying that by worshiping government, you worship God, but that it honor's God when you honor the laws which a government establishes.

The anti-government, anti-authority, anti-public anything is deeply offensive when put into perspective.  Government has been unfairly demonized over the last 40 years since "The Gipper" uttered his famous statement "Government is not the solution to our problems, but the source of them."  By sacrificing more and more public institutions to the private sector, we give up what good government can do for us and place them into the whims of persons who seek to profit over what should be publicly provided for.  Schools, Jails, Sanitation, Water, Power, and other commons resources.  It's important to remember, that we must change the mindset we have regarding government, and remember that government is indeed "...Of the people, by the people, and for the people."  And if we remember that...we can take back what is indeed for the people, and reshape it into a better, stronger, more efficient broker of power, a more efficient machine which invests money into the public sector for the public good, and enables fair and equitable treatment under the law.

Gabriel Givens holds a Bachelor’s Degree from The Evergreen State College in Political Science and History.  You can read more of Gabriel’s work at http://centerleftfield.blogspot.com.  You can follow him on twitter @gdgivens and subscribe to him at http://www.facebook.com/gabrielgivens.

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