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Reclaiming Government
by Tom Brown

5. Mountain of Government

            Government is the system by which the state laws and policy are enforced. Plus it includes the manner in which those laws and policies will be enacted. Government gets a bad rap. Sometimes deservingly so; other times not. Government is good when it does what God intended government to do, and that is to punish the evil doers and commend the good people.

"Everyone must submit himself 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, he who 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 he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer." (Rom 13:1-4)

            First truth about government is that "God has established" it. It is God ordained. We need government for protection against bad people. If everyone was good, there would be no need for government. "We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers" (1 Tim 1:9). Righteous people do not fear the law, because they not only obey the law, but they go beyond just the requirements of the law and do good.

History of Bad Government

            The Bible gives us plenty of examples of government forgetting its duty to protect the innocent. Government, whether in the forms of Kings, Governors and Judges, have often imprisoned good people. Joseph, though innocent, was thrown into prison. Prophets who spoke the truth to Kings were often tortured, imprisoned and killed by the Kings that did not like what the prophets said. Jesus, Himself, was arrested and crucified under Pontius Pilate, who was procurator for the Roman government. Later Nero, the head of the state, arrested Christians, confiscated their property, imprisoned some of its leaders, and put to death those he feared the most.

            Can we say then that government that acts like this is God's instrument? No. It's the same as a minster who abuses his position and uses his power to hurt others. He is no more a minister than a governmental official is.

            And in many places we see those in governmental power using their position to silence dissenting voices. They care more about whether they stay in power than whether they use their position to help those under them. Governmental leaders can be a big blessing if they remember why God put them in power. But when they care about staying in power more than helping others, they can be an instrument of Satan.

            For example, in my city of El Paso the mayor overturned the election he did not like. Then when, we the people, successfully petitioned to call for a recall, the mayor used the legal system and spent a quarter of a million dollars to erase the signatures of the petitioners. He needed of course the help of judges to accomplish this, but he did it. You see, he cares more about staying in power then in serving the people. Now, the District Attorney, is considering indicting me and others for being involved in the recall. Right here in the good ol' USA there might be pastors and good Christians arrested because they wanted to hold the mayor accountable for throwing out their votes. It's very clear to me that in El Paso there is a lot of political corruption. People are using their office to line their pockets with money, abusing the people, scaring them of their free speech, and possibly arresting those who are political opponents of the them.

             This abuse of power is nothing new. It is part of the history of government. The abuse of government has given government a bad name. It has discouraged people from trusting in government. It has even discouraged good people from being involved in government, but what we need is good people to get more involved in government. The only way to change government is by good people leading it. This is why God is calling many believers to be civically minded. We can't abandoned the institution that "God has established."

Limits of Government

            During the time before kings were established in Israel, the prophets and judges ruled the Holy Land. But a time came when the people wanted a change in the system of government. "But when they said, 'Give us a king to lead us,' this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: 'Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king" (1 Sam 8:6-7).

            God did not tell Samuel to reject the voices of the people. Even though the people were wrong, God told Samuel to consent to the will of the people. He told them to give them what they wanted.

            The important lesson for governmental leaders is this: you cannot force your views on the majority. You have to recognize your own limitations. Now, Samuel tried to convince them that bringing in a monarchy was going to be harmful to the people, but he could not convince them. So he gave them a king.

            The same happened with Moses. Moses knew that marriage was a lifetime covenant. Unless a spouse breaks that covenant, divorce was not God's will. However, the people did not want laws forcing them to stay married. They clamored for their rights to divorce their wives for any and every reason. The Pharisees used Moses' laws for divorced to try to prove that divorce for any and every reason was proper. They did not like Jesus teaching that marriage is for a lifetime. So they argued: "'Why then,' they asked, 'did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?' Jesus replied, 'Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning" (Matt 19:7-8).

           Moses was a good leader. Yet, Moses knew of his limitations. He could not make laws that the people did not want. Governmental leaders must understand this principle as well.

Taxes

            The thing that most people care about concerning government is taxes. Paul continues in Romans chapter 13, "This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing (v 6).  Taxes are not a necessary evil; it is payment that we the citizens make to have government. The error of government is when they collect taxes, not to run the government, but to take it from others and give it to private citizens. They may do it for the right motives—but rarely can government afford to do this. Ultimately government will go bankrupt if it views itself as a charity. Charity is the job of the people; not of the government.

            This is not the same as government collecting taxes for the public good. Whether it is public transportation, public education, public libraries, public health care or anything that government thinks is in the welfare of the whole public. So long as everyone can benefit from the taxes collected, then there is nothing wrong with government programs and projects to help all the people. But government should not collect taxes and use the money for just "some" of the people.

            There are also limitations on what the people are willing to pay in taxes. King Rehoboam made a terrible mistake in raising the taxes and burdens on the people (see 1 King 12:1-17). As a result he lost his influence with the people, and his rule was a failure. Governmental officials have to be sensitive to how the people feel about taxation. They must not burden the people too much. It is wiser for the government to be frugal than to overtax. Unless the government can show the advantages of the taxes, then government will fail the people. People will ultimately revolt against any government over reaching and picking the pockets of the tax payers.

God's People

            God is raising up His people to become more involved in government. God's people must become civic-minded. It is their duty to be involved in government—through voting, educating oneself, and running for office or supporting selfless candidates that are willing to sacrifice themselves to serve the people. We cannot abdicate our role in reclaiming government for God and the people.

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