Blog

A Theology of Fear and Government Mistrust

Fear is a powerful motivator and detractor.  Fear can distort our perception of reality and cause us to see situations, circumstances, people in a completely different light.  Fear will cause us to project an undesirable outcome upon those situations and imagine endless detrimental possibilities.

So often in Scripture, we are told not to fear.  Jesus tells His disciples on many occasions not to fear since He is there.  After His earthly departure, He would send a comforter to allay fears.  Paul tells Timothy, that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but love, power and a sound mind.  John writes in his epistle, that there is no fear in love, for perfect love (meaning Christ) casts out fear because fear involves torment.  Yet, the believer can allow fear to seep in and distract from the peace that Christ brings and even justify fear in the face of alarming circumstances that stand counter-opposed to the Christian values we are striving to uphold.

It seems to me, and I could be wrong, there seems to be a vapor of fear circulating among evangelical circles these days.  I believe that several factors are motivating this fear but the chief instigator seems to be the current political administration.  Let’s face it, there are policies and practices being proposed that undercut and undermine a politically conservative platform, the same platform that most evangelicals share due to closest alignment of values based on a Biblical worldview.

Whether it be universal health care, internet policies, taxation of business or a presidential speech made to school children, the actions of the current administration are alarming many.  Not to mention, the administration’s pro-abortion stance.  So much so, I believe that there is a perception of detriment that I wonder is not being amplified because of fear.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying there is no cause for concern, especially if you are a politically conservative evangelical.  But I do get the sense that we are allowing that fear to draw unmitigated and slightly irrational conclusions about things that on face value, do not warrant the kind of response that some actions have drawn, such as delivering a motivational speech to school age children.  Al Mohler has written a very insightful piece concerning this (here).

I agree with Dr. Mohler concerning what the Christian response should be according to Scripture.  For I find the average evangelical response interesting in contrast to Biblical prescription and practices in the early church.  Paul encourages a response to government that I think is most intriguing considering the atheist, plurastic and hedonistic Roman government ruled during that time.  If we think our’s is immoral, it is saintly in comparison.  He writes in Romans 13:1-3,to submit to governing authorities for by doing so you are subjecting to God.  Moreover, he indicates that the authorities are not a cause for fear.  Even then, with what Christians faced the rule was to pray for government and submit to it.  Why?  Because God is the ultimate authority and it is God who is ultimately in control.

I further get the sense that  fear is causing us to want a government response to our concerns because American Christians Evangelicals have developed an expectation that government should align with a Biblical worldview and we should have no participation with one that doesn’t.  I suspect this is why there has been so much evangelical entwinement with the political process in order to control outcomes.  Perhaps it was the foundation of religious freedom that the country was founded on or maybe the fundamentalist movement in the early 20th century that sought to impose a Christian standard on society.  I think fear played a significant factor in these efforts since a “godless” society would inevitably be much more difficult to live in than one displaying the same moralistic values that should so distinguish the proper Christian.

I do find the contrast of political affiliation during the early church in contrast to today interesting.  There were no protests from Christians for the government to align with their values.  Even Paul, a Roman citizen, did not seek to gain political clout for the sake of Christianity.  In fact, it were the Jewish rulers who sought political good will in order to enhance their agenda.

Fear of any type of government misalignment with Christian values should not be a cause for concern for the believer.  It is not that we are not concerned about the current political direction of this country but a non-conformity to this world (Romans 12:2) means we don’t put our trust in the system.  A believer’s trust is in God because He is the one ultimately in control.  A believer  can submit to government because our trust is not in government but in God.  We don’t have to overreact to every move the current administration makes.  We can allow our children to be encouraged to take responsibility for their education by a government official opposed to a Biblical worldview because hopefully at home, we are instructing our children what one is.  I also think we can dispense from comparing our commander in chief to Hitler or Stalin because that does much to instigate fear that stands in opposition to position we should be taking according to Scripture.

If we belong to Christ, we are His and that should comfort us in spite of present and perceptions of pending circumstances.

74 Responses to “A Theology of Fear and Government Mistrust”

  1. Lisa,

    You may want to fix the typo in your second paragraph. It tends to distort your meaning just a bit!

  2. This is an extraordinary post. I thank you. Why aren’t we hearing more of this from the leadership? Has dominionism and reconstruction had so much influence that this message can no longer be heard?

  3. Cheryl, thanks but where is it? I certainly don’t want a distorted meaning.

  4. I think Cheryl is referring to, “Jesus tells His disciples on many occasions to fear since He is there.”

  5. Big oops. Fixing it now. Thanks.

  6. that totally rocked. THANK YOU!

  7. Excellent post, Lisa. I agree with the title of your post that as Christians we should never fear the government, but I believe mistrust is well advised when it comes to any government, Republican or Democrat. I doubt that Christ trusted the religious/political leaders of his day as far as he could throw them (ok, bad example, as God he could throw them pretty far).

    I think evangelical Christians have fallen hook, line, and sinker for Satan’s temptation to offer the kingdoms of the world to Christ. The reason this was a temptation was because worldly kingdoms were (are) Satan’s to give!

    I think New Testament teaching is clear that earthly power, even if we think it’s for doing good, is not to be pursued. The ultimate result of evangelicals’ pursuit of government power is summed up well by C.S. Lewis:

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    I wouldn’t want evangelicals to be in charge and I’m an evangelical!

    The problem as I see it is not who is in charge of the government. It’s that we have a government so large that it attracts the power hungry (Christian and non-christian alike) to wield its power. A much smaller government will give us less to fear and less to mistrust.

  8. Thank you for this.

    I’ve been so troubled of late by the response of Christians to this president. As you say, Christians were originally called to honor their rulers at a time when those rulers were the same who crucified the Savior, and could also end up killing them. They were told to pay taxes even though they had no representation of any kind and the money they paid went to further the literal cult of the emperor, and to fund a government who’s coliseum featured murder as sport.

    Thank you for being another voice of reason at this critical time. I am concerned that the gospel is being compromised for the sake of politics. May God grant that that no longer be the case.

  9. Right on target, Lisa. I am sick and tired of the fearful attitudes, the nasty talk about the leaders of the country, and a general defeatist attitude. It is un-Christian, it is un-Biblical, and it shows a lack of faith, which is sinful. Here in the north Dallas suburbs, among professing evangelical Christians, the level of hate shown toward a standing President is appalling. You may not agree with a President, but you should be respectful of your leaders, and you should always, always, always remember that the battle has been won since before the beginning of time.

    For those who are fearful that Obama’s speech to kids (all other Presidents have done the same thing, BTW) will somehow corrupt their children, please remember that he is a President, not a convict or gangster. You’ll take your kids to a concert where the general surroundings are far less conducive to “things above”, yet you freak out about a presidential speech! The irony, of course, is that your kids are sitting in a public school that is funded by state and federal funds. If you want separation, homeschool them. They’d probably turn out smarter to boot.

    It is time to read 2 Timothy 1:7 over and over again: “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

  10. Excellent post Lisa, and good comments following. I think of these Scriptures:
    “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”
    Philippians 3:20 English Standard Version

    Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
    John 18:36 English Standard Version

    While I enjoy keeping up on the political scene, an unbalanced diet of Limbaugh, Hannity, etal. (whom I love), tends to make me “sick” with that fear you describe.

    Liked Del’s qoute of Lewis. I have a bumper sticker that reads:”the welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants”-Camus.
    “The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular.”
    — Fyodor Dostoevsky (The Brothers Karamazov)

  11. @Drew K- I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with respect to the “echo chamber” effect that occurs with what you so rightfully call an “unbalanced diet” of Glenn Beck et al. It promotes a fear and a viciousness that is so wrong for a Christian to show.

    I highly recommend a book by Os Guinness, “The Case For Civility”, in which he writes as a man who is in this world, but not of this world. Like all the rest of us should be.

  12. Paul said obey the “authorities” or “governors”; since, he said, all authority is derived from God. Though this saying has often been stretched.

    In any case, regarding the current administration? God told us to “heal the sick” and help the “poor.”

    While also the story of the Good Samaritan made it clear that even a non-Christian who does the work of the Lord, can be a better person, than a professing believer, who does not do the things required. Like helping the sick and the poor.

  13. Marvin the Martian September 8, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    I said this in another thread and it bears repeating since you like to use the Good Samaritan story as though it would support the current administration (it doesn’t).

    The Samaritan was an individual who ON HIS OWN ACCORD helped the stranger in need. What good does it do anyone who is FORCED to “help their neighbor” via taxation? It is really no different than me holding a gun to your head and telling you to give your money to the poor. Do I give because my spirit compelled me to give, or do I give because the government will seize my assets or toss me in the slammer if I don’t?

  14. Marvin,

    I agree with you. There is a vast difference in the good Samaritan story and being forced to give–want to or not–by government decree. Also, the Samaritan could see that the man he was helping was truly in need of help and therefore chose to give to him. In a government program, we don’t necessarily have much, if any say, in where our money actually goes. Besides, obviously much of it goes to overhead expenses and not directly to the person that needs the help. So there really is not much valid comparison there at all that I can see.

  15. Marvin the Martian September 8, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Cheryl,

    It is rather ironic that Joe in the abortion thread says:

    “Here as so often, Evangelicals sin gravely, by speaking falsely for God. Taking their own opinions, and presenting them as the word of God. When in fact, God, the Bible, never said any such thing at all.”

    I guess as long as his obtuse interpretation of the Bible suits his ideological agenda, then it is God’s Word. But when it doesn’t, then we conservatives are blasphemers, speaking for God.

  16. Marvin the Martian,

    you have boldly pointed out the elephant in the middle of the room that Christians don’t like to talk about: government is force, at all times, at all levels. There is no exception. It requires taking the fruits of some by force to give to others. This is theft by any definition. Stealing by proxy is still stealing.

    Government is a sword that should not be wielded. Helping the poor, the elderly, or the children is not an excuse for theft. These efforts should only be undertaken voluntarily. I only pray that Christians (and non-christians) will begin to see this cognitive dissonance in their thinking before another world war is started.

  17. I think if the church as a whole was doing the job of physically taking care of the poor, the hungry and the homeless that Jesus directed His people to do, it would be moot point. Actually, we would be helping to submit our governing authorities much better if every Christian bothered do his/her part practically to love his neighbor in deed, and not just in word.

    That’s why the problem with us submitting to authorities on the one hand, without the majority of us Christians being really practically committed themselves to taking care of the poor, is really in a sense an easy excuse for not wanting to get involved in the dirty work of doing it ourselves.

  18. mbaker, Christians are primarily instructed to take care of their own family, i.e. other believers, first and foremost. And we are wise to look out for the needs of others as well…. but logistically the problems of the poor are much more than the true Christian church is able to handle. The poor in the US are cared for by the government fairly well as things are now (compared to most of the world).

    I have to say that when people offer the church as the solution for the poor I want to ask individuals who pose this (such as yourself)….what are you personally doing to help the poor? And, is it really making a dent?

  19. Funny how this works. Some friends and I were recently discussing precisely this issue.

    Great post! I’ll have to share it with them and get their thoughts.

  20. Susan,

    I will not go so far to list what I do for the poor, but suffice it to say it is and always has been a powerful comittment of mine, because I went through extreme poverty myself as a single parent.

    What I am able to do is far less than I would like to be able to do, if I had lots of money, but I can assure you I know many individual Christians who feel as I do, that whatever we do for the least of His, we do for Christ.

    It may not make a dent as far as statistics go, but I know it does in the hearts of those who are helped, because I have been one of the least, and will never, ever forget the many kindnesses done for me by other Christians during those painful years.

    It was the sure the best witness for Christ I ever had. So yes, our government helps more than any nation on earth. I would daresay that’s because many American Christians probably help far less than they could.

  21. Good answer, mbaker. There’s nothing like having been there, to school us in the importance of what we have to offer, and the difference it can make!

  22. Amen sister! Speaking from a Canadian perspective, where we have universal healthcare for which even we evangelical Canadians are thankful, I nevertheless find the same attitude of fear amongst conservatives toward liberal goverments and vice versa. Fear comes not only from a lack of faith, but a lack of faith specifically in the absolute sovereignty of the God who can do no wrong. When Christians are true to their Lord and His Word, they are always called to be countercultural, no matter who is in power.

  23. Although I agree partially with the premise of Lisa’s tread, I do have questions for her.

    1. Should Christians never fear their government?

    2. At what point should Christians make a stand against their government?

    3. Was it wrong for Christians to war against King George III during the American Revolution?

    4. Was Paul speaking to a specific people about a specific government at a specific time?

    I know there are different views to the Romans 13 passages; I want to hear Lisa’s understanding of Paul’s writings here.

  24. Martians who hate humans:

    You’ve decided that you don’t have to be a Good Samaritan, giving to the poor or sick, by way of tax support for the poor, because you feel “forced.” Whereas you regard giving at church as voluntary?

    1) But in many churches, “tithing” or giving “sacrifices” to the Lord, was not entirely voluntary; it was mandatory.

    Many Christians give, because they believe God will send them to eternal Hell if they don’t; therefore, its not entirely voluntary.

    2) Then too, you’re not entirely forced even in government taxes; which do not exist unless or until you and others vote for them after all.

    3) In any case: aside from attempting to escape from helping the “poor” by various legalisms; what about the “sick”? Do you feel you can decide who is sick as well? And then help them or not?

    It seems obvious you are resorting to various technical legalisms and sophistries, to avoid obeying the Bible. Just like the Pharisees.

    4) By the way, the ancient Hebrew words for “sacrifices,” were often very close to – and even identical to – the words for “taxes” or tribute. In the old days of theocracies, remember, Religion was joined to the state. And in effect, ancient sacrifices to the temple, were also payments to the governing lord, and in effect God.

    So that your general sense that churches and governments are radically different – as in a difference between taxes and tithing, “sacrificing” – is not historically true to the origins of Judaism, and of Christianity.

  25. Del,
    You wrote that “government is a sword that should never be wielded”. I wonder how you reconcile this with Romans 13:3-4 which states

    “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.”

    Paul seems to be writing here that God has given the power of the sword to governments to be wielded against wrongdoers. Now obviously there is a lot of baggage and caveats to this discussed elsewhere in scripture (for instance Daniel continuing to pray to God in defiance of the law). However, to make a blanket statement that government is a sword that should “never” be wielded seems to me to go against Romans 13.

  26. Marvin the Martian September 9, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    “You’ve decided that you don’t have to be a Good Samaritan, giving to the poor or sick, by way of tax support for the poor, because you feel “forced.”

    “It seems obvious you are resorting to various technical legalisms and sophistries, to avoid obeying the Bible. Just like the Pharisees.”

    Joe,

    The only thing obvious is that you don’t know what the Bible actually teaches about the issue of giving. At all.

    2nd Corinthians 9

    6Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

    BTW,

    You really should stop with the being a Good Samaritan = paying taxes comparison. The two have absolutely NOTHING to do with each other. Do you pay your taxes Joe? If so, using your “logic”, I could justifiably call you a warmonger because your tax dollars support the Department of Defense and all those guns, bombs, missles, tanks, battleships, and everthing else designed to bring death and destruction.

  27. Joe,

    Please, how many taxes have you voted for lately? On the local level, that may very well be true. But on the federal level taxes are being put in place by the legislature all of the time that we have no direct vote on, are they not?

  28. J.R., in response to your questions, I’d say there is a difference between fear and concern. I do rightly believe there are some policies to be concerned about but according to Scripture, we don’t fear. Now, I also realize that being encased in this flesh will subject us to natural human responses, and to address that, we turn to God and learn to trust Him. And isn’t this the response He wants from us anyway?

    I do believe that non-compliance with government is warranted when requirements are imposed that violate our allegiance to Christ. But even then, there is a difference between a government’s position on allowing opposition to Christ vs. enforcing it. Christians in the early church rightfully opposed government when asked to deny Christ. Even within that context, the Scripture indicates that we should obey government and honor it’s leaders. And that would be different than laws saying you can deny Christ. See the difference?

    In terms of Romans 13, of course it was addressed to a particular people at a particular time. But wasn’t most of Scripture? I don’t think that means we can negate the foundational principle in that passage of submission to government, which means compliance with its laws. It is the vehicle through which societal administration is carried out (vs. 6) and for the sake of conscience, we do right through obedience (vs 5). Peter also speaks of this in I Peter 2:13-14. We do so because it demonstrates acknowledgment to God as the ultimate authority to whom we are submitting.

    Now, what people have done with this passage since that time, in the context of political misalignment is a completely different story.

  29. Cheryl and Joe,
    I’m not sure that either of you have Scripture on your side. As Cheryl has pointed out the story of the Good Samaritan and other stories of helping the poor, sick, etc. referred to in Scripture are stories of people doing it without coercion and thus can not be applied to how government spends taxes we are coerced into paying. On the other hand we should not overlook Jesus saying that we should “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” when asked about paying taxes. In the end the debate about healthcare and other social programs should be an informed and open debate understanding that all systems and plans have benefits and consequences. IF we as a nation were to decide that a government run healthcare system is the best system given both it’s flaws and benefits then I see no Biblical grounds for opposing such a system. I currently do not support such a system, but only because my analysis of the situation leads me to believe that the negative effects of such a system would outweigh the positive effects, not because I think there is some moral high ground to my position.

  30. michael,

    I believe Romans 13:3-4 is addressing a tendency among early Christians who wanted to resist violently to the government. It’s understandable that they would desire this considering their ongoing persecution and that their Savior was murdered by the government.

    I’ll admit this is a very strange passage. It almost seems naive considering the persecutions early Christians faced. I think Paul is giving practical instructions to the early Christians (and to us) on how to respond to those who would presume to usurp the position of Christ as our master without antagonizing them or calling unwanted attention.

    I also see no evidence that early Christians were interested in wielding this sword of government. I would presume that they were appalled at the thought of it (as we should be)! Early Christians, I believe, were far more passionate about following the passively resistant example of Christ. How often do we turn the other cheek (something I admittedly fall short of)? No, we send the armed forces in!

    Sorry, I digress. To be clear I believe that Christians have no place in wielding the sword of government. He who lives by the sword will die by the sword. This isn’t a metaphorical sword. The sword is essential to the existence of any coercive government. Take away the sword and the institution falls apart.

    God used slaves and the existence of slavery to fulfill his purposes in the early church, but I doubt anyone believes it shouldn’t have been abolished. I believe that God uses government to punish evil doers today, but just because God uses it doesn’t mean it’s the best way or that we should participate in it.

  31. Michael,

    You are right, we are to render to Caesar what is Caesars. And if health care reform is passed and set in place, I certainly will not refuse to pay taxes to fund it.

    However, I am not at all convinced that it is the best way to do things or the way God intended them to be done because of the Scriptural reasons that have been put forth by myself and others. I do know that Christians have been told to help the poor and to give freely, not because of coersion. And also, like you, I am not at all certain the negative of the system will outweigh the positive. Time will only tell I guess.

  32. Del,
    If government didn’t exist to wield the sword what do you think would happen?? Human depravity necessitates government which is why there is the passage in Romans 13. In the absence of government all that would exist is survival of the fittest and the fittest would be he who has the biggest gun and the ability to wield it. This can clearly be seen in countries like Somalia and others where the absence of a stable effective government leads to warlordism.

  33. Lisa, while I agree that there are more christian ways of dealing with political action, I was disappointed that you laid all the blame for all the fear on Obama. The Screechy fringe is making stuff up in their hatred for the President.

    Conservatism is not aligned with a “Biblical world view”. Nor is Liberalism the anti-christ (and for the record, Obama is not liberal, much less socialist). In order to make that leap, the religious right narrowed the definition of Biblical world view to exactly one issue. Tell me that Bush 43’s administration was “biblical”. I think you know better and the same goes for Bush 41 and Reagan. Lots of evil went on and the Church was right in their back pocket.

  34. What a refreshing article! Thanks so much for voicing this. I for one am tired of everyone screaming that the sky is falling. Where is our faith that God is above it all?

    I really liked this:

    “Paul encourages a response to government that I think is most intriguing considering the atheist, plurastic and hedonistic Roman government ruled during that time. If we think our’s is immoral, it is saintly in comparison.”

  35. This is an interesting article and if President Obama was King Obama I would agree completely. His authority however, is not permanent and absolute by birthright but narrowly defined by our Constitution. This becomes an important distinction when we apply what scripture says about ruling authorities.

    I will submit to the authority granted to our government by the Constitution, but I have no desire to give them any of my liberty.

    I have serious issues with the moral clarity of Barak Obama. I also disagree with his choice of liberation theology. Don’t confuse my right of regress to fear. If there is something to fear it is not the government but the people willing to give unto Caesar what is God’s.

  36. Martian:

    So 1) if you believe in God, and 2) God commands us to help the sick, then 3) shouldn’t you do that? Whether you feel forced or not? Why not obey God’s commands?

    Stand by 4) for a distinction within “giving”; and 5)a comparison between that, and following God’s commands.

    6) Once tax laws are passed, we are not responsible for them; but in the dialogue leading to their passing, there is time for the proper voice to be heard. And a voluntary element.

    7) Then too, give unto Caesar.

    Martian: is your voice really following the God of the Jews, and Christians? Or that alien god from Mars? Rush Limbaugh?

  37. 8) On the matter of “giving,” in 2 Corin. 9:

    a) Does not necessarily relieve us of giving, as in taxes and help to the sick, nor does it necessarily even leave it voluntary; but can be read as merely asking us to do it cheerfully. Find it in your own will … but make sure you do it. In one reading.

    b) In any case, in this same passage, Paul reminds us, that as you sow, so shall you reap; those who don’t give much, won’t get much in the end.

  38. Xulon and Joe –

    Yes!

  39. Michael,

    You said, “Human depravity necessitates government which is why there is the passage in Romans 13.”

    If humans are inherently good we don’t need a coercive government. If they are sinful then we certainly wouldn’t want humans to be in charge of one!

    You said, “In the absence of government all that would exist is survival of the fittest and the fittest would be he who has the biggest gun and the ability to wield it. This can clearly be seen in countries like Somalia and others where the absence of a stable effective government leads to warlordism.”

    It can clearly be seen in the U.S. government as well. “We” have the biggest guns so we run roughshod over the rest of the world, friends and enemies alike. The warlords just do it locally.

    Actually there are pockets of Somalia that the warlords (government wannabes) haven’t infected. The people there are progressing technologically and are forming their own non-violent means of dispute resolution. What’s missing in Somalia is not coercive government but Christian principles for living.

    If the federal government in this country vanished tomorrow I would maintain that life would go on pretty much as usual. Anything absolutely necessary that the government does can be done peaceably and non-violently.

    The founding fathers actually made remarkable progress in limiting government. If was said that their would be chaos without a king. I think it’s time we put aside these violent practices and begin ruling ourselves and resisting, non-violently and persuasively of course, attempts by man to impose rules on us. This, I believe, is the ultimate outcome of spreading Christian principles throughout society.

    Just as it’s strange to look back and wonder why slavery was ever tolerated, we’ll look back someday and wonder the same thing about coercive government.

  40. You know, there is another whole aspect to this issue of taxes for health care, caring for the poor etc. that has not been addressed here as to how it fits with Scriptural commands.

    There are folks out there, I don’t know how many–wouldn’t venture to guess–but there are those that simply do not want to and do not work to provide for their own needs. The Bible makes it very clear that if we won’t work, we should not eat. Our taxes do go to funding programs to care for these people and are therefore causing us to violate God’s commnds in this area. I’m sure I will get flack for saying this. Never the less, I believe this to be a valid concern.

    There is also inevitable fraud that we are funding through government programs that is not nearly as likely to happen if we are giving to folks individually as we meet their needs. I am not talking about fraud in the administering of the programs themselves although I am sure that sometimes happens too. What I am speaking about is fraud by people making false claims in order to receive the benefits of government programs. I know of several instances of this type of thing happening personally. In these cases our tax money is not only being wasted on those that are not entitled to it, but is actually being used to fuel people’s dishonesty.

  41. Marvin the Martian September 10, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Joe,

    The biggest problem I have with government programs that aid the “poor” is that it doesn’t draw a distinction between those who really need the aid and those lazy sloths who are merely taking advantage of the system. You have to know this happens. My wife’s mother is a perfect example. She lost her job almost a year ago in California. Cali pays unemployment for an entire year. I know for a fact that she has not actively been seeking employment. She merely does the bare minimum to keep getting the benefits and is enjoying a nice year sabbatical at the expense of the taxpayer.

    The other problem I have with government aid is that it is largely ineffective. The war against poverty was declared by democrats back in the 60’s and the derth of government programs established since then to fight it haven’t put much of dent in the problem. Why you think that throwing even more trillions of dollars at the problem will somehow fix it is beyond me.

    I am sorry, but I see nothing Godly in government systems that encourage sloth and have loopholes that make it easy to abuse the system, and frankly have a lousy track record of actually fixing the problem.

    And since you seem to think I am a tightwad with my money just because I oppose higher taxes to support government welfare programs, I can also say for a fact that I gave more (as a percentage of my overall income) than did Barak Obama to charity, and I gave more (in both percentage of income AND total dollars) than did Joe Biden. In fact, I gave more money to charity last year than Biden did in the last 7 years combined. Even though Biden made more than 4 times what I make (annually).

    I guess the difference between you and me is that you think that the government is charity, and it is virtuous to give to it. I think of the government is a necessay evil to keep civil order and has no business in charitable endeavors. I still dutifully pay my taxes, but I make much of my charitable contributions to World Vision, an organization that aids the truly impoverished in Africa. Roughly 90% of the money I give goes directly to the people I am trying to help. Much of the money I give to Uncle Sam is wasted in red tape, fraud, pork, you name it. And there thousands of charities in the US that seek to aid the poor, and every one of them does it better than the government. If the government really wanted to help them, they would have even more friendly tax laws to encourage charitable giving.

  42. Del,

    You seem to be just plain ignoring what it says in Romans 13 in your arguments here. Paul says there that to resist the government is to resist GOD’s ordinance, that ruler’s are God’s ministers to us for good, and that they are to be the punisher’s of wrongdoing. As far as I can tell, those folks Paul was talking about were humans just like the rest of us too!!

  43. Michael,

    I’d like to modify my remark about life going on as usual without the government. For the majority of people this would be true. But our government has become so invasive in many peoples lives that there would be a difficult transition to “normal” life for many. This isn’t an argument for government. It’s just an example of government breaking your legs and then giving you a crutch and saying, “See? If it wasn’t for the government you wouldn’t be able to walk.” I guess we would see if Christians and other charities are up to the task.

  44. Hi cheryl u,

    I’ll summarize my views on Romans 13.

    I think Paul is giving practical instruction on how to keep the heavy hand of government off of the early church (and us today). Go along to get along. Nothing wrong with this. I practice this in every unavoidable encounter I have with the government. Whether it’s responding kindly to a snotty clerk at the DMV or a cop who pulls me over and decides to be threatening. My humble response to date has always diffused the situation (I say with pride!). A lot of early Christians were looking for a fight. Paul recognized that violence perpetrated by Christians wasn’t going to get the early church far.

    I also believe that pointing out the true nature of government (see I Samuel 8) also has biblical support. There is a balance to be maintained.

    You’re right that early Christians were human too but their situation differed in many ways from ours. Paul was addressing a specific problem in the early church. We can draw practical applications for 21st century Christians but we can’t say the Paul was writing to us.

  45. cheryl u,

    LOL. In my last post “1 Samuel ‘smiley icon’ ” should say “1 Samuel 8″.

  46. Well Del,

    I guess if we can’t say that Paul was writing to us in Romans 13, can we say he was writing to us in any of the epistles written by him or in his words recorded in Acts? Were any of his words meant to be instruction to us at all? And if so, which ones?

    I think that is walking down the proverbial slippery slope whenever we start saying that some part of Scripture like this one is not for us.

    If the ruling authorities then were stated to be an ordinance of God, what makes you think they are not an ordinance of God today? If they were meant then as God’s agents to punish evil doers, can you say that is not the case with government today?

    If not, when did God’s plan change and He decide that was no longer the case? Remember, we are no longer living in a theocracy as were the folks in the Old Testament when God was originally supposed to be the King of the nation of Israel.

    Yes, governments are often repressive. But I don’t see that changes what God has said about them. I don’t think this is an issue that we can say is not for us today.

    Remember Peter gave us similar instructions: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” I Peter 2:13-15

  47. Hi cheryl u,

    I really can’t say I disagree for the most part with what you’re saying. I’m just trying to point out another side.

    All of Bible exegesis is a slippery slope. Paul didn’t know there would be a 21st century. In fact, the early church seemed to believe that Christ would come back in their lifetimes. He didn’t, yet we can still apply God’s word to our lives. Most of it anyway. At my church we don’t greet each other with a holy kiss any more. :)

    I would say the early church was in a different situation than us because of intense persecution. Paul was addressing the Christian’s response to this. This is why the application to us is different.

    I stated in previous posts that God still uses the ruling authorities to do his will, as Romans 13 says, whether George Bush, Barak Obama or Adolph Hitler. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t resist oppression, peacefully. All coercive government is oppressive in some respect. We deal voluntarily with the grocery store not the government.

    I agree we no longer live in an Old Testament theocracy but we can draw a lot about what God thought about having any other king but Him.

    This is a great conversation. Thanks!

  48. A number of people have been citing Jesus words to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” as an admonition to pay taxes. Before anyone jumps on me I agree we should pay our taxes, but not because Jesus said so (he was purposefully evasive) but because, like Romans 13, we are being told how to peacefully deal with government and not to draw its wrath upon us and thus sully the name of Christ.

    Jesus could have easily told the pharisees, “Are you kidding, of course you should pay your taxes!” (thus drawing the wrath of the Jews) or he could have responded to the contrary (drawing the wrath of the occupying government). They would have been happy with either answer.

    I believe there is a reason Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, to God what is God’s.” There was a common expression at the time that went, “No king but Caesar!” This must have chapped the bottoms of the Jews of that day since they believed there was no king but God. Instead he left the pharisees with a conundrum: everything is God’s yet God is using Caesar to fulfill His ultimate purpose and you don’t want to get on the bad side of Caesar.

    My point is that Jesus was showing the path to be taken to get to that place where no man, Caesar, Hitler, Bush or Obama will be insisting on taking what really belongs to God. We still have a long way to go.

  49. Xulon, it is not that Conservatism is a Biblical world view but it is so intertwined with it, that it is hard to separate political idealogy from a Biblical worldview. I am not in favor of less freedoms or a paradigm shift from the foundational principles are Constitution supports. But this is an affront to my participation as a U.S. citizen. I think I am asking the question of what happens when the political paradigm differs from our worldview, what then?

    I would certainly not want imposed socialists policies, but if that happened, where then is the offense, to our political sensibilities or our Christian ones? Do we think that evangelicals in Canada or even countries with socialists policies, find themselves in precarious positions of competing loyalties? Just some stuff I’m thinking about.

  50. Marvin the Martian September 10, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    “Conservatism is not aligned with a “Biblical world view”. Nor is Liberalism the anti-christ (and for the record, Obama is not liberal, much less socialist).”

    Xulon,

    I am afraid you lose all credibility by saying Obama isn’t liberal.

Leave a Reply