The Reason for Government
The civil authority “is God’s servant for your good” (Rom 13:4). Government is meant to protect its citizens from certain evils. In the NT believers are invited to pray for their government officials so that they will be protected (1 Tim 2:2).
1. Protection against crime
a. The Bible teaches that prevention of crime is a primary responsibility of civil governments (1 Pet 2:14; Rom 13:4, Eccl 8:11; Prov 17:15; Isa 5:22-23).
2. Protection against disease
Epidemics of disease have economic implications in reducing productive work, hindering economic growth.
3. Protection against the violations of contracts
Violation of contracts creates a hostile environment for businesses and business transactions (Ex 20:15-16).
4. Protection against violations of patents and copyrights
If a nation decides not to protect patents and copyrights (i.e. China), it encourages people to steal (Ex 20:15).
5. Protection against foreign invasion
When Israel did evil, God allowed them to be conquered (Judg 6:3-6), but when they repented and prayed and obeyed God, he brought the blessing of deliverance (several times in Judges; see also 1 Sam 17). The result of the Lord’s blessing was safety (1 Kgs 4:25), giving skill to soldiers to defend (Ps 18:34).
6. Avoidance of wars of conquest and civil wars
7. Protection against destruction of the environment
a. Economically productive nations must protect natural resources from careless human destruction.
b. The Bible teaches that God has given mankind responsibility for stewardship of the environment (Gen 1:28; Ps 8).
Things government should promote. The Bible does not mandate these things, but pursuing these things will create a stable order.
1. Universal education
The Bible emphasizes the responsibility of parents to train their children (Deut 6:5-7; Ps 1:2). While public schools and public education are seldom a good thing, access to literacy programmes, training centres, and means for citizens to become more skilled is a good thing.
2. Stable family structures
a. A child growing up in a family with both father and mother present is far less likely to end up in poverty.
b. Governments should adopt laws that provide incentives to getting/staying married and for raising children.
3. Laws that protect freedom of religion for all religious groups and give some benefits to religions generally.
a. Religions generally teach good moral values to citizens, and bring good to society, including economic benefits.
b. Denial of freedom of religion means that many economically productive people are kept out of a country.
Forms of Government:
Monarchy – Absolute (e.g. Swaziland), Constitutional (United Kingdom)
Oligarchy – power resides in a few people or a class of people, e.g. North Korea, Russia
Democracy – direct democracy (representative democracy)
Autocracy – power resides in one.
The Bible does not call for one system over another, and God’s people have lived under each of these forms. What the Bible has done is shape the thinking about humanity, civilisation, power for 3500 years, which has affected political experiments through the centuries. Only one form of government will ever be perfect: a Theocracy under Christ. Until then, we must seek the best kind of government that factors in the fallenness and sinfulness of man.
Factors that deliver a nation from tyranny or anarchy:
1. Rule of law: all people are equally accountable to the laws
a. This is the most basic guarantee that leaders will use their power for the benefit of the people as a whole. (2 Samuel 11-12);
2. Fair court system: courts show no favoritism or bias, but enforce justice impartially
a. The courts are the primary means for guaranteeing that everyone in a nation is subject to the rule of law.
b. The Bible strongly emphasizes that judges must be fair and not pervert justice (Deut 16:18-20; Ex 23:3).
3. Absence of bribery and corruption in government offices
a. Again and again in the Bible officials are warned against taking bribes.
i. Ex 23:8; Pss 26:10; 82:2; Prov 15:27; 17:23; 24:23; Isa 33:15; Ezek 22:12.
b. Government officials should be reasonably compensated for their service, but laws should prevent them from becoming wealthy through ‘gifts’ or promises received while they are in office. Bribery and thus corruption have enormously hindered economic development in Eastern Europe, preBritish India, and in many African societies. Similar corruption is common in communist countrie generally and in many Islamic countries.
The OT wisely warned against a powerful official such as a king becoming wealthy while in office (Deut 17:17).
i. Positive examples: Samuel (1 Sam 12:3-4); Paul to Timothy (1 Tim 5:21).
– David De Bruyn, Professor of Church History, Shepherds’ Seminary Africa