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Both Rich and Poor, Benefit when a Government Respects the Rights of All


The Hebrews of early Old Testament times were governed by leaders of their twelve tribes, with a central leader over all the tribes. Later, kings such as David and Solomon ruled the Hebrews. In 587 B.C., Babylonian forces devastated Jerusalem and subjugated the Hebrews. Later, the Jews were ruled by Persia, Greece, and the Roman Empire. In Jesus’ time Palestine was ruled by the Herods, who were governors under the Roman Empire.

Despite centuries of often oppressive foreign domination, both the Old and New Testaments stress the importance of government for protection and for maintaining order. We should support our government, pay its taxes, and obey its laws, even though they may be imperfect:

Fear the LORD and the king, my son, and do not join with the rebellious, for those two will send sudden destruction upon them, and who knows what calamities they can bring? (NIV, Proverbs 24:21-22)

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: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (NIV, Romans 13:1-7)

Jesus also said we should obey the demands of both God and government. He was asked if one should pay taxes to the Roman Empire and this was his reply:

“Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” And they said, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (NAS, Luke 20:24-25)

The people were expected to respect their governments, and, at the same time, the kings or other rulers were expected to rule with wisdom and justice. The Old Testament contains story after story of wicked, greedy and oppressive rulers who brought disaster on themselves and their people. Many of the Old Testament prophets, such as Elijah, Elisha and Daniel, delivered their messages of reform to Israel’s kings.

Those of us who live under democracy elect our own rulers. Our votes decide whether our government will be benevolent or harsh and oppressive. The Bible’s advice and reproaches to the ancient rulers provide us wisdom to help us make wise choices in our own times.

Both the Old and New Testament writers were deeply concerned with the rights of the poor and oppressed. A recurring theme in the Bible is that we should provide equal justice for all, not favoring the rich or powerful. Also, because all the peoples of the world are God’s creation, we should not discriminate against foreigners:

He who oppresses the poor reproaches his maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him. (NAS, Proverbs 14:31)

Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous. Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (NIV, Exodus 23:6-9)

Woe to those who enact evil statutes, and to those who constantly record unjust decisions, So as to deprive the needy of justice, and rob the poor of My people of their rights, in order that widows may be their spoil, and that they may plunder the orphans. Now what will you do in the day of punishment, and in the devastation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help? And where will you leave your wealth? (NAS, Isaiah 10:1-3)

The Bible often speaks of almsgiving or charity as an individual-to-individual act of generosity. The law of Moses and the Hebrews, though, provided an institutional way of providing for the poor that did not depend on the good will of any individual. Not only was individual generosity encouraged, but, as a matter of law, part of everyone’s produce or income was to be set aside to aid the poor:

“And you shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield, but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove. (NAS, Exodus 23:10-11)

“When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns, and be satisfied. (NAS, Deuteronomy 26:12)  – See also Matthew 25:31-46

The ancient Hebrews lived in extended families or clans and could generally take care of their own. In modern industrial societies, though, families are often fragmented and many of the truly needy have nowhere to turn except to public assistance programs.

Everyone, both rich and poor, benefits when a government respects the rights of all and provides for the needy. Crime and drug abuse breeds in areas of poverty and unemployment, likewise, apathy and violence breeds where people perceive injustice and feel excluded from the benefits of society. To the extent every individual feels empowered as a valuable, productive member of society, then society becomes healthier and more secure for everyone.

Related verses: Leviticus 19:9-10, Leviticus 19:15, Leviticus 24:22, Leviticus 25:35-36, Deuteronomy 27:19, Psalms 9:9, Psalms 72:1-2, Proverbs 17:7, Proverbs 22:22 Proverbs 28:3, Proverbs 29:2, Proverbs 29:4, Proverbs 29:12, Proverbs 29:14, Jeremiah 21:12, Isaiah 1:17, Isaiah 58:10, Ezekiel 45:9, Matthew 23:2-4, Mark 12:14-17

Government: Christian Bible References

3 comments on “Both Rich and Poor, Benefit when a Government Respects the Rights of All

  1. To a certain extent I agree with the sentiments here. Speaking of benefits for the poor, the University (or rather, the Federal government) must have thought I was so poverty stricken that they gave me a great deal of money this semester to cover not only the cost of classes and books, but living expenses as well. I also got a scholarship on top of that. And I am quite poverty stricken, so they were not mistaken, and the money is much needed. I had to skip Summer II because I couldn’t afford the classes myself, and neither could my mother. That’s part of the reason why I’ve taken so long to graduate, since I was working full time for a long time, taking 2 classes a semester on average. Though I lost my job during a downsize, and thanfully it is this money which is still helping us to survive on one income, so now I am taking 4 classes this semester as well as the next.

    However, I do take issue, in a certain sense, with this statement:

    “To the extent every individual feels empowered as a valuable, productive member of society, then society becomes healthier and more secure for everyone.”

    I agree in the sense that an empowered individual is good thing to have, and that measures ought to be taken to “empower” the individual. It is, after all, a matter of divine commandment that “If there be among you a poor man… thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thy hand from thy poor brother” (Deu 15:7). But I disagree that society itself becomes healthier by simply having an empowered person, since it seems to rule out God who is the real healer. I think that society will in fact grow sicker as the empowerment of the individual, whether of rich or poor, from the Republican angle or the Democratic angle, is seen as a primary virtue or duty of the people to believe in and support, as if it were the highest calling. I think that all material benefits and cares are secondary, or, perhaps, even further down the list on what is of importance in this world. The real primary duty of the Christian, and the true healer of society, is the preaching of the Gospel and God Himself, without whom we may gain the whole world, but still lose our soul.

    One of the verses which would annoy my former comrades in the right was the one wherein God declares, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2Ch 7:14). This I used in my arguments against Mitt Romney, and their notion that the “healing of the land” had to be effected through human effort and power. Against Mitt Romney, since he was an enemy of God, whom they had all universally condemned as a liar in the past, but immediately surrendered to in the then present, and of whose religion they even began apologizing for (though they had also previously condemned it), on the basis that this “good man” will defeat the “evil gay Muslim man” and thus usher forth a revival of good morality and conservative politics in this country.

    They talked up his family values, and even praised Mormonism for its strong work ethic and conservative credentials (though Romney was never really much of a conservative either, but more of an opportunist with positions on both sides of everything, which the hypocrites now eagerly note as an explanation for their loss), and pointed their audience to behold the vision of a united Mormon/Protestant/Catholic army of righteousness, all allegedly working for the same God, or at least happy to work under the appearance of worshipping the same God (they were always quite hostile to me when I noted that the LDS believed in many gods, and were quick to attack me so they could go back to their delusions), working to fix the poor morality of the nation and set it back on track to becoming the Christian nation it always was, but for some reason wasn’t.

    Now if righteousness came by obedience to the law, then they would have somewhat to glory. But as righteousness comes only by grace, through faith in Christ, and that faith itself the gift of God, then their politically compromised religion cannot possibly heal anything or do any good, except usher in even more evil due to their absolute rebellion against God.

    They hated my quote because it pricked their consciences, telling them that since their priority was not really on God, then all their strutting and fretting was in vain and doomed to incur wrath. It told them in no uncertain terms that if they want a Christian country, that it must come directly by God, and in devotion to Him, and not in whatever popular political or religious leader of the day. It told them that if they were sincere in fixing the economy, they should rather fix the soul first, and then humbly ask God to provide for our needs.

    Now I cannot say that the Christian left suffer from this problem, since I don’t know very many such folk. (And my views on politics are such that right now, if I had the power, I would poor the sweet milk of concord into hell, uproar the universal peace, and confound all unity on Earth, so that all men, either on the left or right, would view me as their mortal enemy). But if they make of helping the poor the same idol as Christianizing the nation through politics as the right does, then they also are lost and do not know from whence true “societal” healing must come.

    When we speak of these things, we must be mindful of our dependence on God for all things, and seek Him first, before we can ever go forth to fix society’s ills; lest we see the fixing of society’s ills as the Alpha and the Omega, rather than as the result of God’s grace towards us personally and to the community at large. This is not to say that we should not trouble ourselves in fixing such ills, as if we are to be merely passive, but rather I say that we should understand them as the results of a living faith that understands that “whatever is not of faith is sin” (Rom 14:23).

    It’s 7am right now, so I hope this long post is not rambling! (I can’t tell the difference).

    • However, I do take issue, in a certain sense, with this statement:

      “To the extent every individual feels empowered as a valuable, productive member of society, then society becomes healthier and more secure for everyone.”

      I agree in the sense that an empowered individual is good thing to have, and that measures ought to be taken to “empower” the individual. It is, after all, a matter of divine commandment that “If there be among you a poor man… thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thy hand from thy poor brother” (Deu 15:7). But I disagree that society itself becomes healthier by simply having an empowered person, since it seems to rule out God who is the real healer. I think that society will in fact grow sicker as the empowerment of the individual, whether of rich or poor, from the Republican angle or the Democratic angle, is seen as a primary virtue or duty of the people to believe in and support, as if it were the highest calling. I think that all material benefits and cares are secondary, or, perhaps, even further down the list on what is of importance in this world. The real primary duty of the Christian, and the true healer of society, is the preaching of the Gospel and God Himself, without whom we may gain the whole world, but still lose our soul.

      Ricardo, i see what you mean. It might have been better if the author would have left out the word “empowered”.

      “To the extent every individual believes themselves to be a valuable, productive member of society, then society becomes healthier and more secure for everyone.”

      That i can agree with. What do you think? Everyone wants to be productive and/or seen as a “needed” member of society, with something to offer. And i do believe when we see this it does make for a healthier society.

      Reading about how you’ve worked and taken classes as you can, etc etc. I’m betting your mother is very proud of you Ricardo.If you were my son or grandson, i know i would be. You have persevered and are continuing to do so! I recall you saying (a few years back) you wanted to go into politics one day, do you still feel that way today? Whatever path God leads you into career-wise, my money’s on you to excel little brother.🙂

      One of the verses which would annoy my former comrades in the right was the one wherein God declares, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2Ch 7:14). This I used in my arguments against Mitt Romney, and their notion that the “healing of the land” had to be effected through human effort and power.

      Yes. Its very sad to see so many Christians spinning their wheels through human effort in order to bring about changes which can only be attained through humbling themselves and by prayer. Dominion theology has taken over many of America’s churches today. You’d think by now, after decades of wasted human effort bringing about zero change, they’d see the “light”. But sadly it only appears they are digging in their heels even deeper.

  2. Yes, I think that is a better way to say it, so that we do not rob God of His providence, and do not rob the Gospel of the superiority of spiritual regeneration over material wealth.

    Re: Politics

    Ah, recall that I was more silly in those days. I am still silly, but every year I look back at my previous self and think ‘Wow, I sure was silly!” I cannot fathom that, as I am now, any party would like to support me, in the unlikely event that I had the money, the influence, the opportunity, and the inclination to ever pursue it. And unfortunately it’s hard to get the first 3 things even if you have the last.

    I am a double major, English & Biology. For the English, to improve my writing, since I would like to write for a living. I also take great pleasure in teaching people, and teaching would be an honorable job (though I’d rather teach college level). For the Biology, I took it so that I can answer the evolutionists and pop their bubbles. Plus I’ve always found the subject interesting, and during my last semester over at Del Mar I was praised by my Biology professor to be the first student ever to “make a perfect score on the first exam.” That’s why I decided to add Biology to my major when I moved over to A&M. In fact, every one of my professors since Del Mar, and now into A&M, have praised me, and I’ve been told multiple times that “a guy like you should aim high.” I’ve maintained my 4.0 GPA (or, rather, God has maintained it) since I started near the end of 2009, and, with the grace of God, I hope for that to continue.

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