Series Five – Structure
Theme = God’s way for family, church, and society
‘Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors…’ 1 Peter 2:13-14
“I tell you what, I might be a Christian but I don’t care what the foreign exchange regulations say, I am going to get the money out of the country. Hang it all, it’s my money! I earned it and I paid tax on it, and I will take it out with me when I immigrate whatever anyone says!” A man I know made this kind of statement not so long ago. I admit, it just doesn’t seem right that a man cannot take all his hard earned money with him when he leaves the country. Yet the regulations prohibit the expatriation of more than stipulated amounts of money – that’s the law.
All over the world Christians are being confronted with the terrible dilemma of how to respond to unjust government. What are we supposed to do when a large part of the taxes we pay is going into the pockets of corrupt government officials, and when most of the balance is squandered or poorly used? What should you do when the police are either corrupt or massively incompetent and the men who raped and murdered your daughter walk away from the courts as free men? Why shouldn’t you take the law into your own hands?
These are terrible realities that many people have to deal with in many different countries. Yet in His written Word God instructs us to submit to our governments. Why is this and how are we to comply?
I guess the why of it is as follows. The system of human government is patterned on the headship and submission structure of the holy Trinity and is the best way for human society to function. Consider what it would be like to live in a state of total anarchy – roaming gangs taking whatever they want, warlords killing all who oppose them, no usable currency other than what you grow or make, no stability, no reasonable expectation even to stay alive, let alone prosper. Strange as it is to concede, even bad government is better than no government. This is why Paul instructs us to intercede ‘for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.’ (1 Timothy 2:2)
Submission does not always equate to obedience. On one occasion Peter proclaimed, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29) That still holds good for us today. If anyone in authority demands that we do something that violates what we believe to be the clear will of God, then we must respectfully refuse to comply. Ideally we should state why we are not complying and appeal to our national bill of rights. However, we should be prepared to accept the consequences for our disobedience to governmental law.
The foreign exchange circumvention I mentioned did not turn out well for anyone. The man in question, despite being warned not to, persuaded some gullible people to send his money out of the country in their names. He used the funds to buy into an overseas finance company of which he became a director. Just months later, the world financial crisis hit and the company concerned went belly-up. The man lost all of his money. Several months after that one of the poor ‘mules’ he used to get the money out of the country came running into the church office, ashen faced, and clutching a letter from the Revenue Services. He wanted advice and prayer because he now had to face the consequences of his actions.