There are some who have reservations about Christians serving in the government? Some wonder can Christians vote in elections? Most Christians are aware that many politicians are dishonest and some government officials are corrupt. What does the Bible say about Christians participating in such things?
When Jesus lived upon the earth, Israel was ruled by Rome. The Jews hated the Romans. Roman officials often were corrupt and oppressive. On one occasion when the Pharisees wanted to get Jesus in trouble, they asked Him a question: “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” (Matt 22:15-22) If Jesus said it was wrong to pay taxes, He would be in trouble with the Roman rulers. If He said it were good to pay taxes, He would be in trouble with the Jews. Jesus asked them to bring him a coin and identify whose image was on it. They replied, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus replied: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matt 22:21).
Every Christian lives in two kingdoms. One kingdom is spiritual. The other kingdom is physical. We are citizens of the kingdom of Christ, which is the church of Christ (Matt 16:18-19 f; Col 1:13). At the same time, we are citizens of an earthly nation such as Great Britain, France, China, America, etc We must be good citizens in each kingdom. We have duties to fulfill in each kingdom.
The apostle Paul also lived during the time that Rome ruled much of the world. He was a Roman citizen (Acts 22:25-29). Nero, one of the most corrupt rulers who ever lived, was on the throne when Paul wrote: “Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God. Therefore he that resists the power withstands the ordinance of God: and they that withstand shall receive to themselves judgment. For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. And would you have no fear of the power? do that which is good, and you shall have praise from the same: for he is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid; for he bears not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that does evil. Wherefore you must need be in subjection, not only because of the wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For this cause ye pay tribute also; for they are ministers of God’s service, attending continually upon this very thing. Render to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (Rom 13:1-7).
The apostle Peter also commanded Christians to “Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise to them that do well. For so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bondservants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Pet 2:13-17).
Sometimes the question is asked: “What if the government commands Christians to do something which is against God’s law? What if the government forbade Christians to worship God? What should we do?” If there is a conflict between man’s law and God’s law, then God’s law supersedes man’s law! The Jewish officials arrested the apostles for preaching Christ. They said to them: “…We strictly charged you not to teach in this name: and behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. But Peter and the apostles answered and said, We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:28-29). We must obey both God’s law and man’s law. If there is a conflict, then God’s law must be obeyed even if we must disobey man’s law. This is the only exception!
Some say worldly people can serve in the government, but Christians cannot. The Bible does not teach this. God has just one law. It is for all men. If it is wrong for a Christian to serve in the government, it would be wrong for anyone. If it is right for a non-Christian to serve in the government, it would be right for a Christian to do the same.
Surely, there are many temptations to do wrong if one has authority over his fellow man. It is easy to abuse power. There are also temptations to get rich by using one’s authority in a dishonest way. Christians must be honest and fair in all their dealings with their fellow man. This is true in business. It is also true in government. It is true in all things.
Must a Christian pay taxes? May he vote in an election? May he serve in a government or political office? The answer to all these questions is “yes.” However, a Christian must put God and His kingdom first (Matt 6:33). A Christian’s foremost duty is to serve and obey God (Eccl 12:13). Believe me, this is a full-time job. It is not a sin for a person to serve in government for their livelihood. Even so, because of the nature of politics, a Christian places his soul in danger by being around so many dishonest politicians. Paul gave us all an emphatic warning that evil communication or companionship corrupts good morals (1 Cor 15:33). Yet, to escape evil one must get out of this world altogether (1 Cor 5:10). The remedy for this is to put on the whole armor of God in order to fight against the trickery of Satan and all who would follow him (Eph 6:11-18).
Often Christians are placed in an awkward position between voting for a liar or a bigger liar. Christians who are honest with themselves know that both political parties are telling lies in order to obtain power to do evil things. Christians must never forget that we can never expect politicians to do the work of God. It is elders who must guide the church (Acts 20:28). It is preachers who must preach the Word (2 Tim 4:2-5). The best we can hope for in the political world is to attempt to elect good and moral people into positions of power.