The Role of the Government as Taught by the Bible
In a recent dialog with CRC pastors and leaders on the CRC network I was some what surprised to read several comments that I thought were foreign and possibly fallacious. One comment was to the effect that nowhere does scripture advocate care of the poor by the government and another was it is always wrong for the state to promote/command mercy on behalf of the poor. I find these comments to fall short of the full teaching of scripture on the role of the government for several reasons.
1. God gave clear instructions to the nation of Israel and its leaders (prophets, priests and kings) to care for the poor. The Pentateuch is repetitious with such teaching. Think of the teaching/command of the year of Jubilee ( Leviticus 25-27) and its parallels in Exodus and Deuteronomy. Many other Old Testament passages also teach that the king or leaders of Israel were to care for the poor. Think of Job 31:16-23, Psalm 72:1-14, the kings are listed in the beginning of the prophetical books so that a record of what they did whether good or evil is in place. Isaiah 10: 1-4, 58:1-7, Ezekiel 22:27-31, Joel 1:2,13, Amos 2: 4-7, 5:21-27, Micah 1:1-2, 3:1-7, Zechariah 7:8-14, 1Kings 10:9.
2. God continues this role for the state in the New Testament. Jesus said “ Give unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s and unto God what is God’s (Matthew 22:21.) Romans 13: 1-7 teaches two roles for the government: “a servant of God to do you good” and a servant of God “to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. This is echoed in 1 Peter 2: 13-17. Matthew 25: 31-46 teaches that all the nations will have to give an account for how they treated the poor and their answer will determine their eternal destiny.
3. A proper reading of scripture would cause one to think that not only may the state care for the poor but that it is the duty of the state to care for the poor. Of Christians, the family, and church also have their role in caring for the poor.