The first weekend in July this year marks the national observance of Independence Day.
On a special occasion such as this a predominant theme that is oftentimes in the national consciousness and exclaimed from podiums across this land is patriotism. The dictionary defines patriotism in the following way: “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.”
With the sad memories of scandalous living in the highest civil office in the land and the subsequent government hearings still lingering in the back of our minds, what is the condition of our spirit of patriotism?
Have such distasteful matters had a souring effect upon our patriotic spirit so that we engage in negative thinking and speaking concerning the government and the support of it? Have those matters had a negative impact upon our involvement in the many different areas of civil service–voting, paying taxes, jury duty, military service, and volunteerism in many different areas of civic life?
The Lord Jesus helps us keep a proper perspective on things in this regard whenever we would encounter grievous conditions brought on by the human foibles and moral defects of anyone who is in a position of government leadership. Through His divine word we are reminded by Jesus to “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…” (Mt. 22:21).
Jesus spoke these words initially to certain religiously and politically minded Jews who were antagonistic toward the Roman government under which they were living. They despised the civil authorities because they were pagan, worldly, and unjust. They also detested paying taxes in support of this unwanted government.
Speaking in response to the question as to whether or not it was lawful for them to pay taxes to this government, Jesus informed these Jews that according to God’s will it was both fitting and right for citizens of the state to give unto Caesar–that is, the civil government–what was due unto him. In this case it involved paying taxes to the government.
The Holy Spirit expanded on what is due unto the government by its citizens when He inspired the apostle Paul to write in his letter to the Christians in Rome: “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor” (Rom. 13:7).
The Lord God calls upon all citizens of the world to show due respect, support, and obedience (provided that the civil laws do not require citizens to go against the Word of God–see Acts 5:29) to their respective governments. This is true whether the government is good or evil, just or unjust, merciful or unmerciful, and wise or unwise.
The Word of God helps us understand why the Lord calls upon us to give the government its due regardless of how good or bad it may be. In the book of Romans it is stated: “The authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Rom. 13:1), and “He is God’s minister to you for good” (Rom. 13:4).
The governing authorities have been placed over us by God. They serve as His representatives to bless us with temporal good in the form of law and order, as well as national peace and safety. So then, in recognition of this we are minded to show due regard for the government, and we are thankful to the Lord for the many earthly blessings He pours out upon us through His representatives.
In an instruction manual that has been used in our midst, the following remarks are made concerning Matthew 22:21: “The Christian is the highest type of citizen. He honestly pays his taxes, conscientiously casts his ballot, cheerfully serves on the jury, patriotically fights and dies for his country. And he does all this, not only because he loves his country, but above all because he loves his God.” (What Does the Bible Say?, Oswald Riess)
May the Lord have mercy upon us and forgive us for Jesus’ sake whenever we have not been model citizens. And may the redeeming love of our Savior God motivate us to display true and sincere patriotism, and this to His honor and glory.
–Pastor Mark Gullerud