“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt 6:33)
It’s budget night. The election is about to be called.
The government couldn’t be happier about the timing, because many people vote with their hip-pocket.
Most of our neighbours will vote for the deepest tax cut, the biggest motorway, the best trains, the juiciest Centrelink cheque, the leader with the best personality… Or maybe simple revenge for a spate of leadership changes.
But the Christian should be different.
To know how we ought to relate to our government (which is what we do when we vote), we need to understand what God’s plan for earthly government is.
We must become “theocentric” in our thinking – that means, to think first of God and His design for things, because it is He who made all things and gives all things their meaning. Only when we start with Him will we come to grips with the details.
That includes earthly government.
How do I know? Merely because scripture says so.
Within a couple of verses, the Apostle Paul points out that governing authority is “from God,” “instituted by God,” and “what God has appointed.”
So, it’s part of the system. Too bad for the Christian anarchists.
There is no particular structure of government, nor any specific individuals mentioned. Rather, a species of authority is mentioned – “governing authority.”
Governing authority belongs first to God: “For there is no authority except from God.”
Too bad, then, for those who want to separate religion from politics. Evidently, they haven’t got the memo: God owns the whole system.
In corporate law, I would come across structures called “trusts.” Often, these trusts had been set up by wealthy individuals who had an overflow of money and assets. By setting up a trust, they put some of that wealth in the hands of a person called a trustee, who is legally bound to use the wealth in the best interests of its true owner – the rich guy.
That’s how scripture speaks of governing authority.
“All authority in heaven and on earth” has been given to the Lord Jesus Christ, who has been “appointed heir of all things” and is “the ruler of the kings of the earth.”
That is why Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate and said, “you would have no authority at all unless it were given you from above.”
Pilate’s governing authority was, as Paul confirms, from the overflow of God’s authority.
God has all the authority, and yet He gives some of it – “governing authority” to some on trust, to be used in the best interests of its true owner… who is God.
Governments are a little bit like trustees.
This responsibility is so vast that the Apostle Paul goes on to call bearers of governing authority “servants of God” and “ministers of God.”
And that makes perfect sense now that we have started to think clearly about God’s view of government. It is a high duty indeed.
One might well ask, however, ‘to what ministry and service have those with governing authority been called?’
In other words, what are duties they have to God – the owner of their authority? What does he want from them?
The answer to that question is everywhere in scripture.
When Solomon was made King, he prayed for wisdom. Many know that, but few know why he prayed for wisdom.
He gives the reason as part of the prayer, “…that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”
Solomon’s prayer captures a theme that runs like a thread through the Bible. The Apostle Peter urged Christians to submit to “governors as sent by [God] to punish those who do evil and praise those who do good.”
Paul, likewise, describes the ministry of governing authorities by reference to carrying out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer, whilst approving those who do good.
There is a shorthand way of referring to this ministry of right and wrong.
Solomon – the wisest man in the business of temporal government – put it this way, “righteousness exalts a nation…”
It is a ministry and service of righteousness. To use their authority which rightly belongs to God, to promote that which is right, and restrain that which is wrong.
That is why every king from Saul to Zedekiah, though his reign may have been complex, marked by cultural change, political alliance, battlefield victories, economic reforms, and a myriad of other things, had the same phrase printed on his headstone.
Either, he did “that which was right in the sight of the Lord,” or, “that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.”
With this phrase, each king’s biography is punctuated. It’s a moral judgement which succinctly declares how well he fulfilled the ministry to which he was appointed by God.
And of course, that is why Christ’s own kingdom is prophesied of in these terms: “a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of His kingdom.”
This ministry has not changed and will not change, even when Christ returns.
It is a ministry of righteousness.
It is a service to God, to maintain a moral compass in the nation. To rightly discern between good and evil, and to promote and restrain them in turn.
The major political parties of our day will run away from moral policy. The excuses flow: it’s not a vote winner, people aren’t interested, Aussies just want a job and a strong economy, etc.
Many politicians simply lack the moral conviction to really care.
Our neighbours will likely vote in the shadow of the budget. Maybe out of self-interest, maybe driven by emotion.
But as Christians, we must concern ourselves with something quite different.
We must concern ourselves with that which concerns God when it comes to the business of government.
Righteousness. Morals. Good and evil. Darkness and light.
Our neighbours might not know it, but their best interest when it comes to the government is to have a government which promotes righteousness. It is not only a spiritual reality, but it is also built into the very DNA of the universe that from there, all else falls into place.
That is why Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Voting on this basis will disappoint you, because they all fall short in varying degrees. But that is just another reminder to set our hearts on a kingdom yet future, when His sceptre of righteousness will reign over all.
But for now, remember that the budget is not the main game.