Dan Popp
Safety nets and other snares, Part 3
By Dan Popp
July 23, 2012

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series I've tried to show that the scriptures often used to justify government do-goodism will not serve the purpose. The God of the Bible has never commissioned any government to provide a "safety net" or a "minimum standard of living." The very idea is ridiculous once we understand the purpose of government. Fortunately, a couple of Apostles have made that plain for us.

    Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:12-15 NASB)
It's simply dishonest to pluck the half-sentence of verse 13 (Submit yourselves...) out of all that context. Submit is one of several exhortations to excellent behavior, good deeds and doing right. We're not being told to submit ourselves to wickedness; that would contradict everything else in the passage — indeed, everything from Genesis to Revelation.

But, to our question, "What is government's role?": Note the charter that God gives to kings and their deputies: for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. Government's job isn't to comfort the afflicted, or even to afflict the comfortable. It isn't to visit widows and orphans in their distress. That's the church's job. Government is an institution of justice, not of mercy.

    Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. (Romans 13:1-6)
Biblical symbols of government are the sword and the rod. [1] Not the gravy ladle. God is trying to tell us that government is a weapon. The purpose of a weapon is to hurt people. We can use the weapon of government to hurt bad people or to hurt good people, but we cannot use it to heal people or to feed people. That's not what a sword does. [2]

Logically, if government is to perform its duties as God's agent for your good, it will have to agree with Him about what is good. There's only one moral law, as C.S. Lewis pointed out; and we can either recognize it or reject it, but we cannot rewrite it. A regime ministering robbery, perversion and murder cannot use these scriptures as cover for its crimes. In whatever areas it has deserted its divine mission, it deserves no obedience from the people of God.

So say Moses, Daniel and his three friends, Elijah, the Apostles, the Founders of this country, Martin Luther King Jr., and many others.

The purpose is peace

We can see from these passages that the role God has given to human government is sober and important, but modest. The result of government doing its job is not that everyone has enough to eat, a guaranteed income for life and a promise of medical care at someone else's expense. The result of godly government is that good citizens can live their lives in peace, not harassed by criminals, by foreign invaders — or by government. "First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity." (1 Timothy 2:1,2)

Good government leaves peaceful people in peace, and makes war on those who would disturb that peace. Evil government makes war on the law-abiding, the productive and the innocent.

"We want a safety net" for the unfortunate, but surely we want one that comes from the safety net manufacturer, not one made by the razor wire company. The issue isn't (as the dishonest would have you believe) "Will we have a safety net?" but, "Who will provide the safety net?" Is it church, family, and community? Or do we prefer a safety net made by the hangman?

Promo for Part 4

These first three articles have discussed why government giving should not be done — with a divine Thou Shalt Not that rumbles all through the Word of God. Next I'd like to poke another hole in the secular safety net by showing from the Constitution and from the words of the Framers that government giving is actually illegal. It must not be done.


[1]  Such as: "From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty." (Revelation 19:15)

[2]  For a fuller treatment of Romans 13, see my article The sword; and for the living context of the Apostles' exhortation to obey human authority, read Why disbelievers can't understand the Bible.

© Dan Popp


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