by Martin G. Collins
Speaking of taxes in Matthew 22:21, Jesus taught His disciples to “render . . . to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” enjoining His disciples to pay them. This teaching parallels the general principle that Christians are to be subject to the governments of this world (Romans 13:1) yet to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). In doing so, we are to be good citizens appreciating the privileges and opportunities extended to us. We are to submit to the nation’s laws and regulations as long as they do not conflict with the commands of God. If they do, we must be willing to submit to their penalties.
Above all, Christians must follow Christ’s teaching and example. Jesus neither attempted to reform human government nor use political means to forge a better world. Rather, He preached the doctrine of a radically different world to come, calling His followers out of this present evil world and to allegiance to His coming Kingdom.
Jesus told Pilate that His Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36)—that is, of this age or present time. This is Satan’s world, and Christ came, not to reform Satan or improve his handiwork, but to save His followers from Satan and his system. A Christian is a citizen of the Kingdom of God (Ephesians 2:19), and since that Kingdom is not yet set up on earth, our citizenship is now reserved in heaven (I Peter 1:4). This fact means that Christians are to be separate from the world and its social, political, economic, and religious affiliations (II Corinthians 6:14, 17). We live by God’s laws and give Him our sole allegiance, since we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).
1. How does an ambassador cooperate with the laws of another country? II Corinthians 5:17-20.
Comment: Though they live in a foreign nation, ambassadors take no part of their host nation’s political or military institutions, yet the ambassador is expected to adhere to the laws of the foreign land. An American ambassador to China knows well that his host government is seriously opposed to his own. He does not serve the Chinese government, enter into its politics, try to eradicate the evils of its system, vote in its elections, join its army, or advocate for its causes. Yet he subjects himself to Chinese laws that concern him while there, endeavoring to behave in a way that will best represent the interests of the U.S. government.
In the same way, Christian’s are ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. We are called to become part of a totally different society, and while living in this world, we must represent God and abide by His laws and standards, which supersede those of men when they conflict. Like the worldly ambassador, a Christian should not involve himself in the affairs of an opposing government but must abide by its rules as best he can. He must live as a citizen of heaven and an ambassador for Jesus Christ first and foremost.
2. What if a Christian voted for the wrong candidate? Daniel 2:20-21.
Comment: If God sets up the leaders of nations and removes them according to His will (Job 12:16-25), why would Christians presume to take such matters into their own hands and vote for this or that candidate? Even among ourselves, church members disagree on which political party, candidate, or leader should be in power.
Jesus teaches, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand” (Matthew 12:25). God’s house should not be divided (I Corinthians 1:11-13), yet if we were to vote for a candidate who loses, we would have voted against God’s will. If a professing Christian is trying to vote a man into office, and God is diligently working to install another man, then the Christian’s vote is working against God.
3. What, then, would Jesus do in a time of political election? John 17:16.
Comment: Jesus would not take part. He would warn true Christians, “Come out of her [this world], My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues” (Revelation 18:1-4). Jesus calls Christians out of the ways of this world, including its political systems.
Just as Jesus did, we are expected to provide a true witness of God’s way of life. We are to support what God is doing on earth so that the good news of Christ’s return to establish God’s Kingdom is proclaimed. Our focus needs to be on God’s plan and His gift of salvation and eternal life so that we and all those He has called are prepared to participate in God’s government on earth when it is established (Daniel 7:18, 22; Revelation 2:26-27; 5:10).
An ambassador of Christ is not to involve himself in the politics of this present evil world. Human governments, corrupted by the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4), are doomed to be replaced by the benevolent rule of the Kingdom of God. Though we are in the world, we are not of it. Our mission—as advance emissaries of His Kingdom—is to give a true witness of God’s way of life (Proverbs 14:25; Isaiah 43:10-12; Matthew 5:13-16; Acts 1:8; Revelation 20:4) and to warn the world of its predicament and present danger, proclaiming to all nations the good news of the Kingdom of God.