This post is part of a series (Post 1: Introduction and Outline, Post 2: Four Key Principles for Christian Political Engagement, Post 3: Submission and Taxes)
Serving in the government
We move now from a more passive obedience to active participation. Can a Christian actually serve in a government position? To answer this I would like to look at several biblical characters who served in government positions, excluding, of course, those who served in Israel, since we are most interested at this point in the position of Christians as “foreigners and exiles.”
We begin with Joseph. Joseph was thrust into government service after interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. He went from a man in prison to second in command over all of Egypt literally overnight (Genesis 41:41-43). It should be noted that Joseph did not exactly volunteer for service in Egypt. He was not driven by dreams of political advancement. But, when he was placed in that position, he did not refuse. Once he was placed in charge he carried out his duties with integrity and for the good of the nation in which he served.
We turn next to Daniel and to his companions Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were also thrust into government service. Like Joseph before them they were marked out for their integrity. And, as far as we can tell, they carried out all the duties assigned to them, so much so that they were given higher and higher positions, setting them to be the targets of jealousy-motivated plots against their lives. Unlike Joseph, once in service to the king, they had to face several instances where they had to decide to obey or disobey the law of the land. When they disobeyed they faced the legislative consequences, but also experienced divine protection from God.
Finally, we see several instances in the New Testament of Romans soldiers and tax collectors becoming Jesus followers. When John was calling people to repentance at the Jordan River he didn’t call the tax collectors to resign their position, but to not collect more than what was due. To the soldiers, he did not call them to give up soldiering, but to not extort money or accuse people falsely (Luke 3:12-14). None of the Centurions who become believers are called to leave their profession.
While the Bible doesn’t specifically call people to serve in political positions, it doesn’t condemn those positions either. Serving in the government can be done in a corrupt way (taking more money than is due) and it can come with some extra moral strings attached (see Daniel) but nowhere is it seen as something low, base, or evil in and of itself. In fact, if the civil government is something God gives the fallen world as a common grace, then serving in the government can be a way of loving your neighbor. This is certainly true of Joseph who, through his service, prevented the starvation of the Egyptians, those who came to Egypt for aid, and his own family.
Next Post: Advocating for justice