Civic Life

Read: Romans 13:1-7

Pay to all what is owed to them. (v. 7)

With four children, my wife and I could claim a significant savings on our taxes. When they grew up, my taxes skyrocketed. After I began grousing about it, my wife reminded me to be thankful for all the things taxes paid for: roads, police, and a legal system. So, I tried instead to write the check with gratitude.

Paul doesn’t write Romans 13 with the United States in mind. In fact, Rome’s next emperor, Nero, would unleash a brutal attack to purge Christians. The first Christians had no expectation for a government to approve of them. At best, they prayed for governments to simply tolerate them. So how might we apply Paul’s instructions to our current realities?

We begin by understanding that all authority exists under God’s sovereignty (v. 1). Jesus said to Pilate in John 19:11, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” We engage in civil government for the common good (Rom. 13:3) by paying taxes, voting, and the like.

There are limits, however. We cannot obey the government when doing so is disobedience to God. Daniel prayed when King Darius forbade it (Daniel 6), and the midwives in Egypt did not obey Pharaoh’s edict to kill the Hebrew boy babies (Exodus 1). Even today some Christians face prison and death for obeying Christ. But if you find yourself living in a place where civil society allows you to live in peace, let your citizenship be an example to all for the common good. —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, pray for governing authorities to respect faith.

About the Author

jon opgenorth

Rev. Jon Opgenorth serves as president of Words of Hope. Previously, he served for 18 years as senior pastor at Trinity Reformed Church in Orange City, Iowa. In preparation for ministry, he received a BA in Religion from Northwestern College, and an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary.