Back in May of this year it was discovered that suppliers who had been supplying spare parts for the military had been price gouging the Pentagon.
One of the men caught would often say, “Here are the rules when you deal with the government. You have to comply with all the rules and regulations,” and then he went on and violated those rules.
He was able to get away with it for a while because of the bureaucracy.
Our federal agencies require more than one billion reports each year—That’s five reports for every man, woman, and child in the United States.
There’s one business that had to handle 27 thousand different kinds of reports with half a million copies filled out, just to meet federal, state, and local government requirements.
The Government Printing Office prints well over 2 billion forms each year!
To process the paperwork costs an estimated $20 billion a year…
and it costs taxpayers (THAT’S YOU AND ME) an additional $7 billion to finance the government’s processing of its paperwork.
And here’s the kicker—this data is from 20 years ago!
I can’t imagine what it is today.
Now think about this: that’s just paperwork, a lifeless object.
Throw people’s lives in the mix, with all of their personalities,
beliefs, values, and culture, and it quickly becomes a complicated mess.
And at the heart of it’s all—is politics!
You know they say there are two things you should never talk about: Politics & Religion. Today I’m going to talk about both!
Politics are those actions or activities involved in running
a governmental entity or state. All of us have beliefs about how that ought to be done.
This reality is what makes politics itself very broad—it’s a huge subject!
And because politics come from what people believe, value, and do
it can quickly become very personal.
So, when someone pushes back against something we value,
we tend to become defensive.
Many times peoples first response is to try and create categories to put others in: conservative, liberal, leftist, alt-right, bigots, or xenophobes.
Once labeled, it’s easier to be impersonal towards that person and not see them as an individual, but rather the opposition.
It’s a form of tribalism and it is a rush to the extreme,
and once there, nothing is going to get done!
All this does is create a toxic environment because
no one really wants to talk about the issues.
Just the mention of the word “politics” and hair on
the back of your neck stands up!
By its very nature, politics sets up winners and losers,
because it pits us against each other.
It’s said that 1 in 6 people have lost a friend over politics.
Politics’ as it’s done today is divisive and this is not good!
Especially for followers of Christ!We can’t engage in politics the way the world does.
We can’t be pharisaical in our approach to people,
We can’t go around rat-holing people into good and bad groups…
it doesn’t line up with what we’ve been called to do.
Our calling is to bring salt and light into the world.
So obviously, we can’t just throw our hands up and say,
“I’m not having anything to do with this,” and pull away from our world.
We’re called to bring good into our world.
But this can be difficult because the culture around us may not want to hear what we have to say. In fact, Jesus warns us about this, he says:
“If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you.” John 15:18-19 CSB
So, it’s a given that the Gospel message, the culture we value,
and the things we do, are most likely not going to be received well.
This year we’ve been looking at what God has to say about important life questions. And this month we’ve been focusing on the question:
How do we live in but not of culture?
Obviously, politics is a part of our culture,
so we need to know how to engage in it.
So how do we do that? Is that even possible when it comes to the political divide we find ourselves in today?
The Answer is YES! But to do it right, we have to do it in line with God’s word.
You see, I believe the Bible has a lot to say to us about
politics and how we should respond to it.
As Christ-followers, we can engage the cultural and political issues of our day in ways that honor Christ and allow us to be salt and light to the world around us. We can live in culture as a faithful presence of the Gospel of Christ!
In other words, today’s political hot topics – as broad as that may be – are really just “touchpoints” for having grace-filled conversations where we can share the love of God.
Because politics is such a broad topic, to get the “big-picture”
we are going to do three things:
We will start with a “30,000-foot view of what the Bible says about government,” then move in closer and look at what Jesus says to us Matthew 22, and then we’ll make some application.
MP1: It’s important to understand that God has established three institutions… the home, the church, and the government.
Each of these institutions has a divine purpose.
I know as a church we have talked about – and will keep talking about! – the home and the church. But today, we’re focusing on the
institution of the government.
The first thing we need to know is: God puts every government in place.
When Jesus was before Pilate he said:
“You would have no authority over me at all, if it hadn’t been given you from above.” John 19:11 CSB
These last words Jesus speaks to Pilate are a recognition that all earthly authority comes ultimately from God. There is no authority invested in any institution or any person except through the delegation of that authority from God.
Government’s mandate is to maintain order; its primary purpose is the protection of its citizens. It does this by punishing evil and promoting good. That’s what Paul tells us in Romans 13.
But just because it’s been instituted by God, doesn’t mean that man is
going to do it right! It’s important to remember that even though God has ordained government for our benefit, know that broken people are involved with it – people who reject the Gospel – it can become corrupted and twisted out of its proper function.
So, if that’s the case, then how are we to respond as believers
when corrupt people run a government?
That brings us to our second point…
MP2: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BELIEVERS AND THE GOVERNMENT
The Bible speaks very clearly about what that relationship should look like. We’re to obey the authorities and be good citizens.
In fact, in Peter’s first letter he encouraged his readers to be subordinate and respectful to every human authority because of the Lord. He says, “we’re to love fellow believers, fear God, and honor the emperor.”
1 Peter 2:13-15 CSB
Paul even tells Titus that believers should be prepared at all times to “Submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.” (Titus 3:1, 2, CSB).
Clearly Both Peter and Paul were on the same page about how believers are to live. They were commanding Christians to be good citizens as they engage the world around them.
This was no small thing—don’t move over this thought too quickly.
I think it’s important to remember that when Peter and Paul are giving these commands, The Emperor was Nero, an evil and brutal man. Believers were living under an oppressive Roman government.
This naturally brings up the question: Are there times when we should not submit to the government? What if the government tells us to do things that are counter to God’s word? What are we to do?
This is where we follow the “Acts 5:29” principle.
The principle is this: Christians should obey the law of the land,
but when that law conflicts with God’s law,
we must obey God rather than people.
We must ultimately give our allegiance to,
and place our confidence in, God.
3MP: That’s because the government cannot save us! Only God can.
Governments are flawed, and they’re all going to crumble one day,
There’s only one permanent Kingdom, and its God’s.
Daniel tells us that, “the God of the heavens will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed” (Dan. 2:44 CSB)
Know that it’s God who decides the outcome of history,
not world leaders.
The apostles understood this. They don’t spend time telling us how to be a political activist. They didn’t write a guide on how to reform the world via the government.
But what they did do, was command those first century Christians, as well as us today, to proclaim the Gospel, and live lives that give clear evidence to the transforming power of the Gospel.
Sadly, today, some believers have forgotten this and have often displayed mean-spirited attitudes, they utilize the same kinds of worldly tactics as their unbelieving opponents.
Here’s the problem with that—they become antagonistic toward the very lost people God has called them to love and reach with the gospel. (MacArthur)
That’s wrong! It shouldn’t be this way; the Christian mandate is to spread the Gospel of Christ.
That’s our 30-thousand-foot view.
let me give you a couple of takeaways from it.
Know that God is in control. Don’t become undone by the political fighting that’s going on today. Know that God has got this.
He’s the one who sets up and deposes rulers.
We can place our confidence in Him and
be a faithful presence of the Gospel.
Now let’s drill down a bit deeper and take a look at what
Jesus has to say in Matt. 22:15-22.
Jesus has come into Jerusalem; he’s been teaching and challenging the religious leaders of the day. He’s really shaken up the religious establishment. They wanted to get rid of Jesus.
So, they conspire together and come up with a plan to make it happen.
One of the interesting things about this passage is that the
Pharisees and the Herodians are working together against Jesus.
These two groups would have been bitter rivals.
Pharisees opposed Roman rule with its intrusion into the Jewish way of life, while the Herodians supported Herod and the policies instituted by Rome. Yet, here they are, uniting together against Jesus.
Very strange bedfellows.
They hoped to trap Jesus with a trick question about the payment of a specific tax and whether it was right or not. The tax was the Roman poll tax. It was offensive to Jews…it represented their subjugation to Rome.
If Jesus answered “yes,” he would be seen as pro-Roman and would alienate the crowds. If he said “no,” the Pharisees and Herodians would denounce Him as a revolutionary.
But Jesus wasn’t fooled.
18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
Jesus sees right through their hypocrisy.
He knows their true motives, so He asked them for the coin.
It was a denarius, a silver coin, and it was a day’s wage.
The coin bore a portrait of Emperor Tiberius Caesar.
Not only was his image stamped on it, but it also had an inscription that said “Tiberius Caesar, son of the Divine Augustus,” and on the other side, it said “high priest.”
Why is Jesus drawing attention to the coin? There’s a couple of reasons.
First, the image demonstrated the rights of the ruler who coined the money! He had the right to demand tribute from the people under his rule. The emperor owned the coins, which bore his image.
In acknowledging that the image and inscription are “Caesar’s.”
the Pharisees disciples and the Herodians were admitting the coin itself was Caesar’s. And implicitly they’re acknowledging his authority,
and therefore the obligation to pay the tax.
It’s a brilliant answer!
Jesus’s statement “Give to Caesar, what is Caesar’s” is clear:
It affirms the general principle of submission to political authority.
But more importantly, Jesus doesn’t stop with Caesar;
He takes it a step further and says, “Give to God what is God’s.”So, what is it that we owe God?
Let’s go back to the idea of the image. Whose image stamped on the coin? Caesars.
So where does God have his likeness?
What is his image stamped on?
It’s on you and me!
We’re made in the Image of God. His Image is stamped all over us!
And since we bear God’s image, we’re obligated to give to God that which bears His image—ourselves! This reality should guide our beliefs,
our values, and all the things we do.
As an image-bearer, we’re to cultivate good, we’re to grow families, communities, and cities, and we’re to use the authority we have as image bearers to bring good into our world. That includes what we do in the realm of politics.
As image-bearers, we are to be scattered throughout all the different layers of institutions where we can be salt and light, spreading the love of Christ everywhere we go, and doing as much good as we can do. (Piper)
Some may be thinking, “Yeah, Jim, but that image has been marred.”
People have done some really nasty stuff in the name of politics.
And I say – you’re right! But through Christ, that image of God is being restored, as we come to know Jesus and take off the old self and put on the new self and move out into the world around us.
Colossians 3:9-10 CSB
You see Paul says we’re ambassadors for Christ!
2 Cor 5:20 CSB
We’re to think of our selves as an official representative;
and God is making his appeal to the world through us.
Bearing God’s image—giving our lives for His glory—makes it is possible for us to engage the current cultural and the political environment in ways that honor Christ and allow us to be salt and light to the world around us.
All of a sudden, all of these hot political topics now become “touchpoints” where we can bring the light of Christ into the culture around us and have grace-filled conversations with friends and family members in ways that allow us to share the love of Christ with them.
Let me give you a few steps to help us navigate rightly as image-bearers through the realm of politics.
- Be a faithful presence of the Gospel… Be agents of light.
In Ephesians 5 Paul say:
…Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth.
Living as children of light means adopting values that are the opposite of the surrounding political culture.
You don’t have to be divisive.
You can determine not to respond in kind, but rather be an agent of change, and instead work to “create culture” by faithfully walking
with Christ as children of the light.
- Pray regularly for our leaders
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he writes:
First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
When you’re watching the news or reading an article, and you feel your blood pressure begin to rise, stop! Use those feelings as a warning light that’s directing you to pray.
The last couple of weeks have turned into some of the ugliest weeks in politics. You may be disgusted with the whole thing. You might feel like you can’t pray for a particular group, especially that person!
But Paul said, pray for them all!
Praying for people we don’t necessarily like or agree with can be a hard thing to do at times. But if we’re going to be Christ’s Ambassadors,
we’ve got to do it.
- Reflect God to the world
As we engage culture, our primary job as believers is to
recover and recapture the Image of God.
Paul gives us some practical ways to do it in his letter to the Philippians. I’m going to highlight a couple of things he says, but I encourage you to read through the letter when you have some time.
- Live a life worthy of the Gospel of Christ.
Philippians 1:27 CSB
Just one thing: As citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ… standing firm in one spirit, in one accord, contending together for the faith of the gospel.
Our citizenship was purchased at a high price, and that reality should never leave our minds! As citizens of heaven we have an obligation to glorify God.
When Paul wrote this letter, he was in chains, His enemies were causing trouble for him, and his friends were worried about him. From a “worldly” point-of-view, it looked pretty bad.
But Paul didn’t see it that way, He knew he was a citizen of heaven,
and God was at work. And so, his single goal was to magnify Christ!
He put Christ and the Gospel ahead of everything else.
We should do the same, as a citizen of heaven, we don’t need to allow our self to be undone by the political circumstances around us,
but rather see them as opportunities to magnify Christ.
- Don’t Be a Grumbler, but Shine like Stars!
In Philippians 2:14-15 Paul tells us:
“Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world”
This is one of my favorite verses! It’s a reality check for me.
It’s pretty direct—it doesn’t need a lot of commentary, it tells me how I’m to work out God’s good purpose concerning my daily living.
If you’re a believer and you’re known as a griper and complainer, that’s a bad thing. It only hurts the cause of Christ; it pushes people away rather than drawing them to Christ. You don’t have to live this way, you can stop, and by God’s grace, you can experience the peace of God.
So by all means, Get out there and engage the political issues of our day, but do it in ways that honor Christ; do it in ways that demonstrate God’s love, think of ways to love even your ideologically opposed enemy!
Let’s determine to be that faithful presence of the Gospel of Christ,
as we shine like stars under His reign!
 Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1637). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
 Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 561). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.