In his second inaugural address, President George W. Bush praised America for its freedom: “When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner ‘Freedom Now’—they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled.” The president complimented America for tolerating “peaceful outrage”—demonstrations against the government of which he is the leader.
One of America’s founding principles was that people should be critical of the government.
The ability to disparage the authorities is viewed as a benchmark of a nation’s freedom. Governments that do not tolerate dissent are seen as regressive and dictatorial.
What does God think? Does He welcome dissent? Does He encourage us to disparage the government under which we live?
God’s View Vs. Satan’s View
“Thou shalt not revile [God—Elohim in Hebrew], nor curse the ruler of thy people” (Exodus 22:28). The Hebrew word translated revile means to slight or lightly esteem something, to make jokes about it or treat it with contempt and dishonor. God commands that we not esteem Him lightly or treat Him with dishonor.
But notice: He also says the same for the “ruler,” which is referring to a captain or leader—a public official. God pairs the leaders of government in this world in the same verse with Himself!
God doesn’t want us to have an attitude of contempt toward the government of the land, because, as we will see, He knows that will affect our attitude toward Him.
Because the issue is so critical in our relationship with our Creator, Satan fiercely attacks government! He hates government more than anything. “Satan broadcasts in feelings, moods, attitudes and emotions,” Gerald Flurry wrote in God’s Family Government. “Primarily these negative emotions are aimed at God’s government. That is how Satan destroys God’s government” (emphasis added). Secondarily, they are aimed at government in general.
Think about it. The media are absolutely saturated with anti-government messages. Family government is trashed in every sitcom, where virtually every father is an incompetent buffoon, a tyrant or invisible. Government in the workplace is ridiculed on practically every drama where the boss is the villain. National government is lambasted incessantly in news programs, which portray it as foolish, selfish, biased, blind or corrupt. Media relentlessly promote the notion of living your own life free from the strictures of responsibility and accountability to government.
Disrespect for authority is more consistent than any other message in mass media!
We live in Satan’s world. How much does his hatred of government influence us? How much have his attitudes rubbed off?
Let’s not kid ourselves; Satan has already deceived 95 percent of God’s people, 99 percent of the ministry, apparently all the angels under his charge—and the whole world. Having already twisted the world’s thinking, Satan uses all his subtlety to inject his poisonous anti-government message into our minds.
“The thrust of all Satan’s broadcasting is against what? Government—government—government! … He hates God’s government and inspires men to have the same attitude. Oh, what a hard lesson this is for men to learn!” (ibid). But we must learn it! If we don’t, it will affect our entire life—our family, our job, and ultimately our relationship with our Creator.
Mr. Flurry continued, “God’s government is the most important issue to God! And it must be in our minds too!”
Is government really everything to us? Do we have the right attitude toward government within our country, on our jobs, in our homes?
This issue takes constant self-examination because Satan’s attitudes routinely attach themselves to us like barnacles to the hull of a ship. We must perpetually fight to rid ourselves of his rebellious thinking.
It takes deep conversion to see government as God sees it.
Government in the Nation
Looking at how God wants us to view carnal government is a superb way to understand how important government, in general, is to Him.
America’s Founding Fathers were aware of human nature. They wanted to set up a government to avoid the abuses they had witnessed under a monarchy, so they divided the powers of government and set up a system of checks and balances. In this structure, three branches of government—executive, legislative and judicial—are all accountable to each other, and the people hold ultimate authority as the ones who vote representatives into office.
This democratic system required an informed people who could vote responsibly. This required a free press to report objectively on the government’s activities—good and bad—to keep the people clued in; therefore, the Founders guaranteed the freedom of the press in the First Amendment. The press became an informal “fourth branch” of government, keeping track of the other branches and serving as a watchdog for the public on government and business.
It all makes logical sense, and certainly helps prevent a certain amount of corruption that arises within government unaccountable to the people it governs. But it also gives rise to another—in some ways much more significant—problem.
What is God’s attitude toward people being watchdogs against the individuals leading them?
Notice the command in Ecclesiastes 10:20: “Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.” The Matthew Henry commentary explains the first part of that verse to mean, “[J]oin not … in speaking ill of the government or plotting against it.” (See also Job 34:18.)
Cursing the leaders, speaking ill of the government, even cursing the rich business leaders—these are hallmarks of American democracy. Any mistake the president or other public official makes, the press attacks with piranha-like ferocity. The lead-up to elections are particularly brutal, as people on all sides smear candidates and candidates smear one another.
Is democracy really more godly than a monarchy?
People feel duty-bound, presumably by their patriotism, to scrutinize governing officials because, after all, voting responsibly requires it. But even the fact that people vote does not negate the truth contained in Romans 13:1: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” Truly, “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (Daniel 4:17).
The passage in Romans 13 shows that God judges those who resist the leader He has installed (verse 2). Verses 3 and 4 call that physical leader a “minister of God.” Minister comes from the same word, diakonos, used for the ministry in the Church. The power comes from the same place. God gives authority to certain men in the Church, and He ordains people into worldly offices. All power comes from Him!
Our job, then, is to respect the physical office.
Clearly, when a worldly official commands us to break God’s law, then—like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—we must obey God rather than men. (Even then, we as individuals must be subject to whatever punishment will follow; Daniel’s three friends submitted to being cast into the fiery furnace.)
But consider: Generally, today, we don’t have leaders telling us to bow down and worship them. The bulk of the pressure pushes us in the other direction—the public and media encourage us to disparage our leaders, to revile them and make light of them, to consider them unfit for their offices. This is clearly violating God’s law regarding government!
In our world, submission to government is associated only with fascism. Don’t fight the government goes against the democratic foundation. Still, that is God’s command to each one of us.
The January 1964 Plain Truth made this point: “Since all authority is ordained of, or allowed by, God, we are to be subject to human governments. In respecting that authority, we are showing respect to God. Anyone who resists the authority of human governments is actually rebelling against God who ordains that authority. This applies not only to civil authorities, but equally as well to any person in a position of authority, whether a schoolteacher or a foreman in a factory. …
“Even though officials may be elected or appointed by the people, they are accountable only to God who permits them to exercise authority. Persons in responsible positions may fail to properly fulfill the responsibilities of their offices—to punish wrong deeds and preserve order. They may even in some cases corrupt the government. But as long as God permits them to be in authority and to remain in office, you are commanded to remain in subjection to the divinely ordained authority which they hold.”
God tells us to cry aloud and tell this world its sins. So when leaders cause the people to err, God’s Work must proclaim what is happening. We are to sigh and cry for the abominations in Israel, and that includes the government. We need to watch for the fulfillment of prophecy.
But we also need to make sure we’re not cursing the king—even in our thoughts. We also need to sigh and cry for how much people despise government!
Around the world, people laud the benefits of being able to criticize the government. But how many consider the negative effects? What about the problems that arise from the media playing the watchdog and reporters hunting for blood? What about the increasingly violent divisions within the populace? Look at the fruits! America is divided down the middle, and the media tarnish the country’s name before all the world.
The world believes criticism is a God-given right. In God’s Kingdom, this ingrained outlook will have to be unlearned!
“Human beings in authority sometimes serve themselves and the devil, but the office is ordained of God! You honor the person because of the office which he holds, even when his deeds may be evil. … God never approves corruption or abuses by office-holders. But it is God, not you, who will judge them. Your obligation is to respect the authority of the office” (ibid).
We certainly have to acknowledge and to thank God for the freedoms we enjoy in America. God has allowed the government to be so set up in such a way as to facilitate His Work! 1 Timothy 2:1-3 say we should pray for the king and for all in authority so we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in godliness and honesty. God’s people must set the example in submission to our human government.
On the Job
The same principles apply on the job. How common it is to ridicule the boss. This is definitely not of God.
Read Ephesians 6:5-7. God tells us to serve our boss “as unto Christ,” “as the servants of Christ” and “as to the Lord”—He makes this point three times in as many verses! He wants us to respond to our bosses as we would if Christ Himself were giving the instructions! We must serve our boss as diligently as we would serve Christ. Very soon, Christ literally will be our Boss!
Such responsiveness can only spring from a heartfelt respect for the one we are serving. Earnestly try to cultivate good feelings toward that individual. Don’t abide grumbling among co-workers. Shut out your own negative attitudes. Treat your boss as if he is Christ—as if he is a perfect man! Of course he isn’t, but that is the attitude toward government we should strive for. This is totally different from the way the world looks at the workplace.
It doesn’t matter whether or not our boss is in God’s Church. 1 Timothy 6:1-2 say we should consider unbelieving masters “worthy of all honour” (that is, giving them respect even within our minds)—and be just as respectful toward masters in the Church. In God’s mind, the principle of submission toward authority is one and the same.
How important is this issue to God? Does He really think government is everything? Yes—in fact this issue is central to the message of the whole Bible! Titus 2:9-10 say that when we obey our bosses, we “adorn the doctrine of God.”
A Kingdom of God Mindset
What is God trying to get us to learn by respecting and submitting to our president, employer or whoever else is put over us?
1 Peter 2:13 tells us to “[s]ubmit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.” Remember—God put them in power over us! (Again, if a human command conflicts with God’s law, we must obey God—and submit to the punishment.)
Verse 17 puts fear of God and honor of the king in the same context. Then, the chief apostle says, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward”—or harsh and overbearing (verse 18).
Why? So we learn to submit to government. It will be much easier to submit to a loving God if we learn to submit to a hard boss. There is no need for us to be watchdogs. We all must learn the lesson of submitting to government even if it is not being applied correctly.
Look at Christ’s example. He put Himself totally in His Father’s hands, knowing God was in control of everything. When He came before Pilate, He didn’t revile—He submitted Himself to that authority. He knew that Pilate had no power but what God gave him, and that everything occurs according to God’s will (verses 22-23).
If we can learn this lesson of submitting to whomever God puts over us in the world, it will tremendously help our marriages, our relationships within the Church, and our relationship with our heavenly Father. It will prepare us for the Kingdom of God.
In the Church
What is our attitude toward government within the Church—toward Mr. Flurry; toward the ministry?
In Who Is ‘That Prophet’?, Mr. Flurry talks about how his experiences with “one-man rule” under Mr. Armstrong—the same government so many other churches disparage—were nothing but positive. What about you and me? Is it clear to us in the Church that we are part of God’s Family, under a government of love?
It is our attitude in our role that provides the key to our happiness.
Satan will try to inject doubts in our minds, focusing our attention on the man and his faults. The moment we start thinking a minister doesn’t really know what he’s doing, we become deeply susceptible to Satan’s influence. (Obviously, we should never follow a minister who is not following Christ.)
Lucifer thought, I could do just as good a job as God is doing. At the very heart of his thinking was this dissatisfaction that resulted in a critical mindset—when he should have had a submissive mindset. He did not submit to the government over him.
Jesus Christ, on the other hand, said repeatedly, I only do what I see my Father do. I do always those things that please the Father. My Father is greater than I. He knew that government is everything! And look what God could accomplish through Him as a result. Christ knew how to submit to government and to serve the one over Him with all His might.
Ministers are a vital part of the government of the Church. They are to be honored even more than worldly bosses (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 5:17). The principle is the same as with your boss: Count your minister worthy of all honor!
In the Family
What about government within our marriages?
Outside of sexual fidelity (the Seventh Commandment), respect is the most basic must-have in a woman’s relationship with her husband. God commands that a wife deeply respect her husband (Ephesians 5:33). She is to reverence him, which means to venerate and treat with deference or reverential obedience. It is the same word used in Hebrews 12:9, which speaks of reverence toward God!
Even when a woman’s husband is unconverted, this command does not change. 1 Peter 3:1-2 say the wife should be in subjection to him either way. In fact, to the unconverted man, she should endeavor to set such a sterling example in this respect that the man may be won over! Peter says this carnal man should be able to “behold [visibly see] your chaste [conduct] coupled with fear”!
Naturally, every husband makes mistakes (though, sometimes, wives may perceive more than actually occur or consider them more egregious than they actually are). It is not a sin to notice a mistake. It is a sin to dwell upon it and let it become a stumbling block for you in respecting your husband.
Every wife is married to a flawed and sinful man. But God does not command you to change him—He commands you to reverence him.
Pray that God will help you see what is positive and admirable in him. God will help you count your husband worthy of honor. Think about how hard he works and what he provides for the family. Look for his strengths and focus on the qualities you married him for. Put your husband first after God—and watch the blessings come your way!
The previously quoted January 1964 Plain Truth article gave this advice: “Most Christians ought to pray more earnestly that their minds and hearts would be free from slanderous thoughts, no matter how much the person seems to deserve them.”
Jeremiah 31:22 says, “[T]he Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.” In Jeremiah and the Greatest Vision in the Bible, Mr. Flurry wrote, “The woman is God’s Church. Christ prophesied that He would build His Church …. But that is not the whole story. That Church will surround, or be built around, ‘a man.’ The root word for surround is revolve. So God’s Church revolves around ‘a man.’
“This is one of the most profound concepts in the Bible. It is a very strong statement about God’s government.” Mr. Flurry then described the way God always builds His Work around a man. Then he wrote, “Voluntarily accepting God’s government today qualifies us to be Christ’s Bride—the highest position man can attain in God’s Kingdom!
“This concept goes much deeper. Marriage and family are God-plane relationships. They are a type of the firstfruits marriage to Christ and the Family of God. The physical marriage and physical family must revolve around a man as the head if we are ever to enter God’s Family—our purpose for being on this Earth! … We must submit to God’s government today, or we’ll never rule with Christ or be in His Kingdom!”
What a future awaits us if we can deeply learn this lesson of government!
Government Is Everything
We all need to purge ourselves of satanic attitudes toward government and replace them with God’s perspective on government in every aspect of our lives.
It is impossible for us to do this humanly. We can’t trust our own judgment on this most important of issues. We must let Christ come in our flesh so God can guide, direct and correct us, especially in this area. He alone can expose to us our own vanity, self-will and government problems. We must bring every thought into captivity (2 Corinthians 10:2-5). We must realize that our human reasoning could be exalting itself against God’s reasoning!
Take courage! Satan’s influence is nothing compared to God’s mighty power. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (verse 4). What weapons God provides us against our own carnality!
We must use the power of God to obey God’s commands in this critical area of our lives and to take on a positive attitude toward government. The right attitude will lead to greater happiness in our marriages and families, our congregations—even our nation. Most importantly, it will put us on the right footing with our Creator.
Government truly is everything!