TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Comprehensive Edition

II. Civil Relationships

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Chapter 34  Part II

Civil Relationships

In addition to relationships with family members, the Bible looks at other relationships which have a marked effect on our lives. In doing so, it gives wise and challenging teaching regarding relationships between citizens and governing authorities, and between employees and employers.

Citizens’ Duties to Authorities

Citizens should submit to and obey the governing authorities . . .

Titus 3:1  [Paul, instructing Titus what to teach believers:] Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.  NET

As with the command “be subject to”, the command to “be obedient” is also given in regard to “rulers and authorities”.

. . . For the authorities have been established by God and they will punish wrongdoers

Rom 13:1-3  Every person should obey the government in power. No government would exist if it hadn’t been established by God. The governments which exist have been put in place by God. 2Therefore, whoever resists the government opposes what God has established. Those who resist will bring punishment on themselves. 3People who do what is right don’t have to be afraid of the government. But people who do what is wrong should be afraid of it.  GW

Citizens should defy any command that conflicts with God’s will

Dan 3:28  Nebuchadnezzar spoke up and said: ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego! He sent his angel to deliver his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king’s command and were willing to risk their lives in order not to serve or worship any god except their own God.  ISV

Acts 5:27-29  When they brought back the apostles, they made them stand in front of the council. The chief priest questioned them. 28He said, “We gave you strict orders not to mention Jesus’ name when you teach. Yet, you’ve filled Jerusalem with your teachings. You want to take revenge on us for putting that man to death.” 29Peter and the other apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than people.  GW

Citizens should honor authorities

1Pet 2:17  Show respect for all people: Love the brothers and sisters of God’s family, respect God, honor the king.  NCV™

Citizens should pray for authorities

1Tim 2:1-2  [Paul:] First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, 2even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.  NET

 Questions for Section A

Authorities’ Duties to Citizens (I): General

Governing authorities should act and rule according to God’s law and ways

Deut 17:18-20  [Moses, giving instructions for a king:] When he sits on his royal throne he must make a copy of this law on a scroll given to him by the Levitical priests. 19It must be with him constantly and he must read it as long as he lives, so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and observe all the words of this law and these statutes and carry them out. 20Then he will not exalt himself above his fellow citizens or turn from the commandments to the right or left, and he and his descendants will enjoy many years ruling over his kingdom in Israel.  NET

2Ki 18:3  And he [King Hezekiah] did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done.  ESV

Authorities should rule as servants of God and of their people

Rom 13:3b-4  [Paul:] Would you like to be unafraid of those in authority? Then do what is good, and they will praise you, 4because they are God’s servants working for your own good. But if you do evil, then be afraid of them, because their power to punish is real. They are God’s servants and carry out God’s punishment on those who do evil.  GNT

1Ki 12:7  And they said to him [King Rehoboam], “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.”  ESV

Authorities should rule wisely . . .

2Chr 11:23  And he [a king] dealt wisely and distributed some of his sons through all the districts of Judah and Benjamin, in all the fortified cities, and he gave them abundant provisions and procured wives for them.  ESV

Jer 3:15  [God, to Israel:] I will give you leaders who will be faithful to me. They will lead you with knowledge and insight.  NET

. . . Authorities need to be wise

Deut 1:13  [Moses, to the Israelites:] Select wise and practical men, those known among your tribes, whom I may appoint as your leaders.  NET

Note: Further traits that should characterize authorities

Prov 20:28  Steadfast love and faithfulness preserve the king, and by steadfast love his throne is upheld.  ESV

Josh 1:6, 9  [God, to Joshua:] Be strong and brave! You must lead these people in the conquest of this land that I solemnly promised their ancestors I would hand over to them. … 9I repeat, be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do.  NET

 Questions for Section B

Authorities’ Duties to Citizens (II): Justice

Authorities should rule justly

2Sam 8:15  David reigned over all Israel; he guaranteed justice for all his people.  NET

2Chr 9:8b  [The queen of Sheba to King Solomon:] Because of your God’s love for Israel and his lasting commitment to them, he made you king over them so you could make just and right decisions.  NET

Authorities should defend the needy

Ps 72:4  He [a Davidic king] will defend the oppressed among the people; he will deliver the children of the poor and crush the oppressor.  NET

Prov 31:8-9  [Instructions to a king:] “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; defend the rights of all those who have nothing. 9Speak up and judge fairly, and defend the rights of the poor and needy.”  NCV™

Authorities should not rule unjustly . . .

Ezek 45:9  This is what the sovereign Lord says: Enough, you princes of Israel! Put away violence and destruction, and do what is just and right. Put an end to your evictions of my people, declares the sovereign Lord.  NET

. . . Unjust rule brings God’s judgment

Isa 10:1-3  [God:] Those who enact unjust policies are as good as dead, those who are always instituting unfair regulations, 2to keep the poor from getting fair treatment, and to deprive the oppressed among my people of justice, so they can steal what widows own, and loot what belongs to orphans. 3What will you do on judgment day, when destruction arrives from a distant place? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your wealth?  NET

Various insights on unjust rule

Prov 17:7  Excessive speech is not becoming for a fool; how much less are lies for a ruler!  NET

Prov 28:15-16a  Like a roaring lion or a roving bear, so is a wicked ruler over a poor people. 16The prince who is a great oppressor lacks wisdom …  NET

Verse 15 illustrates the viciousness and destructiveness of a wicked ruler.

 Questions for Section C

Servants and Masters

A number of verses in this section refer to slaves rather than servants. Generally the teaching regarding one of them is also very much applicable to the other. Also note that in referring to servants or slaves, some of the verses speak of relationships with governing authorities, particularly kings. As such they speak of relationships between citizens and authorities, and so are also pertinent to the preceding sections.

Servants should obey and respect their masters

Col 3:22  Slaves, obey your earthly masters in every respect, not only when they are watching – like those who are strictly people–pleasers – but with a sincere heart, fearing the Lord.  NET

1Pet 2:18  Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.  ESV

Servants should be trustworthy and faithful

Titus 2:10  They [slaves] should not steal from them but should show their masters they can be fully trusted so that in everything they do they will make the teaching of God our Savior attractive.  NCV™

Matt 25:20-21  And he [a servant] who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’  ESV

Good service is rewarded

Prov 17:2  A servant who acts wisely will rule over an heir who behaves shamefully, and will share the inheritance along with the relatives.  NET

Col 3:23-24  Do your work willingly, as though you were serving the Lord himself, and not just your earthly master. 24In fact, the Lord Christ is the one you are really serving, and you know that he will reward you.  CEV

Masters must treat servants justly

Col 4:1  Masters, treat your slaves with justice and fairness, because you know that you also have a master in heaven.  NET

Lev 25:43  Do not treat them harshly, but obey your God.   GNT

Masters should pay servants their wages

Lev 19:13b  You must not withhold the wages of the hired laborer overnight until morning.  NET

Mal 3:5  The Lord All-Powerful says, “Then I will come to you and judge you. I will be quick to testify against those who take part in evil magic, adultery, and lying under oath, those who cheat workers of their pay and who cheat widows and orphans, those who are unfair to foreigners, and those who do not respect me.  NCV™

Note: Slavery is to be avoided and slave trading is evil

1Cor 7:23  [Paul, to believers:] You were bought with a price. Do not become slaves of men.  NET

1Tim 1:9b-10  It [the law] is for people who are against God and are sinful, who are not holy … 10who sell slaves, who tell lies, who speak falsely, and who do anything against the true teaching of God.  NCV™

 Questions for Section D

Pray for persecuted Christians