Intermediate 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

[Paul, on what to teach:] Remind believers to willingly place themselves under the authority of government officials.   Titus 3:1a GW

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

For authorities are established by God and punish wrongdoers

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.   Romans 13:1-3a GW

But citizens should defy commands that conflict with God’s will

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.   Daniel 3:28 ISV

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.   Acts 5:27b-29 GW

Authorities’ Duties to Citizens

Authorities should act and rule according to God’s ways

[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.   Deuteronomy 17:18-19 NET

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

Authorities should rule as servants of God and their people

[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.   Romans 13:3b-4a GNT

[Elders, to 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.”   1 Kings 12:7b ESV

Authorities should rule wisely

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

Authorities should rule justly

[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.   2 Chronicles 9:8b NET

Authorities should defend the needy

[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.”   Proverbs 31:8-9 NCV™

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.

Servants should be obedient, submissive and respectful

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.   Colossians 3:22 NET

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

Servants should be trustworthy and faithful

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.   Titus 2:10 NCV™

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.’   Matthew 25:20-21 ESV

Masters must treat servants justly

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

Masters must not withhold servants’ wages

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

Pray for persecuted Christians