Governments and Morality

It is commonly accepted that there are standards of right and wrong in the world. The Declaration of Independence refers to them as the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” To obey these laws is right and to disobey them is wrong. These standards apply to every individual of every nation. The laws that are obvious to most people include commands against murder, stealing, lying and adultery. Commands that aren’t so obvious because more people choose to disobey them include love God, don’t follow other God’s, set aside one day in seven to worship God and don’t take God’s name in vain or count it worthless.

While many would agree that these laws apply to every individual, confusion begins when we ask if these laws apply to governments. If they don’t apply to governments, then we must realize that the government can do no wrong. If all government actions are amoral it might be time to figure out how to use that for your advantage. You could then work together with a bunch of your friends and their friends until enough of you controlled the government so that you could steal from those who were too rich or silence those you didn’t like.

The illustration is obviously absurd and immediately points to the alternative view. The laws that apply to individuals do apply to governments. The problem comes when we decide how to apply this fact. We have tended to come up with a second level of morality that applies to governments. You know that it would be wrong to take money from your rich neighbor to pay for college. To get around this, the majority elect “representatives” to take money from their neighbors that they use to pay for college. Just because it’s the “will of the people” doesn’t make it right.

Suppose you and your friend call a meeting and invite your rich neighbor. At the meeting the majority (you and your friend) make a decision that you will take money from your rich neighbor and distribute it among yourselves. Does that make it ok now? It doesn’t matter if we say government is different because it’s a voluntary association. How does one go about getting out of volunteering or more importantly – being volunteered?

The problem is answered by admitting that their is an authority higher than government. If government was the final standard it could do whatever it wanted. An evil government would do evil and call it good. If government created the laws it would be the final decider of right and wrong. Government did not create the laws and therefore governments are not above the law. All governments and men are responsible to obey the law of God. It is the responsibility of the follower of Christ to speak out and call to repentance immoral governments and the people in them just as much as we are called to preach repentance to the individual on the street.

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