Christ interactions regarding the temple tax convey a message of submission to lawful authority as an aspect of human relationship with God. He chose to pay the tax despite potential grounds for objection. Submission to authority is God’s mandate conveyed through Prophet Samuel’s interactions with the people of Israel, when God delegated to government the responsibility to reign over the people and authority to execute the responsibility. Paul summarized the relationship in his letter to Romans—Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
This bible study begins a three-part series on understanding human interactions with lawful authority. We discuss Christ interactions regarding the temple tax to understand the basis for submission to lawful authority and assessing potential grounds for objection. We see that he chose to pay the tax despite recognizing potential grounds for objection. We begin the series with a discussion of the basis for submission to lawful authority.
We see that submission to lawful authority is rooted in God’s mandate conveyed through interactions between Prophet Samuel and the people of Israel, when God approved a government based on kingship for Israel. He delegated to government the responsibility to reign over the people and authority to execute the responsibility: “Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights” [1 Samuel 8:9].
As we discuss in a previous bible study under Authority of Government—Israel Asks for King, the responsibility and authority that God delegated to government based on the interactions include the authority to collect taxes and other revenue, raise military and security forces, own landed property, and represent the nation among other nations.
To understand the basis for submission to authority, we discuss Christ interactions regarding the temple tax and the interactions between Samuel and the people of Israel regarding their demand for a government led by king. The second session in the series will discuss respect for due process in any event of raising objections against lawful authority. The third session will discuss submission to authority despite grounds for objection: to emphasize the principle of choosing battles to avoid in order to direct effort to more fruitful objectives.
Based on Samuel’s interactions with Israel regarding demand for a king, we understand the authority of government comes from God and is exercised on behalf of the people to fulfill government responsibilities. The authority includes collecting taxes, raising military and security services, redefining use for landed property, and representing the people in international affairs. The interactions define general principles for relationships between a people and their government.
We begin a bible study series on The King and the People focused on understanding God’s purpose for relationships between people and their government. The study will be based on information described in the bible, particularly several messages that God sent to Israel regarding interactions with their rulers. We pray for understanding the messages to potentially contribute toward reducing the apparent gap in expectation between people and governments in several parts of the world. What should governments expect of the people and what should the people expect of their government? We believe the bible provides answers to these questions in enough details to guide our everyday interactions as government leaders or recipients of government leadership.
The study begins with Prophet Samuel’s interactions with the people of Israel in responding to the people’s demand for a king. At the time, Samuel was spiritual leader and judge over Israel: he guided them through interactions with God and in all matters requiring a leader. However, the people of Israel became increasingly dissatisfied with their form of leadership as time approached for a leadership transition. They asked Samuel to appoint a king for them, with the expectation that their dissatisfaction with the current form of leadership will be resolved through the appointment of a king: “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have” [1 Samuel 8:5].
Samuel prayed about their demand and received God’s direction to accept the demand: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you …” [1 Samuel 8:7]. Furthermore, God directed him to explain to the people that the leadership they demanded will come with certain authority and expectations: “Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights” [1 Samuel 8:9]. He directed Samuel to accept the people’s demand for a king and their expectations of the king that they conveyed through the demand. Additionally, Samuel would explain to the people that the form of government they demanded will come with expectations and authority to compel them to fulfill the expectations.
Therefore, we discuss Samuel’s interactions with Israel in these events to understand how the interactions define government responsibilities to the people and people’s responsibilities to government. Furthermore, we discuss the source of government authority as defined through the events. Information from the events indicate God delegating authority to government to provide a range of services for and on behalf of the people, obtain resources from the people to support the services, and interact with the people according to rules determined by them through the government.