Obeying the Laws of the Land

From Issue: Discovery 7/1/2005

Are you ever tempted to break the law? Maybe you have gone into a grocery store and considered swiping some of the candy from the candy aisle. Perhaps when a policeman has instructed you to cross the road at a particular intersection, you thought about disobeying his orders. Sometimes when we want to do something-even though we know the law is against it-the temptation to go ahead and break the law can be very strong.

Jesus made it very clear that He wants His people to be model citizens. He wants Christians to be very careful to obey the laws of the government. On one occasion, some bad men who disliked Jesus tried to trick Him by asking Him whether it was lawful to pay taxes to the king of Rome. Jesus asked someone to give Him a coin, He then asked them whose image was on the coin. They said it was Caesar’s. Jesus then stated: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).

Paul put it this way: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1). That means everyone is supposed to obey the laws that have been made by the government. Most of the laws of the land are meant to help people get along with each other, to be safe, and to keep order and peace. Think what would happen if a person did not drive on the correct side of the road. He would cause an accident and hurt himself and others. So laws are not usually meant to be bad, mean, or unfair.

There is an exception to this principle of obeying the laws of the land, which was given by the apostles when certain authorities told them to stop teaching people about Jesus. They said: “We ought to obey God rather than men’ (Acts 5:29). They meant that when human laws conflict with God’s laws, we must obey God’s laws-even if it means breaking man’s laws. But when man’s laws do not conflict with God’s laws, Christians should obey the laws of the land.


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