Posted by / Sunday 19 March 2017 / No comments

Jesus' teaching on the state

In his teachings, Jesus recognized the importance of the state or political establishments and believed that they must exist even in as much as God and his purpose for man also exist.

The book of Mark records how a group of Pharisees and Herodians tried to trap Jesus into committing himself. They asked Jesus whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not. Jesus asked for a coin. He asked them whose inscription was on it and they answered that it was Caesar’s. Then he told them to render what is due to Caesar and render to God what is due Him. In effect, Jesus was acknowledging that it is important for human political institutions to exist. The Pharisees and the Herodians were astonished at his shrewd answer and just went silent.

In his teachings on the state, he taught that people must be willing to submit themselves to any political institution that is in existence and demands obedience to the laws of the land. In the book of Matthew, Jesus advised that the people should submit themselves to the legal force of the state. He said, when they are asked to go one mile, they must go two miles.  

In the early days, even before his ministry started, Jesus encountered Satan who tempted him three times. In one of the temptations, Jesus’ answer demonstrated clearly that human or political authority was subservient to God’s power. When Satan asked Jesus to worship him in exchange for authority over all the kingdoms of the world, Jesus replied that “Thou shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve”. Jesus was emphatic in his answer to Satan that only God is worthy of worship.

Jesus, in his teachings on the state, showed a great deal of disdain for authoritarian rule. In fact, he felt that it was not good for rulers to lord themselves over their subjects. He would have been a crusader against current despotic rulers of Africa and the world at large, if he was alive today. This can be gorged from his admonition to the disciples not to lord themselves over the people under them as the Gentile leaders were wont to do.

Jesus preached against populist resistance to the state and it assigns. This was demonstrated during his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane. One of the people who were with him stretched forth his hand, took his sword and cut off the ear of one of the slaves of the High Priest. Jesus was not pleased with his action because it was tantamount to resisting arrest by a lawful officer of the state. Jesus asked the man to put his sword away.

Jesus taught that citizens must respect the laws of the state even if it was against their better judgment. The book of Matthew recounts that, one day, in Capernaum, the collectors of the half-shekel tax asked Peter why his master does not pay that tax. Jesus felt that, as the son of the king of this world, he did not have to pay that tax, but according to Jesus, in order not to offend them; Peter should go to the Sea and cast a hook. The first fish he catches would have a shekel in its mouth. Peter should use that shekel and pay the tax for the both of them. Clearly, Jesus did not want to ruffle the political boat.

1. Highlight six of Jesus’ teachings on the state.

2. Explain in six different ways, the attitude Jesus showed toward the state.

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