Everyone likes the idea of good government. I certainly do. But how do we define “good?” People’s expectations of what “good” means differ markedly. For some people, good government means one that can consistently run a budget surplus, that doesn’t harm innocent people, keeps all its promises and reduces taxation.
For others, good government is one that provides all sorts of handouts to those it defines as needy, that favours big companies with tax breaks, but increases the tax rate on people as their salary increases, is seriously interested in reducing the carbon footprint, or preventing the destruction of old growth forests, or stopping the export of live sheep and cattle, on the grounds of “animals welfare,” or preventing law-abiding people in the community having unlimited access to firearms.
In one conversation that Jesus had, He showed a surprising interest in the adjective “good.” Replying to a question from someone who addressed Him as “Good teacher,” Jesus replied, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone (Mk.10:17-18).”
This should teach us something: everything good comes from God. And if that’s true, then good government would find its origins in the Bible, gaining its master-plan from God and His Word, while evil governments ignore or despise God’s Word.
Can it be as simple as that? Absolutely.
Does the Bible really say much about government? It actually says quite a lot, if we will go looking. Speaking of Jesus Christ, it says that “…the government will rest on His shoulders…”, and “…there will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace…” (Isa.9:6, 7).
Think of this important comment from North:
It should be the ideal for every system of civil law to remove all positive sanctions by the State and impose only those negative sanctions authorized by biblical law. The State is to impose negative sanctions only: punishing public evil. It is not a wealth-creator; it is a wealth-redistributer. It is not safe to entrust to the State the power of making one man rich at the expense of another. It is also not moral.
Jesus defined “good” as those things that came from God, but the tyrants of the twentieth century (such as such as Stalin, Hitler and Mao), were God haters. They ignored and despised God’s Word, and their political, social and economic policies reflected this attitude. Stalin’s predecessor Lenin V.I. Lenin made this clear when he defined the meaning of his dictatorship as “unlimited power, resting directly on force, not limited by anything.” They all believed that their definition of government was legitimate and good, yet they were cumulatively responsible for the death of over a hundred million innocent people. They were humanists, and few people today would call theirs, “good government.”
Because the Bible’s definition of good government is so radically at odds with humanistic definitions, we should avoid like the plague the notion of governments “doing good.” According to the Bible, government should not be about providing positive sanctions to people in the community, but is only responsible to ensure God’s law is maintained. No redistribution of wealth (except in cases of restitution for criminal behaviour, as determined by the courts), no graduated taxation rates, no taxation higher than 9%, no compulsory education, and in general, no restrictions on people leaving or coming to the country. And in summary, no interference with what people do with themselves, except if they are in breach of God’s law.
It was Chesterton who commented that “when people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing: they believe in anything.” Historically, when people reject the true Messiah Jesus Christ, they seek another one, and they most commonly focus on government. Government “provides,” because it has access to vast sums of wealth through taxation. Evil people think, “there must be a way to access that money.” Yes, there is a way: to get sufficient politicians to see things your way!
Many of us don’t want government to do good by humanistic definitions. We would prefer that they kept out of our lives and our bank-accounts, letting us do what we want.
A philosophy of government derived from the Bible would ensure that governments kept out of the “doing good business,” because a) It never lines up with Biblical philosophy and practice. b) They waste vast amounts of our money. c) They subvert and oppose the work of responsible individuals, families and churches. d) They employ a vast army of bureaucrats to take responsibility for tasks that God made individuals, families and churches responsible for. e) They never finish up doing much good at all.
Then we have to pay through taxation, and who benefits the most? Why, bureaucrats and politicians, of course!
Since the garden of Eden, disaster has always been the result when people ignore God’s commands and come up with their plan. And here’s the big question: whose definitions will you pay attention to? What sort of government do you want?