God and Civil Government

In a sermon preached at New Covenant Baptist Church in Chicago in 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. urged: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

Every functioning community requires administration. Our text today provides us with a list of many of the officials who assisted David. Some were legal functionaries whose responsibility was to judge cases from the Law of Moses and who probably served outside Jerusalem (26:28–29). Others were made responsible for “every matter pertaining to God and for the affairs of the king” (26:32). They might have been responsible for the collection of tithes and taxes. David’s administrative structure included military commanders, tribal leaders, those who oversaw his properties and storehouses, as well as counselors. David’s leadership was a spiritual matter, but it also had a civil dimension. Part of his shepherding responsibility was to tend to the government of his people.

Scripture teaches that civil government is a reflection of common grace. Civil government serves the common good. One of its benefits is protection. But this kind of administration comes with a cost. This is why paying our taxes is a Christian obligation. For this reason Paul admonishes us: “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” (Rom. 13:7).

Apply the Word

In addition to paying taxes, you should also pray for our leaders: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:1–2). Remember them in your prayers today.

BY John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

Browse Devotions by Date