2I say: Keep the king’s command, because of God’s oath to him. 3Be not hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand in an evil cause, for he does whatever he pleases. 4For the word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, “What are you doing?”
(Ecclesiastes 8:2-4 ESV)
One way we put wisdom to work in our lives is in our interaction with our government. In today’s passage King Solomon explains how to exercise wisdom and behave appropriately with respect to our leaders.
We are to keep the king’s command. The term “king” here refers to government of any form, be it a monarch or democratically elected officials. No matter what form of government we are under, we are to obey their rules.
We do this because of God’s oath to them. Here Solomon is referring to the allegiance citizens make to their country. Back in Solomon’s day, citizens took an oath of allegiance to the king when the assumed the throne [1 Chronicles 29:24; 2 Samuel 5:1-3; 2 Kings 11:17].
Similarly, a naturalized citizen of a country takes an oath to their new homeland. Naturalized U.S. citizens, for example, swear to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America…” and “to bear true faith and allegiance to the same…”
But when we make an oath, we are actually making that oath to God. God takes our oaths seriously [Matthew 5:33]. He does not want us going back on our promises to others be they our employers, spouses (i.e. divorcing after swearing to stay together “til death do us part”), or government.
There may be times when we’ll want to go from the government’s presence – when we’ll want to disobey. We should not be hasty in making such a decision. Certainly there will be times when obeying the government will not be convenient (e.g. jury duty, paying taxes). And there may be times when the government commands us to do something that goes against our beliefs.
We obey government not because we agree with it but because we want to honor our promise to them. Doing so brings glory to God. To disobey is to break our oath to God.
Any authority under which we find ourselves is a God-ordained authority and should be obeyed [Romans 13:1]. The only exception is when such an authority commands us to do something that goes against God’s Word. Only then are we to disobey because doing so demonstrates that God is the higher authority [Acts 4:19].
Nor should we take up an evil stand against our government. Notice God does not tell us not to take a stand. We should take a stand when government goes against God’s word. But we are not to take an evil stand – one that is born of selfishness.
There may be times when government requires us to do something we don’t like. But if that request does not violate God’s word we should obey it whether we like it or not.
The government, after all, has the power to enforce its own rules (does whatever it pleases; the word of the government is supreme) [Romans 13:4]. One reason why it is wise to obey the government is simply because it has the power to compel us to do so. God recognizes that it’s better to go along without being forced rather than going along forcibly.
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