To Whom Do You Belong?
What choice is there? What will yours be?
WOULD you not be angry if another man demanded that your wife totally submit to him? Would you not be incensed if he demanded that your wife give her devotion and loyalty to him instead of to you, her husband?
A man would be outraged at this invasion of his husbandly rights. A wife belongs to her husband. No other person has the right to disrupt the marriage bond. Jesus Christ gave emphasis to this when he said: “Therefore, what God has yoked together let no man put apart.”—Matt. 19:6.
GOD AND THE STATE
There is a situation similar to this today. It is in connection with the demands that the political state makes on the lives of its subjects. In many countries military dictators or iron-fisted politicians rule, demanding total loyalty from the people. Communist governments that control about a third of the world’s population are among those that demand such total subjection. More and more, powerful governments seek to regulate and regiment the lives of their subjects wholly. They feel that the people belong to them and must do all that the rulers ask.
Yet, God is spoken of as a husband to his people who are in covenant relationship with him. The Bible puts it this way: “I [God] myself had husbandly ownership of them.” (Jer. 31:32; Isa. 54:5) Because of this relationship God has the right to require his people to observe certain things that pertain only to this close, intimate arrangement. But where the political state does not recognize this relationship, then a conflict can ensue when the State demands absolute submission of all people, including God’s servants.
Many of the demands of civil authorities are right and proper. After all, Jesus Christ himself said that each person should “pay back . . . Caesar’s things to Caesar.” (Matt. 22:21) It is mandatory, therefore, for citizens to obey all the legitimate demands placed upon them by the government under which they live. This is also in harmony with the apostle Paul’s words when he said: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities,” meaning the political state, or the civil authorities.—Rom. 13:1.
Indeed, God’s laws require that his people be model citizens in whatever land they live, not cheating, lying, stealing, committing immorality, never resorting to violence against another, and obeying all the various rules and regulations that the government places on them that do not conflict with God’s laws. Their upright, honorable and decent course of action is an asset to any nation in which they live. No civil authority need be concerned about antisocial behavior, delinquency, or criminal activity of such people.
However, does this mean that the individual, especially one who is keenly interested in doing God’s will, belongs to the State in a total or complete sense? Must his subjection be rendered even at the expense of his intimate relationship with God, who says that He is as a husband to his people? No. While Jesus urged men to pay back to Caesar what belonged to Caesar, he also said that men should pay back “God’s things to God.”—Matt. 22:21.
So while certain duties must be rendered to the State because they rightly belong within its jurisdiction, there are other duties that must be rendered only to Almighty God because they belong only within his jurisdiction. They cannot be rendered to anyone else. Hence, the subjection of God-fearing persons to the political state is relative, not total, because no man or organization of men can rightfully demand what belongs to God.
The illustration of a husband and a wife can again be applied to this situation. A wife might rightfully go to work for another man at his place of business. But if her employer required that she submit totally to him, in all areas, including the intimate details pertaining to married life, then his demands would be out of order and could not be complied with. The employer would be demanding what the wife could rightly give only to her husband. Any pressure to get her to switch her loyalty and devotion from her husband would be wrong. The employer could rightly require only that she fulfill the obligations of her secular employment. He could not rightfully go beyond that, invading the area that belongs to her husband, and expect her to comply. As a devoted wife she could not do so.
This same principle applies to man’s relationship with God. God is the Creator. He gave man life and provided him with the things necessary to sustain life. He rightfully can require something in return, as a husband who provides for his wife requires certain things of her. While God permits human governments to exercise a measure of control over individuals, as an employer might over a man’s wife, He does not give such governments of men the right of absolute control, requiring submission even in those areas that belong only to Him.
Those in covenant relationship with God have an intimate relationship with him. All who are dedicated to him must fulfill their obligations toward him. They appreciate that their loyalty, their integrity, their devotion and worship belong to God. So do their lives. They cannot sacrifice them for another cause. They appreciate that they must give total submission to God, while giving relative submission to organizations of men, including political governments. They cannot give their lives, loyalty and worship to another, when these belong only to God. To transfer to the political state such intimate aspects of one’s relationship to God would be a violation of this relationship. It would be like a wife’s agreeing to have intimate relations with another man not her husband. That would be adultery. For one of God’s servants to give total loyalty and worship to the political state would likewise be adultery, spiritual adultery. It is as God himself explains in his Word: “Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.”—Jas. 4:4.
Men in positions of political control would do well to consider this: Just as a husband is angered by one who demands that his wife violate her marriage obligations, so God is angered at any who demand that his servants violate their obligations to him. When such persons go to the point of persecuting those who want to do God’s will, what then? The Bible answers: “Indeed God himself will break the head of his enemies in pieces.” (Ps. 68:21) God assures us that he will ‘avenge the blood of his slaves.’ (Rev. 19:2) “Jehovah is guarding all those loving him, but all the wicked ones he will annihilate.”—Ps. 145:20.
TO WHOM DO YOU BELONG?
When a person gives to the civil authority what belongs to it, and at the same time gives to God what belongs to God, then he is really God’s slave, or servant. He belongs to God because he is maintaining the proper balance between the requirements of God and those of the State. But when a person gives to the civil authorities what belongs to them and at the same time also gives to those authorities what should be given only to God, then he is in fact the slave of the political authority. He belongs, not to God, but to that worldly authority.
It is not whom we think we are serving that matters. What matters is whom we are serving in actual fact. Jesus said: “No one can slave for two masters.” (Matt. 6:24) The apostle Paul added: “Do you not know that if you keep presenting yourselves to anyone as slaves to obey him, you are slaves of him because you obey him?” (Rom. 6:16) So while some may feel that they are not in servitude toward God and hence belong to themselves, they in reality belong to the political state, since they obey it even when it demands activity that violates God’s law. It is as the Bible says: “For whoever is overcome by another is enslaved by this one.”—2 Pet. 2:19.
No one who wants to do what is right in God’s sight can disregard this vital issue of belonging to one or the other. By his actions a person shows he belongs either to God or to the State. All who want God’s blessings will be concerned about determining where they stand. Where do you stand?
Paul warned: “You were bought with a price; stop becoming slaves of men.” (1 Cor. 7:23) Yes, God gave his Son Jesus Christ to ransom mankind from sin and death. Therefore, whether you have the hope of heavenly life or want to live forever on the paradise earth God promises obedient ones, you should heed Paul’s counsel to “stop becoming slaves of men.” You will want to be like a faithful wife who loyally sticks to her husband and who does not break her marriage vows when illegal demands are made on her.
Make sure of your position before God. Apply yourself to a diligent study of his Word, the Bible. In this way you will be able to ascertain clearly what your responsibilities are toward God and toward man. Sincerely apply yourself to living the way God wants you to live. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but make certain that you do something much more important, that is, give to God what belongs to him. Have the same mental attitude the apostle Paul had when he said: “For both if we live, we live to Jehovah, and if we die, we die to Jehovah. Therefore both if we live and if we die, we belong to Jehovah.”—Rom. 14:8.
If you want God’s blessings, you must belong to him. You must maintain the proper balance in your relationships between God and the civil authorities. Then you can look to God for his benefits. You can say as the psalmist, who exclaimed: “O do guard my soul, for I am loyal. Save your servant—you are my God—that is trusting in you. Show me favor, O Jehovah, for to you I keep calling all day long.”—Ps. 86:2, 3.
This is what the true God, Jehovah, has said, the Creator of the heavens and the grand One stretching them out; the One laying out the earth and its produce, the One giving breath to the people on it, and spirit to those walking in it: “I am Jehovah. That is my name; and to no one else shall I give my own glory, neither my praise to graven images.”—Isa. 42:5, 8.