Why Did Jesus Not Get Involved in Politics?
PICTURE a scene from the year 32 C.E. It is late in the day. Jesus, the foretold Messiah, has already won great renown for healing the sick and even resurrecting the dead. Today, he has awed a crowd of thousands by performing powerful signs and by sharing teachings of God. Now he divides the hungry people into smaller groups. He prays to Jehovah and miraculously feeds them all. Then, to avoid waste, he collects the leftovers. How do the people react?—John 6:1-13.
Well, after seeing Jesus’ miracles and his skillful leadership in managing the crowds and caring for their needs, the people conclude that Jesus would be a perfect king. (John 6:14) Their response is not surprising. Remember that they were desperate for a good, effective ruler; their beloved homeland was under the oppressive rule of a foreign power. So they put direct pressure on Jesus to join in the political process. With that background in mind, consider his reaction.
“Jesus, knowing they were about to come and seize him to make him king, withdrew again into the mountain all alone,” says John 6:15. Jesus’ stand could hardly have been more decisive. He resolutely refused to get involved in the politics of his homeland. His stand never changed. He said that his followers were to take the same position. (John 17:16) Why did he take this stand?
Why Did Jesus Choose Neutrality?
Jesus’ neutrality regarding the politics of this world was well-grounded in Scriptural principles. Consider just two.
“Man has dominated man to his injury.” (Ecclesiastes 8:9) That is how the Bible sums up the history of human rule. Remember, Jesus existed as a spirit in heaven long before he came to earth as a man. (John 17:5) He thus knew that man, however well-meaning, lacks the ability to care properly for the needs of billions of people; nor was he created by God to do so. (Jeremiah 10:23) Jesus knew that the solution to mankind’s problems lay elsewhere—not in human governments.
“The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) Do you find that statement startling? Many do. They think of sincere people who get involved in government because they want to make the world a better, safer place. Try as they might, though, even the most sincere rulers cannot overcome the influence of the one whom Jesus called “the ruler of this world.” (John 12:31; 14:30) That is why Jesus said to one worldly politician: “My kingdom is no part of this world.” (John 18:36) Jesus was the prospective King of God’s heavenly government. Had Jesus mixed in politics, he would have sacrificed his loyalty to his Father’s government.
Did Jesus teach, then, that his followers have no obligation to earthly governments? On the contrary, he taught them how to find the right balance between their responsibilities toward God and their obligations toward secular governments.
Jesus Respected Governmental Authority
While Jesus was teaching in the temple, opposers tried to put him in an impossible situation by asking whether people should pay taxes. If Jesus said no, his answer would have been deemed seditious and might even have fueled a spirit of revolt among downtrodden people eager to throw off the yoke of Roman oppression. But if Jesus said yes, many would have felt that he condoned the injustices they faced. Jesus’ answer was a masterpiece of balance. He said: “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Luke 20:21-25) So his followers have obligations to God and to Caesar—that is, the secular government.
Governments maintain a measure of order. They rightly require citizens to be honest, to pay taxes, and to uphold the law. What example did Jesus set in paying “Caesar’s things to Caesar”? Jesus had been raised by parents who obeyed the law even when doing so was inconvenient. For example, Joseph and his pregnant wife, Mary, traveled some 90 miles [150 km] to Bethlehem when a Roman census decree required it. (Luke 2:1-5) Like them, Jesus was law-abiding, even paying taxes that he did not really owe. (Matthew 17:24-27) He also carefully refrained from overstepping his authority in secular matters. (Luke 12:13, 14) We might say that Jesus respected the machinery of government, although he refused to operate it. What, though, did Jesus mean about paying “God’s things to God”?
How Jesus Gave “God’s Things to God”
Jesus was once asked which was the greatest of all the laws God gave to man. Christ answered: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39) Jesus taught that when it comes to paying “God’s things to God,” the first thing we owe Him is love—which involves our wholehearted, complete allegiance.
Can such love be divided? Can our loyalty be split, with some going to Jehovah God and his heavenly government and some going to an earthly government? Jesus himself stated the principle: “No one can slave for two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24) Jesus was there speaking about dividing one’s loyalties between God and riches, but he clearly felt that the same principle applied to involvement in politics—as did his followers in the first century.
The oldest available records show that Jesus’ followers in the ancient world did not take any active part in politics. Because they gave all their worship to the One whom Christ worshipped, they refused to pledge allegiance to Rome and its emperor, to take up military service, and to accept public office. They suffered all manner of hostility as a result. Their enemies sometimes accused them of hatred against mankind. Was that accusation a fair one?
True Christians Care About People
Recall Jesus’ reference to the second-greatest of God’s commandments—“You must love your neighbor as yourself.” Clearly, no genuine follower of Christ is free to hate mankind. Jesus loved people, expended himself for them, and helped them even with the most practical and mundane problems.—Mark 5:25-34; John 2:1-10.
For what, though, was Jesus primarily known? He was addressed, not as Healer, not as Feeder of Thousands, and not even as Resurrector of the Dead—although he did fill all those remarkable roles. But people called him Teacher, and rightly so. (John 1:38; 13:13) Jesus explained that a major reason he came to the earth was to teach people about the Kingdom of God.—Luke 4:43.
That is why Christ’s genuine followers devote themselves to the same work that occupied their Master when he walked the earth—teaching people the good news about God’s Kingdom. Jesus Christ commissioned all true Christians to teach people worldwide about that subject. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) That incorruptible heavenly government will rule over all of God’s creation, according to the law of love. It will accomplish God’s will, even eliminating suffering and death. (Matthew 6:9, 10; Revelation 21:3, 4) No wonder the Bible refers to Christ’s message as “good news”!—Luke 8:1.
So if you are looking for the genuine followers of Jesus Christ on earth today, how can you identify them? Will they be mixing in the politics of this world? Or are they making their main mission the same as that of Jesus—preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of God?
Would you like to learn more about the Kingdom of God and how it can affect your life now? We invite you to contact Jehovah’s Witnesses locally or to visit their official Web site, www.watchtower.org.
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Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Help the Community?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are politically neutral. They are, however, deeply involved in helping people of all races and backgrounds in their community. Consider a few facts:
◼ Jehovah’s Witnesses include over seven million volunteers who spend a total of more than 1.5 billion hours annually teaching people what the Bible contains and how it can help them overcome harmful habits and practices, build happy families, and otherwise improve their lives.
◼ They print and distribute literature free of charge in over 500 languages, including some in which no other printed literature exists.
◼ They conduct public speaking courses that have helped millions learn to express themselves clearly and tactfully.
◼ They sponsor literacy programs that have helped tens of thousands of people worldwide learn to read and write.
◼ They have organized over 400 Regional Building Committees worldwide to train volunteers in construction skills so that they can build centers of Bible education. In the past decade, over 20,000 houses of worship, or Kingdom Halls, have been built.
◼ They are involved in disaster relief around the world, rendering aid to Witnesses and non-Witnesses. In a two-year period following a recent spate of hurricanes that struck the United States, Witness volunteers rebuilt over 90 Kingdom Halls and 5,500 homes.
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When people pressured Jesus to get involved in politics, he withdrew “into the mountain all alone”