“Pay back . . . God’s things to God.”—MATTHEW 22:21.
1. How can we obey both God and human governments?
THE Bible teaches us to obey human governments, but it also tells us that we must always obey God. (Acts 5:29; Titus 3:1) How is this possible? Jesus explained a principle that helps us to know whom we should obey. He said that we should pay back “Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (See endnote.) (Matthew 22:21) We pay back “Caesar’s things to Caesar” when we obey the laws of the government, treat government officials with respect, and pay taxes. (Romans 13:7) Yet if the government tells us to do something that God does not want us to do, we refuse to do so, but always in a respectful way.
2. How do we show that we do not take sides in the world’s politics?
2 One way we pay back “God’s things to God” is by not taking sides in the political issues of this world. We are neutral in these matters. (Isaiah 2:4) Since Jehovah allows human governments to rule, we do not oppose them. We also do not get involved in any patriotic or nationalistic activity. (Romans 13:1, 2) We do not try to change governments or try to influence politicians, and we do not vote in political elections or become politicians.
3. Why must we remain neutral?
3 There are many reasons why God tells us to be neutral. One reason is that we imitate Jesus, who was “no part of the world.” He never took sides in politics or in wars. (John 6:15; 17:16) Another reason is that we support God’s Kingdom. Because we do not support human governments, we have a clean conscience when we preach that only God’s Kingdom will solve all mankind’s problems. False religions take sides in politics, and this divides people. But because we are neutral, we are united with our brothers and sisters around the world.—1 Peter 2:17.
4. (a) How do we know that it will become more difficult to remain neutral? (b) Why should we prepare now to remain neutral?
4 We may live in a place where people do not expect us to take sides in politics. But the closer we get to the end of Satan’s system, the more difficult it will be for us to remain neutral. People today are already “not open to any agreement” and “headstrong,” and they will become even more divided. (2 Timothy 3:3, 4) Some of our brothers have already been affected by sudden political changes in their country. That is why we need to prepare ourselves now to stay neutral even in a difficult situation. Let us consider four things we can do to prepare.
THINK OF HUMAN GOVERNMENTS THE WAY JEHOVAH DOES
5. What does Jehovah think about human governments?
5 One way we can prepare now to remain neutral is to think of human governments the way Jehovah does. Jehovah did not give humans the right to rule over other humans when he created them. (Jeremiah 10:23) He views all humans as one family. But human governments have divided people by claiming that their nation is the best. Even when governments seem to be good, they cannot solve all problems. Also, they have become enemies of God’s Kingdom, which began ruling in 1914. Very soon this Kingdom will remove all human governments.—Read Psalm 2:2, 7-9.
Prepare now to stay neutral even in a difficult situation
6. How should we treat those who have authority in the government?
6 God allows human governments to exist because they can maintain some peace and order. This helps us to preach the good news about God’s Kingdom. (Romans 13:3, 4) God even tells us to pray about those who have authority so that we can worship him in peace. (1 Timothy 2:1, 2) When we are not treated fairly, we may ask those who have authority in the government for help. That is what Paul did. (Acts 25:11) Although the Bible says that Satan controls human governments, it never says that he controls each individual who has authority in a government. (Luke 4:5, 6) So we should never give anyone the idea that a certain government official is controlled by the Devil. The Bible explains that we should not insult others.—Titus 3:1, 2.
7. What thinking must we avoid?
7 We obey God by not favoring any politician or political group, even when their ideas or opinions could benefit us. At times, this may not be easy for us. For example, imagine that people rebel against a government that has caused much suffering, even for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Of course, you would not join those who are rebelling, but would you think that the rebels are right and hope that they are successful? (Ephesians 2:2) If we want to remain neutral, we should avoid feeling that one side is right or is better than another. This will be evident by what we say and what we do.
BE “CAUTIOUS” YET “INNOCENT”
8. When it is difficult to remain neutral, how can we be “cautious” yet “innocent”?
8 A second way to remain neutral is to be “cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves.” (Read Matthew 10:16, 17.) We are “cautious” when we think of difficulties ahead of time. And we remain “innocent” when we stay neutral in those difficult situations. Let us discuss some of those situations and what we can do to remain neutral.
9. What must we be careful of when talking to others?
9 Conversations. We must be very careful when people start discussing political issues. For example, when we are talking with someone about God’s Kingdom, we would not say that we agree or disagree with the ideas or opinions of a particular political group or leader. Instead of discussing what humans want to do to solve mankind’s problems, show from the Bible how God’s Kingdom will permanently fix them. If people want to argue about a topic, such as same-sex marriage or abortion, tell them what God’s Word says and how you try to follow it in your life. If someone says that certain laws should be removed or changed, we do not take sides, and we do not insist that the person change his opinion.
Compare what you hear with “the standard of wholesome words” found in the Bible
10. How can we make sure that we remain neutral when we watch or read anything in the media?
10 The media. Sometimes a news story is told in a way that strongly supports one side of an issue. This is especially true in countries where the news is controlled by the government. If news organizations or reporters take sides, we must be careful not to start thinking the way they do. For example, ask yourself, ‘Do I enjoy listening to a certain reporter because I agree with what he says about politics?’ To help you remain neutral, avoid watching or reading many reports that take sides in political issues. Instead, try to find reports that do not take sides. And always compare what you hear with “the standard of wholesome words” found in the Bible.—2 Timothy 1:13.
11. How might it be hard for us to remain neutral when the things we own are very important to us?
11 Materialism. When money and the things we own are very important to us, we may find it hard to stay neutral. After 1970 many Witnesses in Malawi had to give up everything they owned because they refused to join a political group. Sadly, some would not give up their comfortable life. A sister named Ruth remembers, “Some went into exile with us but later joined the political party and returned home because they did not want to put up with the discomforts of life in the refugee camp.” But most of God’s people are not like that. They remain neutral, even if as a result they have less money or lose everything they own.—Hebrews 10:34.
12, 13. (a) What does Jehovah think about humans? (b) How can we tell if we are becoming too proud of our country?
12 Pride. It is common for people to be proud and boast about their race, tribe, culture, city, or country. But Jehovah does not think that one person or group of people is better than another. To him, we are all equal. Of course, Jehovah made us all different from one another, and we can enjoy and admire this variety. He does not want us to give up our culture. But he also does not want us to think that we are better than others.—Romans 10:12.
13 We should never be so proud of our country or nation that we think it is better than any other. If we feel that way, it may become very difficult for us to stay neutral. This happened in the first century. Some Hebrew brothers did not treat the Greek widows fairly. (Acts 6:1) How can we tell if we are starting to develop that kind of pride? If a brother or a sister from another place gives you a suggestion, do you immediately think, ‘We do things better here,’ and then reject it? If so, remember this important counsel: “With humility consider others superior to you.”—Philippians 2:3.
JEHOVAH WILL HELP YOU
14. How can prayer help us, and what Bible example proves this?
14 A third way to stay neutral is to rely on Jehovah. Pray for holy spirit, which can give you patience and self-control. These qualities will help you if the government does something that is dishonest or unjust. Ask Jehovah for wisdom to recognize a situation that might make it difficult for you to stay neutral. And ask him to help you to do the right thing in that situation. (James 1:5) You may be sent to prison or punished in some other way because of being loyal to Jehovah. If so, pray for courage so that you can explain to others in a clear way why you are neutral. You can be sure that Jehovah will help you to endure.—Read Acts 4:27-31.
Learn Bible verses that will help you to remain neutral and verses that describe the new world
15. How can the Bible help us to remain neutral? (See also the box “God’s Word Strengthened Their Conviction.”)
15 Jehovah has given us the Bible to strengthen us. Meditate on verses that will help you to remain neutral. Try to learn these verses and remember them, because they will help you if ever you do not have a Bible with you. The Bible can also strengthen your hope in what God says about the future. We need this hope to endure persecution. (Romans 8:25) Choose verses that describe the things you especially wish to enjoy in the new world, and imagine yourself there.
BENEFIT FROM FAITHFUL SERVANTS OF JEHOVAH
16, 17. What can we learn from the examples of God’s faithful servants who remained neutral? (See opening picture.)
16 A fourth thing that will help us stay neutral is to think about the examples of faithful servants of Jehovah. Many in Bible times had courage, and they made wise decisions that helped them to stay neutral. Think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who refused to worship an image that represented the government of Babylon. (Read Daniel 3:16-18.) This Bible account helps many Witnesses today to be courageous and refuse to worship the flag of the country where they live. Jesus did not get involved with politics or other issues that divide people. He knew that his good example would help his disciples. He said: “Take courage! I have conquered the world.”—John 16:33.
17 Many Witnesses in our time have remained neutral. Some of them have been tortured, put in prison, and even killed because they stayed faithful to Jehovah. Their examples can help us to have courage. One brother from Turkey said: “Franz Reiter was a young brother who was executed because he refused to join Hitler’s army. The letter he wrote to his mother the night before he died showed tremendous faith and confidence in Jehovah, and I wanted to follow his example if I faced such a trial.”—See endnote.
18, 19. (a) How can the members of your congregation help you to remain neutral? (b) What are you determined to do?
18 The brothers and sisters in your congregation can help you to stay neutral. Let the elders know if you are in a difficult situation. They can give you good advice from the Bible. Also, if members of the congregation know what your situation is, they can encourage you. Ask them to pray for you. But we too should support our brothers and pray for them. (Matthew 7:12) To find lists of names of brothers who are in prison, see the article on jw.org called “Jehovah’s Witnesses Imprisoned for Their Faith—By Location,” which can be found under NEWSROOM > LEGAL DEVELOPMENTS. Choose a few names, and ask Jehovah to help these brothers and sisters to be courageous and stay loyal to him.—Ephesians 6:19, 20.
19 As we get closer to the end, we can expect governments to put more and more pressure on us to take sides. That is why it is important for us to prepare now to stay neutral in this divided world!
 (paragraph 1) Jesus was speaking about the government when he mentioned Caesar. At that time, Caesar was the ruler and was the highest human authority.
 (paragraph 17) See the book Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, page 662, and the box “He Died for God’s Honor” in chapter 14 of the book God’s Kingdom Rules!