Paying Caesar His “Dues”
Jesus provided a formula that would govern Christian conduct toward the Roman State or, for that matter, any other government, when he declared: “Pay back . . . Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Matthew 22:21) This counsel to Jesus’ followers was in stark contrast with the attitude of many nationalistic Jews who resented Roman domination and contested the lawfulness of paying taxes to a foreign power.
Later, Paul told Christians living in Rome: “There is therefore compelling reason for you people to be in subjection, not only on account of that wrath but also on account of your conscience. For that is why you are also paying taxes; for they [governmental “superior authorities”] are God’s public servants constantly serving this very purpose. Render to all their dues, to him who calls for the tax, the tax; to him who calls for the tribute, the tribute.” (Romans 13:5-7) While Christians were no part of the world, they were duty-bound to be honest, tax-paying citizens, paying the State for services rendered.—John 17:16.
But are Jesus’ words limited to paying taxes? Since Jesus did not define exactly what is Caesar’s and what is God’s, there are borderline cases that must be decided according to the context or according to our understanding of the entire Bible. In other words, deciding what things a Christian can pay Caesar would sometimes involve the Christian’s conscience, as enlightened by Bible principles.
A Careful Balance Between Two Competing Claims
Many people tend to forget that after stating that Caesar’s things should be paid back to him, Jesus added: “But [pay back] God’s things to God.” The apostle Peter showed where the priority lies for Christians. Immediately after counseling submission to the “king,” or emperor, and his “governors,” Peter wrote: “Be as free people, and yet holding your freedom, not as a blind for badness, but as slaves of God. Honor men of all sorts, have love for the whole association of brothers, be in fear of God, have honor for the king.” (1 Peter 2:16, 17) The apostle showed that Christians are slaves of God, not of a human ruler. While they should show proper honor and respect for representatives of the State, they are to do so in the fear of God, whose laws are supreme.
Years earlier Peter had left no doubt as to the preeminence of God’s law over man’s. The Jewish Sanhedrin was an administrative body to which the Romans had granted both civil and religious authority. When it ordered Jesus’ followers to stop teaching in Christ’s name, Peter and the other apostles replied respectfully but firmly: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) Clearly, the early Christians had to maintain a careful balance between obedience to God and proper submission to human authorities. Tertullian put it this way early in the third century C.E.: “If all is Caesar’s, what will remain for God?”
God and Caesar
“By all means, then, pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.”—LUKE 20:25.
1. (a) What is Jehovah’s elevated position? (b) What do we owe to Jehovah that we can never give to Caesar?
WHEN Jesus Christ gave that instruction, there was no doubt in his mind that God’s claims on His servants take precedence over anything that Caesar, or the State, may require of them. Jesus knew better than anyone the truthfulness of the psalmist’s prayer to Jehovah: “Your kingship is a kingship for all times indefinite, and your dominion [sovereignty]* is throughout all successive generations.” (Psalm 145:13) When the Devil offered Jesus authority over all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth, Jesus replied: “It is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” (Luke 4:5-8) Worship could never be given to “Caesar,” whether Caesar is the Roman emperor, some other human ruler, or the State itself.
2. (a) What is Satan’s position relative to this world? (b) With whose permission does Satan occupy his position?
2 Jesus did not deny that the kingdoms of the world were Satan’s to give. Later, he called Satan “the ruler of this world.” (John 12:31; 16:11) Toward the end of the first century C.E., the apostle John wrote: “We know we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) This does not mean that Jehovah has relinquished his sovereignty over the earth. Remember that Satan, when offering Jesus rulership over the political kingdoms, stated: “I will give you all this authority . . . because it has been delivered to me.” (Luke 4:6) Satan exercises authority over the kingdoms of the world only by God’s permission.
3. (a) What position do the governments of the nations hold before Jehovah? (b) How can we say that subjection to the governments of this world does not mean subjecting ourselves to Satan, the god of this world?
3 Similarly, the State exercises its authority only because God as Sovereign Ruler permits it to do so. (John 19:11) Thus, “the existing authorities” can be said to “stand placed in their relative positions by God.” Relative to Jehovah’s supreme sovereign authority, theirs is by far a lesser authority. However, they are “God’s minister,” “God’s public servants,” in that they provide necessary services, maintain law and order, and punish evildoers. (Romans 13:1, 4, 6) So Christians need to understand that just because Satan is the invisible ruler of this world, or system, they are not subjecting themselves to him when they recognize their relative subjection to the State. They are obeying God. In this year, 1996, the political State is still a part of “the arrangement of God,” a temporary arrangement that God permits to exist, and it should be recognized as such by Jehovah’s earthly servants.—Romans 13:2.
Jehovah’s Servants of Old and the State
4. Why did Jehovah allow Joseph to become prominent in the government of Egypt?
4 In pre-Christian times, Jehovah permitted some of his servants to occupy prominent positions in State governments. For example, in the 18th century B.C.E., Joseph became prime minister of Egypt, second only to the reigning Pharaoh. (Genesis 41:39-43) Subsequent events made it evident that Jehovah maneuvered this so that Joseph could serve as an instrument in preserving the ‘seed of Abraham,’ his descendants, for the outworking of His purposes. Of course, it should be borne in mind that Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt, and he lived at a time when God’s servants had neither the Mosaic Law nor “the law of the Christ.”—Genesis 15:5-7; 50:19-21; Galatians 6:2.
5. Why were Jewish exiles commanded to “seek the peace” of Babylon?
5 Centuries later the faithful prophet Jeremiah was inspired by Jehovah to tell Jewish exiles to submit to the rulers when in exile in Babylon and even to pray for the peace of that city. In his letter to them, he wrote: “This is what Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, has said to all the exiled people, . . . ‘Seek the peace of the city to which I have caused you to go into exile, and pray in its behalf to Jehovah, for in its peace there will prove to be peace for you yourselves.’” (Jeremiah 29:4, 7) At all times Jehovah’s people have reason to “seek peace” for themselves and the nation where they live, in order to have freedom to worship Jehovah.—1 Peter 3:11.
6. Although given high governmental positions, in what ways did Daniel and his three companions refuse to compromise with regard to Jehovah’s Law?
6 During the Babylonian exile, Daniel and three other faithful Jews who were captives in slavery to Babylon submitted to State training and became high-ranking civil servants in Babylonia. (Daniel 1:3-7; 2:48, 49) However, even during their training, they took a firm position on dietary matters that could have led them to break the Law that their God, Jehovah, had provided through Moses. For this they were blessed. (Daniel 1:8-17) When King Nebuchadnezzar set up a State image, Daniel’s three Hebrew companions apparently were compelled to attend the ceremony with their fellow State administrators. Nevertheless, they refused to “fall down and worship” the State idol. Again, Jehovah rewarded their integrity. (Daniel 3:1-6, 13-28) Similarly today, Jehovah’s Witnesses respect the flag of the nation in which they live, but they will not perform an act of worship toward it.—Exodus 20:4, 5; 1 John 5:21.
7. (a) What fine stand did Daniel take, despite having an elevated position in Babylon’s governmental structure? (b) What changes came about in Christian times?
7 After the fall of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty, Daniel was given a high-ranking governmental post under the new Medo-Persian regime that replaced it in Babylon. (Daniel 5:30, 31; 6:1-3) But he did not allow his high position to lead him into compromising his integrity. When a State law required that he worship King Darius rather than Jehovah, he refused. For this he was thrown to the lions, but Jehovah delivered him. (Daniel 6:4-24) Of course, this was in pre-Christian times. Once the Christian congregation was established, God’s servants came “under law toward Christ.” Many things that were permitted under the Jewish system were to be viewed differently, based on the way in which Jehovah was now dealing with his people.—1 Corinthians 9:21; Matthew 5:31, 32; 19:3-9.
Jesus’ Attitude Toward the State
8. What incident shows that Jesus was determined to avoid political involvement?
8 When Jesus Christ was on earth, he set higher standards for his followers, and he refused all involvement in political or military matters. After Jesus had miraculously fed several thousand people with a few loaves of bread and two small fish, Jewish men wanted to seize him and make him a political king. But Jesus avoided them by quickly withdrawing to the mountains. (John 6:5-15) Regarding this incident, The New International Commentary on the New Testament states: “There were fierce nationalistic longings among the Jews of that period, and doubtless many of those who saw the miracle felt that here was a divinely accredited leader, who was just the one to lead them against the Romans. So they set themselves to make him king.” It adds that Jesus “decisively rejected” this offer of political leadership. Christ gave no support to any Jewish insurrection against Roman domination. Indeed, he foretold what would be the result of the revolt that would take place after his death—untold woes for the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the destruction of that city.—Luke 21:20-24.
9. (a) How did Jesus describe the relationship of his Kingdom to the world? (b) What guidance did Jesus give his followers as to their dealings with the governments of the world?
9 Shortly before his death, Jesus told the special representative of the Roman emperor in Judea: “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.” (John 18:36) Until his Kingdom puts an end to the rule of political governments, Christ’s disciples follow his example. They render obedience to those established authorities but do not interfere in their political undertakings. (Daniel 2:44; Matthew 4:8-10) Jesus left guidelines for his disciples, stating: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Matthew 22:21) Earlier, in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had said: “If someone under authority impresses you into service for a mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:41) In the context of this sermon, Jesus was illustrating the principle of willing submission to legitimate demands, whether in human relations or in governmental requirements that are in harmony with God’s law.—Luke 6:27-31; John 17:14, 15.
Christians and Caesar
10. According to one historian, what conscientious position did the early Christians hold with regard to Caesar?
10 These brief guidelines were to govern the relationship between Christians and the State. In his book The Rise of Christianity, historian E. W. Barnes wrote: “Whenever, for centuries to come, a Christian was in doubt as to his duty towards the State, he turned to Christ’s authoritative teaching. He would pay taxes: the dues levied might be heavy—they became intolerable before the collapse of the Western Empire—but the Christian would endure them. He would likewise accept all other State obligations, provided he was not called upon to render unto Caesar the things that belonged to God.”
11. How did Paul counsel Christians to deal with worldly rulers?
11 It was in line with this that, a little over 20 years after Christ’s death, the apostle Paul told the Christians in Rome: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities.” (Romans 13:1) About ten years later, shortly before his second imprisonment and his execution in Rome, Paul wrote to Titus: “Continue reminding them [Cretan Christians] to be in subjection and be obedient to governments and authorities as rulers, to be ready for every good work, to speak injuriously of no one, not to be belligerent, to be reasonable, exhibiting all mildness toward all men.”—Titus 3:1, 2.
Progressive Understanding of “the Superior Authorities”
12. (a) What did Charles Taze Russell view as the proper position of a Christian relative to the governmental authorities? (b) Regarding serving in the armed forces, what varied positions did anointed Christians take during World War I?
12 As early as 1886, Charles Taze Russell wrote in the book The Plan of the Ages: “Neither Jesus nor the Apostles interfered with earthly rulers in any way. . . . They taught the Church to obey the laws, and to respect those in authority because of their office, . . . to pay their appointed taxes, and except where they conflict with God’s laws (Acts 4:19; 5:29) to offer no resistance to any established law. (Rom. 13:1-7; Matt. 22:21) Jesus and the Apostles and the early church were all law-abiding, though they were separate from, and took no share in the governments of this world.” This book correctly identified “the higher powers,” or “the superior authorities,” mentioned by the apostle Paul, as human governmental authorities. (Romans 13:1, King James Version) In 1904 the book The New Creation stated that true Christians “should be found amongst the most law-abiding of the present time—not agitators, not quarrelsome, not fault-finders.” This was understood by some to mean total submission to the powers that be, even to the point of accepting service in the armed forces during World War I. Others, however, viewed it as contrary to Jesus’ statement: “All those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) Obviously, a clearer understanding of Christian submission to the superior authorities was needed.
13. What change in understanding of the identity of the higher powers was presented in 1929, and how did this prove beneficial?
13 In 1929, at a time when laws of various governments were beginning to forbid things that God commands or demand things that God’s laws forbid, it was felt that the higher powers must be Jehovah God and Jesus Christ.* This was the understanding Jehovah’s servants had during the crucial period before and during World War II and on into the Cold War, with its balance of terror and its military preparedness. Looking back, it must be said that this view of things, exalting as it did the supremacy of Jehovah and his Christ, helped God’s people to maintain an uncompromisingly neutral stand throughout this difficult period.
14. How was increased light shed on Romans 13:1, 2 and related scriptures in 1962?
14 In 1961 the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures was completed. Its preparation had required an in-depth study of the textual language of the Scriptures. The precise translation of the words used not only in Romans chapter 13 but also in such passages as Titus 3:1, 2 and 1 Peter 2:13, 17 made it evident that the term “superior authorities” referred, not to the Supreme Authority, Jehovah, and to his Son, Jesus, but to human governmental authorities. In late 1962, articles were published in The Watchtower that gave an accurate explanation of Romans chapter 13 and also provided a clearer view than that held at the time of C. T. Russell. These articles pointed out that Christian subjection to the authorities cannot be total. It must be relative, subject to its not bringing God’s servants into conflict with God’s laws. Further articles in The Watchtower have emphasized this important point.*
15, 16. (a) What better balance did the new understanding of Romans chapter 13 lead to? (b) What questions remain to be answered?
15 This key to the correct understanding of Romans chapter 13 has enabled Jehovah’s people to balance due respect for the political authorities with an uncompromising stand on vital Scriptural principles. (Psalm 97:11; Jeremiah 3:15) It has allowed them to have a proper view of their relationship with God and their dealings with the State. It has ensured that while they pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, they do not neglect to pay back God’s things to God.
16 But just what are Caesar’s things? What legitimate claims can the State make on a Christian? These questions will be considered in the following article.
Paying Back Caesar’s Things to Caesar
“Render to all their dues.”—ROMANS 13:7.
1, 2. (a) According to Jesus, how should Christians balance their obligations to God and to Caesar? (b) What is the first concern of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
ACCORDING to Jesus, there are things we owe to God and things we owe to Caesar, or the State. Jesus said: “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” In these few words, he confounded his enemies and neatly summed up the balanced attitude we must have in our relationship with God and in our dealings with the State. No wonder that his listeners “began to marvel at him”!—Mark 12:17.
2 Of course, the first concern of Jehovah’s servants is that they pay back God’s things to God. (Psalm 116:12-14) In doing so, however, they do not forget that Jesus said that they must render certain things to Caesar. Their Bible-trained consciences require that they consider prayerfully to what extent they can pay back what Caesar calls for. (Romans 13:7) In modern times, many jurists have recognized that governmental power has limits and that people and governments everywhere are bound by natural law.
3, 4. What interesting comments have been made about natural law, revealed law, and human law?
3 The apostle Paul referred to this natural law when he wrote about people of the world: “What may be known about God is manifest among them, for God made it manifest to them. For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable.” If they will respond to it, natural law will even move the consciences of these unbelievers. Thus, Paul further said: “Whenever people of the nations that do not have law do by nature the things of the law, these people, although not having law, are a law to themselves. They are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts, while their conscience is bearing witness with them.”—Romans 1:19, 20; 2:14, 15.
4 In the 18th century, the renowned English jurist William Blackstone wrote: “This law of nature [natural law], being co-eval with [the same age as] mankind and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this.” Blackstone went on to speak of “revealed law,” as found in the Bible, and he commented: “Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered [allowed] to contradict these.” This is in harmony with what Jesus said about God and Caesar, as recorded at Mark 12:17. Clearly, there are areas where God limits what Caesar can require of a Christian. The Sanhedrin strayed into just such an area when they commanded the apostles to stop preaching about Jesus. Hence, the apostles correctly responded: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:28, 29.
5, 6. (a) In view of the Kingdom’s birth in 1914, what should Christians bear more closely in mind? (b) How does a Christian give evidence that he is a minister?
5 Especially since 1914, when Jehovah God, the Almighty, began ruling as king through Christ’s Messianic Kingdom, have Christians had to be sure not to give God’s things to Caesar. (Revelation 11:15, 17) As never before, God’s law now calls on Christians to be “no part of the world.” (John 17:16) Being dedicated to God, their Life-Giver, they must demonstrate clearly that they no longer belong to themselves. (Psalm 100:2, 3) As Paul wrote, “we belong to Jehovah.” (Romans 14:8) Moreover, at a Christian’s baptism, he is ordained as a minister of God, so that he can say with Paul: “God . . . has indeed adequately qualified us to be ministers.”—2 Corinthians 3:5, 6.
6 The apostle Paul also wrote: “I glorify my ministry.” (Romans 11:13) Surely we should do likewise. Whether we share in the ministry full-time or part-time, we keep in mind that Jehovah himself assigned us to our ministry. (2 Corinthians 2:17) Since some may challenge our position, every dedicated, baptized Christian must be ready to furnish clear and positive proof that he truly is a minister of the good news. (1 Peter 3:15) His ministry should also be evidenced in his conduct. As a minister of God, a Christian should advocate and practice clean morals, uphold family unity, be honest, and show respect for law and order. (Romans 12:17, 18; 1 Thessalonians 5:15) A Christian’s relationship with God and his divinely assigned ministry are the most important things in his life. He cannot give these up at the behest of Caesar. Clearly, they are to be counted among “God’s things.”
7. What is the reputation of Jehovah’s Witnesses as to paying taxes?
7 Jehovah’s Witnesses know that they owe “subjection to the superior authorities,” the governmental rulers. (Romans 13:1) Hence, when Caesar, the State, makes legitimate demands, their Bible-trained consciences allow them to satisfy these demands. For example, true Christians are among the most exemplary taxpayers on earth. In Germany the newspaper Münchner Merkur said of Jehovah’s Witnesses: “They are the most honest and the most punctual tax payers in the Federal Republic.” In Italy the newspaper La Stampa observed: “They [Jehovah’s Witnesses] are the most loyal citizens anyone could wish for: they do not dodge taxes or seek to evade inconvenient laws for their own profit.” Jehovah’s servants do this ‘on account of their consciences.’—Romans 13:5, 6.
8. Is what we owe to Caesar limited to monetary taxes?
8 Are “Caesar’s things” limited to paying taxes? No. Paul listed other things, such as fear and honor. In his Critical and Exegetical Hand-Book to the Gospel of Matthew, German scholar Heinrich Meyer wrote: “By [Caesar’s things] . . . we are not to understand merely the civil tax, but everything to which Caesar was entitled in virtue of his legitimate rule.” Historian E. W. Barnes, in his work The Rise of Christianity, observed that a Christian would pay taxes if he owed them and “likewise accept all other State obligations, provided he was not called upon to render unto Caesar the things that belonged to God.”
9, 10. What hesitation might a Christian have about paying back Caesar his due, but what facts should be kept in mind?
9 What things might the State require without encroaching on the things that rightfully belong to God? Some have felt that they could legitimately give Caesar money in the form of taxes but nothing else. They certainly would not feel comfortable giving Caesar anything that might take up time that could be used for theocratic activities. Nevertheless, while it is true that we should ‘love Jehovah our God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength,’ Jehovah does expect us to spend time in things other than our sacred service. (Mark 12:30; Philippians 3:3) For example, a married Christian is counseled to devote time to pleasing his or her marriage mate. Such activities are not bad, but the apostle Paul states that they are “the things of the world” not “the things of the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 7:32-34; compare 1 Timothy 5:8.
10 Further, Christ authorized his followers to “pay back” taxes, and this certainly involves using time that is dedicated to Jehovah—since our entire lives are dedicated in this way. If the average taxation in a country is 33 percent of income (it is higher in some countries), this means that each year the average worker pays to the State Treasury four months’ worth of his earnings. Put another way, at the end of his working life, the average worker will have spent about 15 years earning the tax money that “Caesar” requires. Consider, too, the matter of schooling. In most countries the law requires that parents have their children attend school for a minimum number of years. The number of years of schooling varies from country to country. In most places it is a substantial length of time. True, such schooling is usually beneficial, but it is Caesar who decides what portion of a child’s life must be spent in this way, and Christian parents comply with Caesar’s decision.
Compulsory Military Service
11, 12. (a) What demand does Caesar make in many lands? (b) How did the early Christians view military service?
11 Another demand made by Caesar in some countries is compulsory military service. In the 20th century, this arrangement has been instituted by most nations in times of war and by some in times of peace as well. In France this obligation was for many years called blood tax, meaning that every young man had to be willing to lay down his life for the State. Is this something that those dedicated to Jehovah can conscientiously render? How did the first-century Christians view this matter?
12 While the earliest Christians endeavored to be good citizens, their faith prevented them from taking the life of another or from sacrificing their own lives for the State. The Encyclopedia of Religion states: “The early church fathers, including Tertullian and Origen, affirmed that Christians were constrained from taking human life, a principle that prevented them from participating in the Roman army.” In his book The Early Church and the World, Professor C. J. Cadoux writes: “Up to the reign of Marcus Aurelius at least [161-180 C.E.], no Christian would become a soldier after his baptism.”
13. Why do most in Christendom not view military service as the early Christians did?
13 Why do members of the churches of Christendom not view things this way today? Because of a radical change that took place in the fourth century. The Catholic work A History of the Christian Councils explains: “Many Christians, . . . under the pagan emperors, had religious scruples with regard to military service, and positively refused to take arms, or else deserted. The Synod [of Arles, held in 314 C.E.], in considering the changes introduced by Constantine, set forth the obligation that Christians have to serve in war, . . . because the Church is at peace (in pace) under a prince friendly to Christians.” As a result of this abandonment of Jesus’ teachings, from that time until now, the clergy of Christendom have encouraged their flocks to serve in the armies of the nations, although some individuals have taken a stand as conscientious objectors.
14, 15. (a) On what grounds do Christians in some places claim exemption from military service? (b) Where exemption is not available, what Scriptural principles will help a Christian to make a correct decision in the matter of military service?
14 Are Christians today obliged to follow the majority in this matter? No. If a dedicated, baptized Christian lives in a country where exemption from military service is granted to ministers of religion, he may avail himself of this provision, for he is in fact a minister. (2 Timothy 4:5) A number of countries, including the United States and Australia, have granted such exemption even in wartime. And during peacetime, in many lands that maintain compulsory military service, Jehovah’s Witnesses, as ministers of religion, are granted exemption. Thus they can continue helping the people by their public service.
15 What, though, if the Christian lives in a land where exemption is not granted to ministers of religion? Then he will have to make a personal decision following his Bible-trained conscience. (Galatians 6:5) While taking the authority of Caesar into account, he will weigh carefully what he owes to Jehovah. (Psalm 36:9; 116:12-14; Acts 17:28) The Christian will remember that the mark of a true Christian is love for all his fellow believers, even those who live in other lands or those belonging to other tribes. (John 13:34, 35; 1 Peter 2:17) Further, he will not forget the Scriptural principles found in texts such as Isaiah 2:2-4; Matthew 26:52; Romans 12:18; 14:19; 2 Corinthians 10:4; and Hebrews 12:14.
16. In some lands, what nonmilitary service does Caesar demand of those who do not accept military service?
16 However, there are lands where the State, while not allowing exemption for ministers of religion, nevertheless acknowledges that some individuals may object to military service. Many of these lands make provision for such conscientious individuals not to be forced into military service. In some places a required civilian service, such as useful work in the community, is regarded as nonmilitary national service. Could a dedicated Christian undertake such service? Here again, a dedicated, baptized Christian would have to make his own decision on the basis of his Bible-trained conscience.
17. Is there a Biblical precedent for nonmilitary civilian service?
17 It seems that compulsory service was practiced in Bible times. One history book states: “In addition to the taxes and dues exacted from the inhabitants of Judea, there was also a corvée [unpaid labor exacted by public authorities]. This was an ancient institution in the East, which the Hellenistic and Roman authorities continued to maintain. . . . The New Testament, too, cites examples of corvée in Judea, showing how widespread it was. In accordance with this custom, the soldiers pressed Simon of Cyrene into carrying Jesus’ cross [torture stake] (Matthew 5:41; 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26).”
18. With what nonmilitary, nonreligious types of community service do Jehovah’s Witnesses frequently cooperate?
18 Similarly, citizens in some countries today are required by the State or by local authorities to participate in various forms of community service. Sometimes this is for a specific task, such as digging wells or building roads; sometimes it is on a regular basis, such as weekly participation in cleaning up roads, schools, or hospitals. Where such civilian service is for the good of the community and is not connected with false religion or is not in some other way objectionable to the consciences of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they have often complied. (1 Peter 2:13-15) This has usually resulted in an excellent witness and has sometimes silenced those who falsely accuse the Witnesses of being antigovernment.—Compare Matthew 10:18.
19. How should a Christian approach the matter if Caesar asks him to perform nonmilitary national service for a period of time?
19 What, though, if the State requires a Christian for a period of time to perform civilian service that is a part of national service under a civilian administration? Here again, Christians must make their own decision based on an informed conscience. “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.” (Romans 14:10) Christians faced with a requirement of Caesar should prayerfully study the matter and meditate on it.* It may also be wise to talk the matter over with mature Christians in the congregation. After this a personal decision must be made.—Proverbs 2:1-5; Philippians 4:5.
20. What questions and Scriptural principles help a Christian to reason on the matter of nonmilitary national civilian service?
20 While engaged in such research, Christians would consider a number of Bible principles. Paul said that we must “be obedient to governments and authorities as rulers, . . . be ready for every good work . . . be reasonable, exhibiting all mildness toward all men.” (Titus 3:1, 2) At the same time, Christians would do well to examine the proposed civilian work. If they accept it, will they be able to maintain Christian neutrality? (Micah 4:3, 5; John 17:16) Would it involve them with some false religion? (Revelation 18:4, 20, 21) Would performing it prevent or unreasonably limit them from fulfilling their Christian responsibilities? (Matthew 24:14; Hebrews 10:24, 25) On the other hand, would they be able to continue to make spiritual progress, perhaps even sharing in the full-time ministry while performing the required service?—Hebrews 6:11, 12.
21. Whatever his decision, how should the congregation view a brother who is handling the matter of nonmilitary national civilian service?
21 What if the Christian’s honest answers to such questions lead him to conclude that the national civilian service is a “good work” that he can perform in obedience to the authorities? That is his decision before Jehovah. Appointed elders and others should fully respect the conscience of the brother and continue to regard him as a Christian in good standing. If, however, a Christian feels that he cannot perform this civilian service, his position should also be respected. He too remains in good standing and should receive loving support.—1 Corinthians 10:29; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Peter 3:16.
22. Whatever situation faces us, what will we continue to do?
22 As Christians we will not cease to render “to him who calls for honor, such honor.” (Romans 13:7) We will respect good order and seek to be peaceful, law-abiding citizens. (Psalm 34:14) We may even pray “concerning kings and all those who are in high station” when these men are called upon to make decisions that affect our Christian life and work. As a result of our paying back Caesar’s things to Caesar, we hope that “we may go on leading a calm and quiet life with full godly devotion and seriousness.” (1 Timothy 2:1, 2) Above all, we will continue to preach the good news of the Kingdom as mankind’s only hope, conscientiously paying back God’s things to God.