How Did Jesus View Politics?
THE Gospel writers describe several events in Jesus’ ministry that brought him face-to-face with politics. For instance, shortly after Jesus’ baptism at about the age of 30, the Devil offered him the position of world ruler. Later in his ministry, a crowd wanted to make him their king. Still later, people tried to turn him into a political activist. How did Jesus react? Let us consider these events.
World ruler. The Gospels state that the Devil offered Jesus rulership over “all the kingdoms of the world.” Think of how much good Jesus could have done for suffering mankind if he had wielded the power of a world ruler! What politically oriented individual sincerely concerned with mankind’s advancement could resist such an offer? But Jesus refused it.—Matthew 4:8-11.
King. Many of Jesus’ contemporaries were desperate for a ruler who could solve their economic and political problems. Impressed by Jesus’ abilities, the people wanted Jesus to join the political process. What was his reaction? Gospel writer John states: “Jesus, knowing they were about to come and seize him to make him king, withdrew again into the mountain all alone.” (John 6:10-15) Clearly, Jesus refused to become involved in politics.
Political activist. Note what happened days before Jesus was put to death. Disciples of the Pharisees, who favored independence from the Roman Empire, joined by Herodians, members of a political party favoring Rome, approached Jesus. They wanted to force him to take a political position. They asked if the Jews should pay taxes to Rome.
Mark recorded Jesus’ response: “‘Why do you put me to the test? Bring me a denarius to look at.’ They brought one. And he said to them: ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ They said to him: ‘Caesar’s.’ Jesus then said: ‘Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.’” (Mark 12:13-17) Commenting on the reason for Jesus’ response, the book Church and State—The Story of Two Kingdoms concludes: “He refused to act the part of a political messiah and carefully established both the boundary of Caesar and that of God.”
Problems such as poverty, corruption, and injustice did not leave Christ unmoved. In fact, the Bible shows that he was deeply touched by the pitiful state of the people around him. (Mark 6:33, 34) Still, Jesus did not start a campaign to rid the world of injustices, although some tried hard to get him embroiled in the controversial issues of the day.
Clearly, as these examples show, Jesus refused to get involved in political affairs. But what about Christians today? What should they do?
What Should Christians Do Today?
TRUE Christians today do not participate in politics. Why not? Because they follow Jesus’ example. He said about himself: “I am no part of the world.” Regarding his followers, he stated: “You are no part of the world.” (John 15:19; 17:14) Consider some reasons why Christians should not become involved in politics.
1. Human ability is limited. The Bible states that humans have neither the ability nor the right to govern themselves. “It does not belong to man who is walking,” wrote the prophet Jeremiah, “even to direct his step.”—Jeremiah 10:23.
Just as humans were not created to fly successfully on their own strength, so they were not created to rule successfully by themselves. Speaking about the limits of government, historian David Fromkin noted: “Governments are composed of human beings; therefore they are fallible and their prospects are uncertain. They exercise a certain power, but only a limited one.” (The Question of Government) No wonder the Bible warns us not to put our trust in man!—Psalm 146:3.
2. Wicked spirit forces currently have an influence. When Satan offered Jesus world rulership, Jesus did not deny that the Devil had the power to offer him all the kingdoms of the world. In fact, on a later occasion, Jesus called Satan “the ruler of the world.” Some years later the apostle Paul described Satan as “the god of this system of things.” (John 14:30; 2 Corinthians 4:4) Paul wrote to fellow Christians: “We have a wrestling . . . against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) Behind the scenes, wicked spirit forces are the real rulers of this world. How should that fact influence our view of politics?
Think of this comparison: Just as small boats are swept along by powerful sea currents, human political systems are pulled along by powerful, wicked spirit forces. And just as the sailors in those boats can do little to change those powerful currents, politicians can do little to change the influence of those powerful spirit forces. Those forces are bent on corrupting humans beyond reform and on causing “woe for the earth.” (Revelation 12:12) Therefore, real change can be brought about only by a person who is more powerful than Satan and his demons. That Person is Jehovah God himself.—Psalm 83:18; Jeremiah 10:7, 10.
3. True Christians give allegiance only to God’s Kingdom. Jesus and his disciples knew that at a set time, God himself would establish a government in heaven to rule over the entire earth. The Bible calls this government God’s Kingdom and reveals that Jesus Christ has been appointed as its King. (Revelation 11:15) Since that Kingdom affects all humans, Jesus made “the good news of the kingdom of God” the main subject of his teachings. (Luke 4:43) He also taught his disciples to pray: “Let your kingdom come.” Why? Because under that Kingdom, God’s will is sure to be done in heaven and on earth.—Matthew 6:9, 10.
What, then, will happen to man-made governments? The Bible answers that the governments “of the entire inhabited earth” will be destroyed. (Revelation 16:14; 19:19-21) If an individual truly believes that God’s Kingdom is about to remove all man-made political systems, he logically would refrain from supporting those political systems. After all, if he tried to prop up doomed, man-made governments, he would, in effect, be taking a stand against God.