Part 3: Scripture and Rebellion, Scripture on the Common Good
By Leonard O. Goenaga
On the common good, Scripture is replete with passages focusing the aim of government towards the good of society. If, as Romans 13:4 states, government exists to be “God’s servant for your good,” then it would suggest the goal of government is to provide for the common good and not the private advantage of some king, president, emperor, or aristocrat. At the end of his own service as a judge, Samuel demonstrates this principle in 1 Samuel 12:3-4:
“Here I am; testify against me before the LORD and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you.” They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.”
Note the great importance of unjust “taking”. Samuel claims his innocence by referencing the absence of taking private property or defrauding persons. This taking “from any man’s hand” is mentioned in the passage as oppressive. Samuel also demonstrates the principle in 1 Samuel 8:11-17:
He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. According to Grudem, “In contrast to his own conduct as judge, Samuel warned the people that a king would abuse his power and take from the people for the benefit of himself and his family.”1
Whereas 1 Samuel 12:3-4 establishes a connection between taking and oppression, 1 Samuel 8:11-17 is more direct in connecting taking and the behavior of an unjust king with being enslaved. Such a government that acts in a manner opposed to the common good and in favor of particular advantage may be said, according to Samuel’s behavior and warning, to be oppressing and enslaving its people.2
It is no wonder that, upon the actions of the British serving the particular interests of Crown and Parliament, Christian Colonists would call the acts tyranny and slavery. After all, there was no form of representation within Parliament to legitimize the consent of the colonists in being taxed. Unlike the British, who in the lower House of Commons had some form of representation, the Colonists had none, and so called the acts of taking of their governments, their leaders, and their properties as oppression, slavery, and tyranny.
1 Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, 86.
2 Ibid. 87: “This use of government power for self enrichment of the leader and his family and friends betrays the fundamental purpose of government to serve the people. It is repeatedly condemned in the Old Testament (see Deut. 16:19; Ps. 26:10; Prov. 15:27; 17:23; Isa. 33:15; Ezek. 22:12; Amos 5:12; Hab. 1:2-4)”.
The Moral Liberal Research Writer, Leonard O. Goenaga, is a Baptist Associate Pastor (assigned to the Youth) at Glory of God Christian Fellowship, Raleigh, North Carolina; a Mentor (Computer Lab/Technology) at the Wake Forest Boys & Girls Club; a husband (to Katrina); and rugby coach. He holds a B.A. in Political Science (with a specific concentration in Political Theory, Social Contract, and Constitutionalism), a second B.A. in Religious Studies (with a concentration in World Religions and Early Christianity), a Master of Divinity in Christian Ethics, and an A.A. in Entrepreneurship. He has begun Ph.D with a concentration likely centered on an analysis of Locke’s Social Contract, H.L.A. Hart’s Legal System, American Constitutionalism, and Baptist Ecclesiology of Covenant. Visit his website at Leonardooh.com