Should Christians Be The Best Citizens?
I have a confession to make. I think I have been saying something that is not quite right. When I tell you what I’m talking about you may not think it is very significant, but the more I think about it the more I am convinced that it is worth reconsidering. Are you ready to know what I’m talking about? Have you ever said that Christians should be the best citizens or the best employees?
Now, I think I know what some of you may be saying to yourselves. What is wrong with saying this? How else could we explain 1 Peter 2:13-18 but to say that Christians should be the best citizens and the best employees? Peter tells us to submit to every human institution. We obey the king. We obey the king’s governors. We honor the king, even though the king may not always behave in the most honorable way. We don’t speak evil against our rulers. As workers, we obey the harsh masters and the gentle ones. We do all of this for the Lord’s sake. If someone actually did all of this, they would be a really good citizen and a really good worker. Yet, the mistake I think I have made is to draw the unnecessary inference that Christians should always be the best citizens or the best workers.
Here is why I am reconsidering the idea that Christians should be the best citizens, or the best students, or the best employees: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Someone who is truly seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness first will be a good citizen and a good worker, but they will not always be the best citizen or the best worker. At times, such a person may actually appear to hate their nation or their job.
A Christian who is unwilling to fight in a war because they cannot kill in good conscience will appear to be unpatriotic to those who may come to a different conclusion about whether or not Christians can participate in taking lives in the defense of a nation. Such a person may love their physical nation and the citizens of that nation very much, but they cannot set aside their first love for God and their convictions about what is right to appease their detractors.
A Christian will not compromise their moral principles to be the best at their job. A Christian will not allow the demands of their job to constantly hinder their worship or their responsibilities to their families. In fact, a Christian will probably miss a lot of opportunities for overtime and advancement because of their devotion to God and their families, and to some they may appear to care very little about their careers. The Christian who misses the “big game” because it will be played on Sunday morning during a time set aside for worshiping God is worthy of imitation, but they would probably not be viewed as the best teammate.
Now, you might agree with what I have said up this point, but you may still wonder if it is really necessary to make a distinction between being a really good earthly citizen and being the best citizen. Let me give you two reasons why I have come to believe that it is necessary to make this distinction.
1. You cannot serve two masters. (Matthew 6:24) Two things cannot occupy first place in our lives, and Jesus tells us that His kingdom and His righteousness must come first. This is almost certainly the reason for much of the strife between Christians about political questions. Sometimes we’re trying to be the best citizens of our physical nation, and God’s desire for His spiritual nation to be unified by love and the truth of the gospel is not first. When this happens, a high crime is being committed against the kingdom of God by the people of God in the name of being the best citizen of a physical nation. However, the problem isn’t always as drastic as Christians fighting one another over matters pertaining to the kingdoms of men. Satan is constantly seeking to take our focus off of God, and sometimes his best weapon is to get us to prioritize something that is not sinful in the name of being the the best citizen, the best worker, or the best student. We need to eat, but man cannot live by bread alone.
2. God will not be totally on our side. God promises to give us all the things that we need to get through this life and get to heaven…when we seek His kingdom first. What blessing has God promised to those who do not seek His kingdom first? Yes, He sends His rain on the just and the unjust. He will probably continue to give us some good things and seek to awaken us to our need for the ultimate goodness in Him, but this not the same thing as having God on our side and having no fear of those who may fight against us. Our hope of eternal life is not based on the fact of God’s goodness alone. It is based on the relationship with God that we enjoy when we resolve to become Christians and seek His kingdom and His righteousness first.
What do you think? Am I protesting too much, or is there really something for us to learn from trying to think about whether or not Christians can really be the best citizens, the best employees, or the best students?