It’s fairly common among American Christians to see the role of government as doing good for the citizens of a nation. We not only live in a time when much is provided by government at tax-payer expense, including housing, food stamps, welfare, ball parks, playgrounds, and tennis courts, to name a few, but we often impose the American experience onto the Scriptures rather than let the Scriptures guide our steps.
In Rom. 13:4 Paul tells us that the government is “God’s servant for our good.”
Does that mean then, as many would conclude, that government has a role in promoting the common good of society? If we consider the fact that Paul was writing to Roman Christians who were being persecuted by Nero, a man so evil he set Christians on fire to light his dinner parties, that conclusion would seem unlikely. The Roman government certainly wasn’t promoting the common good. Paul was not saying that government should promote the common good as far as Christians were concerned. Nor was Paul telling Nero what he should do. Further, he was not telling Christians what government should do. He was actually telling Christians what they should do; submit to this evil government. Paul says the ruler is “God’s servant for our good.” He’s simply saying that God uses even evil government for our spiritual good. He had made that point earlier when he noted that God causes all things (including suffering) “to work together for our good” (Rom. 8:28).