SOMETIMES it is hard to know whom we should obey. Your mother or father may tell you to do one thing. But then a schoolteacher or a policeman may tell you to do something different. If that happened, which one of them would you obey?—
Earlier in this book, in Chapter 7, we read Ephesians 6:1-3 from the Bible. There it says that children should obey their parents. “Be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord,” the scripture says. Do you know what it means to be “in union with the Lord”?— Parents who are in union with the Lord teach their children to obey God’s laws.
But some older people do not believe in Jehovah. So, what if one of them says that it is all right to cheat on a school test or to take something from a store without paying for it? Is it all right, then, for a child to cheat or steal?—
Remember, King Nebuchadnezzar once commanded everyone to bow down to the golden image he had set up. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego wouldn’t bow down. Do you know why?— Because the Bible says that people should worship only Jehovah.
After Jesus died, his apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin, the main religious court of the Jews. High Priest Caiaphas said: “We positively ordered you not to keep teaching upon the basis of [Jesus’] name, and yet, look! you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching.” Why didn’t the apostles obey the Sanhedrin?— Peter, speaking for all the apostles, answered Caiaphas: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”
Back at that time, the religious leaders of the Jews had a lot of power. However, their country was under the rule of the Roman government. The head of that government was called Caesar. Even though the Jews did not want Caesar to rule them, the Roman government did many good things for the people. And governments today also do good things for their citizens. Do you know what some of these things are?—
Governments build roads for travel and pay policemen and firemen to protect us. They may also provide schooling for the young and health care for the elderly. It costs money for a government to do these things. Do you know where the government gets the money?— From the people. The money that people pay to the government is called taxes.
When the Great Teacher lived on earth, many Jews did not want to pay taxes to the Roman government. So one day the priests hired some men to ask Jesus a question to try to get him into trouble. The question was, ‘Do we have to pay tax to Caesar or not?’ This was a trick question. If Jesus answered, ‘Yes, you must pay taxes,’ many of the Jews would not like what he said. But Jesus could not say, ‘No, you don’t need to pay taxes.’ It would be wrong to say that.
So, what did Jesus do? Well, he said: ‘Show me a coin.’ When they brought him one, Jesus asked them: ‘Whose picture and name are on it?’ The men said: “Caesar’s.” So Jesus said: “By all means, then, pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.”
Well, no one could find anything wrong with that answer. If Caesar does things for people, it is only right to use the money that Caesar has made to pay him for these things. So in this way, Jesus showed that it is right to pay taxes to the government for the things we receive.
Now, you may not be old enough to pay taxes. But there is something that you should give to the government. Do you know what it is?— Obedience to the government’s laws. The Bible says: ‘Be obedient to the superior authorities.’ These authorities are those who have power in the government. So God is the one who says that we should obey the laws of the government.
There may be a law not to throw paper or other things on the street. Should you obey that law?— Yes, God wants you to obey it. Should you be obedient to policemen too?— The government pays policemen to protect people. Obeying them is the same as obeying the government.
So if you are about to cross a street and a policeman says “Wait!” what should you do?— If others run across anyway, should you?— You should wait, even if you are the only one who is waiting. God tells you to obey.
There may be trouble in the neighborhood, and a policeman may say: “Stay off the streets. Don’t go outside.” But you may hear shouting and wonder what’s going on. Should you go outside to see?— Would this be obeying “the superior authorities”?—
In many places, the government also builds schools, and it pays the teachers. So do you think that God wants you to obey the teacher?— Think about it. The government pays the teacher to teach, just as it pays a policeman to protect people. So being obedient to either a policeman or a teacher is like obeying the government.
But what if a teacher says that you must do an act of worship to some image? What would you do then?— The three Hebrews did not bow down to the image, even when King Nebuchadnezzar told them to. Do you remember why?— Because they did not want to disobey God.
A history writer named Will Durant wrote about the early Christians and said that their ‘highest allegiance [or, loyalty] did not belong to Caesar.’ No, it belonged to Jehovah! So remember that God should come first in our lives.
We obey the government because that is what God wants us to do. But if we are told to do something that God says we should not do, what should we say?— We should say what the apostles said to the high priest: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”