Copyright © 1993 by Lee Woofenden. All Rights Reserved.

Chapter 23

Religious and Political Government

311 There are two things that should be in good order with people: the things that relate to heaven and the things that relate to the world. The ones that relate to heaven are religious matters, and the ones that relate to the world are political matt ers.

312 We cannot maintain order in the world without officials to keep track of everything people do in harmony with or in opposition to an orderly society. These officials should reward people who live in an orderly way, and punish people who defy law a nd order.

If this is not done, the human race will be lost. This is because, from our heredity, all of us have an inborn tendency to want to dominate others and to own what belongs to them. This is where hostility, jealousy, hatred, fraud, cruelty, and many ot her bad traits come from. So these bad traits must be controlled by laws. For people who do good things, there should be rewards appropriate to their love of status and wealth. For people who do harmful things, there should be punishments that conflict wi th those loves, such as loss of their status, their possessions, or their lives. Otherwise, the human race will be lost.

313 So there must be officials who will maintain order in human society. They should know the laws well, and they should also be wise and have a respect for God.

Order must be maintained among the officials too, so that, through ignorance or for their own pleasure, they do not allow people to do harmful things that go against an orderly society and destroy it. This can be avoided by having officials of higher and lower ranks, with some having authority over others.

314 The officials who oversee things in us that have to do with heaven--religious matters--are the clergy. Their job is the ministry. But the officials who oversee the things about us that have to do with the world--political matters--are government o fficials. In countries with monarchies, the highest of these government officials are kings.

315 Ministers should teach us the way to heaven, and should also lead us there. They should teach us in harmony with their religious philosophy, which comes from the Bible, and lead us so that we will live according to it.

Ministers who teach what is true, and in that way lead people to live a good life--which means they are leading us toward the Lord--are good shepherds. But ministers who only teach, and do not lead people to live a good life--toward the Lord--are bad shepherds.

316 Ministers should not claim any power over people's souls, because they do not know what people are like inside. They should especially never claim to have the power to open and close heaven to people, since only the Lord has that power.

317 Ministers should receive honor and respect because of the holy things they attend to. But wise ministers will give the honor to the Lord, from whom the holy things come, and not accept it for themselves. Ministers who are not wise will accept the honor for themselves. They are stealing it from the Lord. The ones who accept for themselves the honor that comes with the holy things they attend to care more about status and wealth than they do about the well-being of people's souls--which is supposed to be their job. But the ones who give the honor to the Lord and not to themselves care more about the well-being of people's souls than they do about status and wealth.

The respect we get for our job does not belong to us, but becomes associated with us depending on the importance of our job. Something associated with us in this way does not belong to us. We lose it if we lose the job. Any honor in ourselves comes f rom being wise and respecting the Lord.

318 Ministers should teach people the truth, and in this way lead them to live a good life. However, they should never force anyone, because people can never be forced to believe anything contrary to what they believe in their hearts to be true. Anyon e who believes differently than the minister and does not cause a disturbance should be left alone. Anyone who does cause a disturbance should be kept away, since this is one part of an orderly society that the ministry is meant to take care of.

319 Ministers are in charge of the duties that have to do with divine law and worship. In the same way, rulers and government officials are in charge of the duties that have to do with civil laws and justice.

320 Since rulers cannot govern all by themselves, they have officials under them, each of whom is given some area to administer that the rulers are not able to take care of themselves. All these officials together form the government, with the ruler a t its head.

321 The authority to rule is not in the rulers themselves, but only associated with them. Rulers who believe that they themselves have the authority are not very wise. It is the same for officials who believe that the honor of their job belongs to the m personally.

322 Authority comes from running the country according to its laws, and giving judgments from a sense of justice. Rulers who consider the law to be above themselves are wise. But those who think they are above the law are not wise. Rulers who consider the law to be above themselves place government in law, and the law rules them. They know that the law is justice, and that all true justice is divine. But rulers who consider themselves above the law think they themselves are the government. They either think that they are the law, or that the law, which is justice, comes from themselves. In this way, they claim for themselves something that is divine, to which they should be subject themselves.

323 People who know the laws well, and who are wise and have a respect for God, should pass just laws for a country. Once they have done this, both the rulers and the citizens should live according to them. Rulers who live according to the laws that h ave been passed, and in this way set a good example for the citizens, are good rulers.

324 Rulers who have absolute power and think their citizens are such slaves that the ruler has a right to their lives and property--and who actually use this power--are not rulers but tyrants.

325 People should obey their rulers according to the laws of the land. They should not harm their rulers in any way, by words or action. The public safety depends on this.


Back to Contents