K. Beliefs about government
The society believes that the purpose of government is to serve the nation and bring benefit to the people as a whole
This cultural belief is immensely important. What a culture believes about the purpose of government affects everything else we say in this book about the laws and policies that a government should enact, because it determines whether government officials make decisions for the good of the nation or for their own personal benefit.
If the cultural values in a society encourage people to think that government work and government power are rightfully used to enrich oneself and to give privileges and income to one’s family and friends, then the decisions of the government will not be for the good of the nation but for the good of the rulers. The Bible warns about this in several places, as we explained in chapter 7 (see 223-29).
The Bible also gives some examples of good rulers who served not primarily for their own benefit but for the benefit of the people. Moses was such an example, for in the middle of a conflict with Dathan and Abiram, Moses said to God, “I have not taken one donkey from them, and I have not harmed one of them” (Num. 16:15). Similarly, Samuel, at the end of his term as judge over Israel, proclaimed that he was innocent of using his office for personal gain (1 Sam. 12:3-4).
If a society gives widespread assent to the values found in these biblical passages, then it will also be in agreement with Romans 13:4, which says that the governmental authority “is God’s servant for your good.” When a society truly believes this, then serving in government will be an honor, even if it comes with some personal sacrifice.
The importance of this belief cannot be overemphasized. The cultural value that the purpose of government is to serve and bring benefit to the people as a whole will likely serve as the single greatest deterrent against corruption in government.
Where this belief is established, people will be convinced that government power and jobs are primarily ways to serve the country and to do good for the society as a whole. Then they will truly seek policies that promote the economic growth of the nation.
But where officials believe that government jobs are merely a means to enrich themselves and their family and friends, the nation will tend to tolerate high levels of corruption and bribery. This belief will also lead, in many cases, to a kind of “crony capitalism” or an “oligarchic capitalism” in which a small number of very wealthy families are intertwined in close friendships with highly placed government officials, and the government officials will continue to enact policies and distort laws so that their wealthy friends benefit. Then, of course, the wealthy friends will also funnel money back to the highly placed government officials. In such a case, there is little hope for genuine economic growth in the nation as a whole, and almost no hope that the vast majority of people, who are trapped in poverty, will ever make any economic progress. All this goes back to a culture’s beliefs about the purpose of government and government jobs.
The society believes that government should punish evil and promote good
We explained above that it is the responsibility of government to punish crime and to protect people from the greedy and powerful who would wrongly take advantage of them (see 239-41). In other words, government is to do what Peter says: “To punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:14).
This cultural value is important so that government officials do not begin showing favoritism to evildoers who happen to be their friends or who might give them bribes.