How to understand scripture in light of political systems

My husband was recently in a discussion with his brother that lives in Canada. The conversation turned to scripture that “as a country” we do not exhibit Isaiah 58 “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭58:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The question I have is this: how do we have a discussion in today’s political climate by seeing scripture as a guide- and where do we say this is a church issue and that is a government issue? In this situation he is claiming the country does not do this- nor does the church- but I’m wondering how to decipher between what time should have and then how is scripture to be used- hope I’ve been clear-


This is a great question! In Isaiah we have God dealing with people at a national level. Paul most often deals with people on a church/individual level, and in Christ we see him dealing with people on a more personal level. In Isaiah God speaks to Israel and tells them they need to clothe the naked and feed the sick. In Christ we see him tell us that when we have done these very things to someone we have done it to him.

One thing we have to keep in mind is that government and churches are made up of individuals. The only way these institutions are going to do anything is because the individuals which make up these institutions do them. This is a responsibility we all share. My thoughts on the matter are that the heart of a nation should be exampled and informed by the church and the government should follow the churches lead, inspired by what the church does. Otherwise, the church could be in the position of standing to the side and while the government did nothing or tried and failed. We should be the constant source of love in the lives of those in need regardless of what the government is doing. The church should not take its cues from the government. The stranger, the widow, the orphan should be cared for. The government should be supplemental to what the church is already doing.

If your friend thinks the church is not already doing these things then he seems to have a pretty myopic view of what is going on around the world. I would recommend he broaden his horizons and take a wider look.


Hello, @Koberheu! Wow, this is a really good question. If I am understanding correctly, you are asking where the responsibility of things such as those mentioned in Isaiah lie–with the church or with government.

The passage of Isaiah that was pointed to in the conversation comes after a section of the book (chapters 40-55) in which Yahweh is promising hope of restoration to Israel and the other nations based on grace, not merit. But in chapters 56-66, God speaks through the prophet to say that even though He will save by grace, He still calls His people to live righteously. This section speaks of the fact that God’s true people are not people of one physical lineage or even nation, but that He will have true worshipers in other nations as well. So now the focus is taken off of theocracy and put on the true people and individual worshipers of Yahweh. So here we see God is already speaking of not a nation governed by some covenant law such as Moses’, but people from all the nations worshiping God in how they live, in how they deal with others, etc. So even in this passage of Isaiah in which we find the verse pointed to in your husband’s conversation with your friend, we see that the point of the passage as a whole is to say something like, “Look, I called you and chose you as a nation to be my light to the world. I gave you my law and made a covenant with you. But you broke my covenant. You brought me sacrifices and feasts while you were living in a way that goes against Me. You did not clothe those who needed clothed and you did not feed those who were hungry. You did not perform justice or extend mercy. So now you have had judgment come upon you. But, my people, there is hope. There will be restoration, but my people will no longer be of one ethnicity and nation. My true worshipers will be from among all the nations, and they will worship me in word and in deed. While you wait for this restoration, I also call you to live righteously and to not be like you were before, ignoring and even at times despising those who were in need, even those of your own flesh and blood.”

Israel had been a theocracy, and so their government was indeed responsible for doing or neglecting to do those things win the covneant which made provision for how to treat others. However, under the new covenant, we as believers, the Church, are responsible for doing these things, though government has a role in it by performing justice. Looking at this in the New Testament, the government and the church have distinctive, yet sometimes overlapping roles. The government’s job is to punish evil (Romans 13:3-4 and 1 Peter 2:14). The church’s job is to spread the message of the gospel in word and deed, thereby witnessing God’s love to people–shining the light of Christ in a broken and hurting world. However, in, for instance, the United States, where citizens have means to affect government through voting, that duly falls under the stewardship of Christ’s disciples. It is a responsibility we have to act for the good of others, to do what we can for others. So, although government can and perhaps should be used as a means of helping those less fortunate, as the Church we also need to be actively reaching out to help those in need and should not assign that responsibility to government, because we are the ones who are called to show God’s love and light to the world for the sake of winning people over with the gospel, both in how we preach it and in how we live it.

I hope this helps. Let me know your thoughts so far :slight_smile:

Hey, there, @Joshua_Hansen! Love what you said here:

And I can see where you are coming from with this:

…but at the same time, I think that it’s always important for the church or those in the church to take a step back and see where maybe we could be doing better. Just like an individual needs to prayerfully self-examine, so does the Church. The person referenced in the conversation didn’t say he didn’t think the Church has been doing these things but that “as a nation” they were not doing those things. I think that, considering the first statement you made that I loved, there is a reasonable possibility that if a nation really is neglecting to do such things, it speaks to the state of the Church within that nation. Not necessarily…but perhaps. So I think the observation that “as a nation we don’t do these things” is deserving of maybe some deeper thought. Thoughts?

Hey @psalm151ls, thank you for your thoughts!

The idea that the questioner was claiming the church was deficient in caring for the needy came from the statement:

I am all for self-reflection and finding areas for improvement. But, I do not think the way to have a conversation around this topic begins with denying the absolutely incredible and self-sacrificing work being done all around the world by Christians. I would in no way deny that we as the Church can do better, but most often that discussion needs to start with, “I as a Christian can do better.” I think that is part of the point I was trying to make. We often stand flatfooted and criticize the church for not moving, not realizing we carry the church on our own shoulders. It gets in motion when we get in motion. I mean that in a personal sense.

In a corporate sense it is in motion. God is at work with Christians all over the world. We sometimes miss it because we are not part of the movement. I would recommend this person goes down to the local homeless shelter and sees the work being done. Then inspire others to join him in his mission. I obviously do not know this person’s life so my comments are speculative. I am just speaking from my experience.

I am certainly open to a deeper discussion of the relationship between the government and the church. But, I wanted to deal with that particular issue at the time.


Ah, thanks so much for pointing out what I missed in the post. I was wondering! Not really sure how I missed that last part. A little absent-minded, I guess. :thinking: :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

And yes, I think you’re right and that we need to start with looking at the positive, especially considering the way human nature tends to lean towards the criticizing and blaming, as you pointed out. Definitely a good way to start. I think just my natural lean any time someone brings an accusation towards me or something I am a part of is to admit that I am flawed and do make mistakes, so it’s more natural for me to look to examination of myself or anything I’m a part of. But, yeah, I don’t live in Canada, but I know at least here in the US (where the Church is constantly accused of failing and under fire it seems) in my little area, a couple of the churches are involved with the schools to provide free after-school family activities, which families who don’t have a lot to go out and do really take advantage of and appreciate. That’s just one out of several things the churches are doing in our area.

So…what about that deeper discussion about the relationship of government and church :smiley: ? That’s a good one and a great question from @Koberheu. Do you have anything to add to my response–disagree, agree?

1 Like

Thank you everyone for your I put this has been very helpful.

1 Like