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The Golden Mean of Civil Morality

"... seeking the City built without hands."

"We are in the world..."

"...but we are not of this world."

Literal or physical aspect

Intellectual aspect

Emotional aspect

Spiritual aspect

"Pay tax to whom tax is due, toll to whom toll is due; fear to whom fear is due and respect to whom respect is due."

"Be subject to the authorities that are over you."

"Love your neighbor as yourself." "What you would want others to do for you, do for them the same thing."

"Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul..." We should obey the Lord more than the governors in case of a conflict.

Sadduceism. Levity. Unmoral.

Pharisaism. Legalism. Overly moral.

Herodianism. Political prevarications. Amoral.

Weltfremd. Sectarianism.

Like Pilate breaking propriety for one's own advantage. Immoral.

Zealotism. Fanatic cult.


When you look at the above chart, then you can see that there are six main opinions that lead away from the truth. In the Christian and culture schema we saw that the way to survive as a Christian is to be a pilgrim and not to be submerged into the affairs of this world. There are some similarities between that study and this one, for also here one must pay attention not to be taken along by say the Sadducees or the Pharisees. The Essenes of that time might be the missing group that fits the glove of the weltfremd sect.

In the Christian and culture overview the emphasis is on how to relate to the world as a mix-up of influences and how to stay independent from them. It is a case of the world and us and even versus us. In the morality chart the emphasis is on politics. Are we to be a weltfremd group that is overly separated from just about everything, or, like the Herodians, should we preach the gospel through legislation? In the latter case we will find out to our shame that religion and politics do not make a good match. For most Christians the danger is to lapse into a form of practical Sadduceism or to go out of one's way to stress a purported truth and become a Pharisee. Most Christians do not want te be amoral, let alone immoral; or be member of a sect or even a fanatic cult. But the danger is to become under or overly moral. In both cases we lose out and is our witness compromised.

The only healthy way is to maintain your standing as a pilgrim travelling to the promised land. Do not get overly involved on the one hand and do not be a reactionary either, let alone a revolutionary or even a terrorist. Preach Christ by example and not through imposition.

The Sadducees were the intelligentsia. They reasoned that there cannot be such a thing as an angel or a resurrection of the body. They were the rationalists of Christ's time. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were the traditionalists. They held on to all the old dogmas and they attempted to establish their own righteousness and in the process they became hypocrites. The Herodians compromised between religion and politics, between the laws of the land and the rule of the Romans. The zealots were the revolutionaries and even terrorists.

In the midst of all these the Person of Christ shines like a light into a dark place. He did not choose against any of these parties, but neither did He join them. It is not too idealistic to want to follow His example in this. Christ did not form His own party either. Yet, His influence was deciding and they crucified Him for the very truth that He was God the Son ("I and the Father are One" [the divine message to Israel was that God is 'the One']). Yes, the true golden mean is not popular. It can be so comforting to belong to something, preferably a main church, a main party, a popular event, occupation or whatever. But the more difficult way in the end is easier and bears the best fruit.

You may have heard the idea that when the government does or demands something unchristian, that then we as Christians have the right to and even duty of civil disobedience. Be very careful with this. When the government legalizes abortion that does not mean that I must then withhold a certain percentage of tax. If they would demand abortion, that is another thing. In that case we may feel inspired by the parents of Moses.

This little study is called 'the golden mean of morality.' One might argue that it should be called 'the proper balance of religion and politics.' But that would be a mistake. Again, Christ was not a revolutionary. He paid His dues, both to the Romans and the Jewish institutions. But He walked the fine line between politics and religion, between compromise on the left and compromise on the right. He did not combine and juggle the two. And it is both our moral duty and privilege to follow Him in all this.

The difference between immoral and dismoral or antimoral is that dismorality is the conscious effort to be immoral. Immorality for the sake of being immoral. This is very disgusting indeed. If you go out of your way to be immoral then you consciously set yourself up over others like the devil, who is the murderer and liar from the beginning.

As far as paying taxes are concerned, do not be slavish in this; but do not be too selfish either. Some civil servants are unreasonable and it is also a question of the spirit of the law, not the letter. When you are poor, I personally would try to get away with what I can get away with; even if it means civil disobedience. In such a case you have to stand up for yourself, particularly when you have a family. However, be warned. It is not worth it if you end in jail. However, you should wonder why you are in the circumstances you are in and you must beseech the Lord for financial opportunities and deliverance.



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