Grateful for (Almost) Any Government

How does the Bible instruct us to pray for “all who are in high positions”? It says,

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:1-4).

A few observations:

1. Giving thanks “for kings” is hard when they are evil.

And, as Calvin said on this passage, “All the magistrates of that time were sworn enemies of Christ.” This shows us that anarchy is a horrible alternative to almost any ruler.

We should give thanks for rulers because “non-rule” would unleash on us utterly unbridled evil with no recourse whatever.

Again Calvin: “Unless they restrained the boldness of wicked men, the whole world would be full of robberies and murders.” The better we understand the seething evil of the human heart that is ready to break out where there is no restraint, the more thankful we will be for government.

2. The effect we pray for is “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly, and dignified in every way.”

Dignified means “serious and reverent,” not stuffy. I suspect what Paul means is not that we can’t live godly and serious lives during times of anarchy. We can. I suspect he means that peaceful and quiet lives, which are the opposite of anarchy, are often wasted in ungodly and frivolous actions.

So he is praying for a government that would give peace and quiet (not anarchy), and that Christians would not fritter away their peaceful lives with the world, but would be radically godly and serious about the lost condition of the world and how to change it.

3. Using our peace for radical godliness and serious action will lead to more effective evangelism and world missions.

This last observation is confirmed by the hoped-for outcome Paul mentions. Paul says that the reason God delights in such peaceful, Godward, serious action is that he “desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

More people will be saved if our government restrains the horrors of anarchy, and if Christians use this peace not to waste their lives on endless entertainment, but seriously give their lives to making God known.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.