Then in Verse 6 we have another function of government:
For this same reason you pay taxes, for the civil authorities are official servants under God, devoting themselves to attending to this very service. (Romans 13:6)
Notice that 3 times, Paul calls government agents “the servants of God.” The first two times, in Verses 3 and 4, he uses a word in Greek from which we get our word deacon. They are the deacons of God. Now I am not suggesting that the next time you pay your taxes you call the person who takes your money a deacon. However, Scripture calls these governing agents deacons, because they are servants of God. Although, the next time you see a judge because of that traffic ticket you received, you better look at the judge as a deacon of God. He is a servant. The point these verses are trying to make is that these “agents” exist as an arm of God’s work among men—and therefore, God is behind them.
Please understand that I am not just talking about those who punish criminals. This also refers to rewarding those who do good things. Think about all the firefighters and police officers who sacrificed themselves to rescue the victims of “911.” The citizens, as well as those in the Government, acknowledged and rewarded them as the “heroes” they were.
Even the courts are set up to recognize the right motives of people. Several years ago, I read a story about a man who stole a loaf of bread and was arrested. When the judge discovered that the man had no job; his family was hungry; he had tried to get work but couldn’t; tried to get funds for relief but couldn’t; so out of desperation to feed his family, he had stolen a loaf of bread.
Certainly, what the man did was wrong and his situation and circumstances did not justify or excuse the crime. However, when the judge heard the whole story, he said, “I’m sorry, but the law can make no exceptions. You stole, and I have to punish you. The court fines you ten dollars. Then he reached into his pocket, pulled out a ten-dollar bill, and handed it to the man.
As soon as the man took the money, the judge said, “Now, I also want to remit the fine.” That is, the man could keep the money. “Furthermore, I am going to instruct the bailiff to pass around a hat to everyone in this courtroom, and I am fining everybody in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a city where a man has to steal in order to have bread to eat.” When the money was collected, he gave it to the defendant.
Oh, I know that is a unique event, but it does represent the good side of justice. A court that occasionally recognizes the right motives of people, even though there may have been a crime committed. That is a legitimate function of government. Nevertheless, the government does have the right to defend, to maintain an army and a police system and courts of law, and fulfill what the Constitution of the United States calls “to provide for the common defense, and insure domestic tranquility.”
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome