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Themes in Heritage Studies 1: Government

In lower elementary, students begin to develop their sense of right and wrong. The words, “That’s not fair,” can frequently be heard from this age group. During these formative years, teachers have a unique opportunity to lovingly direct children to rightly practice justice and graciously respond to injustice.

The classroom is a safe place for students to learn about the consequences of disobeying authority and the purpose and structure of authority. Understanding why governments exist and learning to have respect for government are important steps in the development of worldview for lower elementary students.

Creation of Government

Lessons about the creation of government begin with discussions about community. Teachers can explain how God intended for people to live together in communities. A community is a group of people who live near each other, like in a town or neighborhood, or who share common interests, like a church. Students should learn to see communities as wonderful things because people need other people to thrive. When communities become large, governments form to help the organization and operation of the community.

One of the main God-given responsibilities of government is to ensure justice (Psalms 72:1–7). One way governments ensure justice is by creating laws. These laws should protect the rights of the people, such as the right to own property without fear of it being stolen and the right to worship God as He commands. Just as students obey rules at school and at home, they must also obey the government’s laws. To help your students see that laws are good, ask your students questions such as, “Can you name a law that keeps people safe?”

Although people come together to form governments, the Bible teaches us that God ordains the existence of governments (1 Peter 2:13–17; Romans 13:1). Because God calls the government to be responsible for the people under its authority, students should understand that by obeying and honoring their government they are being obedient to God.

Corruption of Government

While governments after the Fall are still ordained by God and provide many benefits for their citizens, they are no longer perfect because they are composed of sinful people. Governments act unjustly when, instead of protecting people, they infringe on or deny people’s rights.  For example, some governments do not allow people to worship God the way the Bible commands, and they hurt people who do. Governments can also be unjust toward other nations by infringing on their rights as sovereign nations. Injustices between nations frequently result in war.

Even when governments try to enforce justice rightly, their job is more difficult because it serves sinful citizens. Governments need wisdom to decide who is telling the truth and who is lying, and they have to decide proper consequences for those who disobey the law.

Restoration of Government

After understanding how governments fail to meet God’s design, students should begin to build an understanding of God’s plan to redeem governments after the Fall. God’s plan for communities is for them to live together in unity and peace and for governments to do what is just. The Bible gives us some examples of good governments. In the Old Testament, laws show us how justice is gracious but not careless (Exodus 22:25–27; 23:3, 6). Lower elementary students can practice being kind toward other students, especially when they feel offended or hurt. It is also important to teach them how to work hard and take responsibility for their actions.

Governments will never enforce true justice unless God’s Word is the standard. Teachers should show their students how Christians can be the most peaceable and loving members of society, because they understand God’s love. The gospel shows us that God is committed to dealing with injustice and making wrongs right. The hope Christians have is not in human government but in Jesus. Through His life and teachings, Jesus shows us what a good leader and a good member of a community should be. One day Jesus will come and reign as king over the whole earth, with a perfect and just government.

Students should understand that governments are flawed, but God still expects Christians to honor imperfect governments. As these students build their worldview, they should not place their hope for peace and justice in an earthly government but in King Jesus, the perfect king. Teachers can demonstrate to students the hope and joy that Christians can have by trusting in God to make all wrongs right.

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