November 23, 2000
volume 11, no. 240


The Commandments of God
fifteenth segment

The Fourth Commandment
part three:

Duties of Other Superiors

    Upon being chosen to a public office, an official acquires not only rights, but duties as well. Judges, legislators, and other public officials must treat everybody with equal justice, and must give the best service they can to the people. They are responsible before God for everything that they do, for all the decisions they make.

    Superiors, according to their varying degrees of responsibility, must care for those entrusted to them. Employers should be considerate of employees. They must not oppress them, nor keep back their wages, not exploit them in any way.

    Oppression of the poor, the widow, and the orphan, and defrauding laborers of their wages, are sins that cry to heaven for vengeance. Some employers make their people work in unhealthy and overcrowded rooms; they hardly given them any time for rest and for their meals; they require of them more work than they can do.

    Employers should give their employees a living wage; that is enough for them and their families to live on decently. They should allow them ample facilities for fulfilling religious duties.

    The chief duties of those who hold public office are: to be just to all in exercising their authority, and to promote the general welfare. Public officials have a grave responsibility before God. The higher the post, the greater the responsibility. Legislators, members of the cabinet, judges, all office-holders will have to give a rigid account to God of all that they have thought, said, done, or omitted, every law passed, every vote given. "A most severe judgment will be for those who bear rule" (Wisdom 6:6).

    No one should strive after a position of authority which he is not competent to fill. One who aspires to a dignity, to the duties of which he is unequal, is like a baker who tries to man an airship. If, however, a person feels himself competent to fulfill the duties of a post, it is good for him to endeavor to obtain it if thereby he can contribute towards the welfare of others.

    One on whom honors and positions are conferred should have as his principal thought the accomplishment of the duties connected with his position. He must not think much of himself on account of the honor; it makes him no better in God's sight.

    Virtue alone gives a man true worth and distinction. Herod was a king; Mary and Joseph were poor laborers. But Mary and Joseph now are very near God, and surely Herod is not so near God. "Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; even as the Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve" (Matthew 20: 27-28).

    Public officials must set a good example because they occupy a conspicuous position, and because example is better than precept. Officials do more by their example than by their orders and regulations. Like a city seated on a mountain, public officials cannot be hid. Others quickly imitate them. What a responsibility before God is it for an official to lead an immoral life and thus corrupt numerous young people by his bad example! What a scandal it is for an official to be the first to break the law!

    Public officials should promote the general welfare by safeguarding the rights of all, passing good and just laws and enforcing these laws impartially, interesting themselves in the spread of good moral customs and religion, and punishing evildoers.

    Being the representative of God, public officials should imitate His justice. The common good not the benefit of a single person or group, should be the object.

    Civil officials should be ready to sacrifice themselves for the citizens. Officials must be impartial. They must show favor to none, but treat all equally, rich or poor, prominent or unknown. "With God there is no respect of persons" (Romans 2:11).

    Judges must beware of acting unjustly, or of allowing themselves to be corrupted by bribes. They must not let the rich and powerful induce them to give unjust judgment. Acceptance of bribes by public officials is a sin against the seventh commandment. "God made the little and the great, and hath equal care of all" (Wisdom 6:8).

    Public officials should particularly provide for the welfare of the poor and helpless: the destitute, sick, orphan, and the great body of the working classes. These less fortunate citizens often have no power to protect themselves. The laws and rulers must therefore safeguard them without, however, injuring the welfare and rights of others.

    Officials have a serious obligation to promote the Christian foundations of our Constitution. They should work to make Christian principles prevail in a Christian country; safeguarding education, respect for the Lord's Day, marriage, and the Sanctity of Life including the abolition of abortion and euthanasia as well as the death penalty.

    The fourth commandment forbids disrespect, unkindness, and disobedience to our parents and lawful superiors. Disrespect includes all irreverence and stubbornness against lawful authority. One offends against the respect due his parents when he talks back at them, refuses their correction, ridicules them or strikes them.

    One who thinks and acts as if he were "superior" to his parents is a disgraceful snob. For even if a son or daughter has graduated with highest honors from the best university in the world, he still owes his parents due respect as God's representatives.

    Contempt and unkindness are contrary to the love we owe our parents. One offends against the love due his parents if he curses them, despises the, hates them, grieves the, or makes them angry. Children at times speak sharply and insultingly to their parents. If they would reflect upon their endless sacrifices, they would burn out their tongues rather than speak contemptuously of their parents. "He that curseth his father or mother, dying let him die" (Leviticus 20:9).

    Children may sin against obedience either by refusing or neglecting to do what is commanded, or by doing what is forbidden. Showing unwillingness is also a form of disobedience. A young child is disobedient if he neglects his studies, goes with forbidden companions, goes out without permission, etc. Older children disobey by attending forbidden shows or dances, going out with forbidden companions or at forbidden time

Next Thursday: The Fourth Commandment - Civic Duties

November 23, 2000
volume 11, no. 240

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