Ancient Israel and JudahThe Bible has “elders” in each city responsible for various judicial activities, including even the punishment of rebellious young people (Deut 21:18–21). The approved activities for kings include military activities (such as those of David), building palaces (II Samuel 5:11), settling disputes (I Kings 3:16–28), drafting forced labour (I Kings 5:13–18), international trade (I Kings 10:22, 28), and infrastructure construction (II Kings 20:20, II Chron 32:30). Ezekiel 34:1–10 also indicates a kingly responsibility to see that the sick are cared for.
Egypt and Babylonia in Biblical TimesGenesis 41:33–39 seems to endorse Joseph’s plan to impose a 20% tax in order to prepare Egypt for an anticipated famine. Daniel 1:3–6 likewise seems to endorse the tertiary-level education provided to Daniel by the Babylonian state (though not the plans for him to eat from the royal table).
New TestamentThe New Testament gives very strong instructions for obedience to civil authorities: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). Similarly: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (I Peter 2:13–14).
Judicial actions are explicitly endorsed (Romans 13:2–5), and paying taxes (to support the various activities of the Roman Imperial government) even more so (Matt 22:15–22, Mark 12:13–17, Luke 20:20–26, Romans 13:6–7).
Of course, for those of us who live in democracies, we are part of the government, and we share in the responsibility to make sure that government actions are carried out appropriately and well, without taking over other social institutions.
Abraham Kuyper had this to say:
“... In this one thought are hidden both the light-side and the shady side of the life of the State. The shady side, for this multitude of states ought not to exist; there should be only one world-empire. These magistrates rule mechanically and do not harmonize with our nature. And this authority of government is exercised by sinful men, and is therefore subject to all manner of despotic ambitions. But the light side also, for a sinful humanity, without division of states, without law and government, and without ruling authority, would be a veritable hell on earth; or at least a repetition of that which existed on earth when God drowned the first degenerate race in the deluge. Calvinism has, therefore, by its deep conception of sin laid bare the true root of state-life, and has taught us two things: first, that we have gratefully to receive, from the hand of God, the institution of the State with its magistrates, as a means of preservation, now indeed indispensable. And on the other hand also that, by virtue of our natural impulse, we must ever watch against the danger which lurks, for our personal liberty, in the power of the State. ...
In a Calvinistic sense we understand hereby, that the family, the business, science, art and so forth are all social spheres, which do not owe their existence to the State, and which do not derive the law of their life from the superiority of the State, but obey a high authority within their own bosom; an authority which rules, by the grace of God, just as the sovereignty of the State does. ...
Does this mean that the government has no right whatever of interference in these autonomous spheres of life? Not at all. It possesses the threefold right and duty: 1. Whenever different spheres clash, to compel mutual regard for the boundary-lines of each; 2. To defend individuals and the weak ones, in those spheres, against the abuse of power of the rest; and 3. To coerce all together to bear personal and financial burdens for the maintenance of the natural unity of the State. The decision cannot, however, in these cases, unilaterally rest with the magistrate. The Law here has to indicate the rights of each, and the rights of the citizens over their own purses must remain the invincible bulwark against the abuse of power on the part of the government.” (Lectures on Calvinism #3)