Is it Un-Godly to Serve in the Military?

Here’s a recent question from someone who served our country in the military.  What does the bible/God say about serving your country? About the military? Should we encourage someone to enlist? Is joining the military considered ungodly?

First of all, thanks so much for serving our country!  I appreciate you. Here’s what I understand about the military, God and the Bible:

In the Old Testament God commanded Moses and Joshua to go into the Promise land to conquer the inhabitants.  It was military action.  It is also be clear to me that this is considered judgment after years of God waiting for repentance. God tells Abraham: 16 Four generations later, your descendants will return here and take this land, because only then will the people who live here be so sinful that they deserve to be punished. Genesis 15:16 (CEV)

We read about it extensively about this military action in the book of Joshua.  From there we get the popular story of Jericho’s walls falling.

In Judges we see ongoing military action, God uses other nations to punish his people, then they repent and God raises up a Judge and the Judge using military action and God’s help to destroy enemies.  We get the great stories about Sampson conquering the Philistines, Gideon taking down the Midanites, Debra destroying the Canaanites and other great military stories.

Who can forget David taking down the Philistine giant Goliath?

David writes in Psalm 18:34, “He trains my hands for battle” NIV

David seemed to be called to take down Goliath, take Jerusalem by military action but when he desired to build the temple, God said Solomon would : 1 Chron 22:7-9

7 David said to Solomon: “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the LORD my God. 8 But this word of the LORD came to me: ‘You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. 9 But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side.  (NIV)    

David was called a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) he wrote many of the Psalms but his calling to battle didn’t mean he could do whatever he wanted.

God has different callings for different people.

*To me, I see that some are called to battle (or to protect through police work or military) some are called to peace.

So much of I & 2 Samuel, 1 &2 Kings and 1 &2 Chronicles are about the military actions of the Israelites and their kings. Many of our great biblical stories involve military action, such as Elijah killing the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel, and on and on.

New Testament?

Some may say “well that’s Old Testament.”  The New Testament is different.  Really?  When John the Baptist came on the scene he was preaching and drew great crowds.  People were convicted and moved by his message, some were soldiers:

Luke 3:14-16  4 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely-be content with your pay.”

15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ.  16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. NIV

Notice John didn’t say, get out of the military.  He affirmed their job and said to be “content with your pay.”

Same thing with Jesus one time a Centurion (A Roman military commander over 100 soldiers) came to Jesus asking that his servant be healed; Jesus commended his faith and did NOT condemn his job.

Here’s what Jesus said,

Matt 8:10-11

10 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him about the (Roman military) man, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. NIV

In fact in Jesus teachings he tells people to support the military by teaching people the popular saying,

Matt 5:41  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. NIV   The Roman military by law could ask a citizen to carry to their equipment one mile.  Jesus said, carry it two miles.

*To me, I see no mention ever of Jesus criticizing the military.  Rome was an occupying army.  It was very unpopular to many Jewish people, but not to Jesus.

Paul is the same way, he was chained to military guards but he led them to Christ.  He never criticized the Roman army or government.  In fact in Romans 13 he says,

Rom 13:1-7

1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.  NIV

It’s pretty clear to me, they (military, police, government force) are there by God’s permission and design. “They are God’s servant” Later in Timothy he says to pray for all government authorities.

That’s my take on the military or police, if someone feels called to serve in that capacity.  Do it, “they are God’s servant.”  If you sense that you are to be a man of peace, like Solomon was, be a man of peace.  Solomon still had a military though.


For more about the series, Things that Make You Go Hmm, go to

About dkoop

Lead Pastor of Upwards Church: Leander & Jarrell, TX
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