As we continue to look at ways to renew your mind, I’d like to look with you today at the way you view those in authority over you, whether they’re a boss, a parent, or even a government authority. If you view authority with contempt, distrust, and disrespect, you’ll often find that same contempt, distrust and disrespect coming back to you. But if you view authority with God‘s perspective, trusting that even ungodly authorities can have a place in God’s plan in the world, then you can have much more peace of mind in the midst of struggles.
I remember working for a boss for whom I didn’t have much respect. He often asked me to do things that seemed pretty pointless. We were friendly towards each other, but neither of us had much trust or respect for the other.
One day he asked me to fill out a survey that the company said was voluntary and anonymous. But my boss required that each of us that worked for him fill it out, and because I was out of town at the time, I was going to have to fax my survey to him, making it clear that it came from me. When I voiced these objections to him, he still said he wanted to see my survey by the next morning. I was furious. While it may not have seemed like a big deal to him, I was afraid if I gave my honest responses on the survey, it could jeopardize my future standing in the company. And if I didn’t answer honestly, I was afraid I was jeopardizing my own standards of integrity. So I was just going to refuse to turn it in.
But as the day went on, God began to work on my heart, and the biblical view of authority came to my mind.
The Apostle Paul wrote about this to the Christians living in Rome. And from what I know about the way the Romans treated Christians at the time, I’m sure the Roman Christians had more difficult struggles with their bosses than being asked to fill out inane surveys! They obviously had it way worse than me, and yet here’s what Paul said:
“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. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 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. 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. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:1-7).
Paul encouraged the Roman Christians to “do what’s right.” He knew that if Christians could respect those in authority over them, benefits would abound all around, both to those they serve, and to themselves.
Any parent knows that when a child is obedient and respectful, the child can often ask for most anything and the parent is happy to oblige. Yet when a child is disobedient and disrespectful, the parent is often unwilling to give in to any type of request, for fear that the child might abuse whatever is given to them. When a child shows respect and honor to a parent, that same respect and honor often returns back to them.
Going back to my earlier story with my own boss, I remember finally coming to the conclusion that it was more important to respect and honor my boss-even though I disagreed with him-because God had called me to respect and honor those in authority over me. My boss wasn’t asking me to do anything immoral or illegal. I just disagreed with him. After expressing that disagreement, he still persisted in what he wanted me to do, so I knew what I had to do.
I filled out the survey honestly and faxed it to him the next morning. My heart felt at peace for I knew I had done what was right, even if it cost me something down the road. To my amazement, my relationship with my boss changed starting that very day. I don’t know if it was something that changed within me, or something that changed within him-or a combination of the two-but over the few months, he became my biggest supporter and my strongest advocate for every project took on. He knew he could count on me to do what he asked me to do, and because of this trust, he gave me greater leeway in how I carried out my project than he had ever given me before.
Like a horse that was finally broken, I felt I could now be useful to him in all kinds of ways.
This doesn’t mean that those in authority over us are always right, just as any parent knows full well! Any parent can and will make mistakes, and the same goes for bosses and governments. But just because those in authority over us don’t do the right thing doesn’t mean that we can’t do the right thing. As Paul said, “he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
Even men in the Bible like Joseph, Nehemiah and Daniel found ways to serve those in authority over them even though those over them were often ungodly and did the wrong things.
Joseph was sold as a slave in Egypt, yet he still treated his masters with respect and honor, doing what was right, and earning a place of respect and honor in their households, their prisons, and eventually in service to the king himself, being placed second in command over all the land.
Nehemiah was captured and put into the service of an ungodly king, yet he became the king’s cupbearer, a trusted position to ensure that no one poisoned the king’s wine. When Nehemiah needed time and money to go rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, the king honored his request, because Nehemiah had honored the king.
Daniel was taken as a slave to Babylon, yet he served the king with integrity of heart and attitude, earning the king’s respect and becoming one of his top officials.
I’m sure each of these men wanted to rebel against the authorities God had put over them at many points in their lives. And on some occasions, they did have to disobey the ungodly and immoral commands of those in authority over them, rightly claiming that God had a higher authority in each of those instances. When Potiphar’s wife asked Joseph to go to bed with her, Joseph refused, and when Nebuchadnezzar’s officials asked Daniel and his friends to bow down and worship the king, they refused. In both cases, Joseph and Daniel paid a significant price for their insubordination, but they were willing to do so because they realized that in some cases, it was more important to submit to the authority of God than the authority of men. So there do seem to be times when God’s authority trumps earthly authorities. But those times are much fewer than most of us might like to admit.
The principle remains: when we submit to those in authority over us, whether it’s the authorities on earth, or the Authority in heaven, we’ll have peace of mind, because we’ll know we’ve done what’s right.
If you’re wrestling in your mind with something that someone in authority has asked you to do, bring it to God. Ask Him to help you to know what the right thing is to do. Paul says that those in authority over you will commend you if you do what’s right.
Do what’s right, and God will reward you. Those in authority over you will commend you, you’ll be freed from fear, and your conscience will be clear. As Paul concluded:
“…submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:4b-7).
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for reminding us of the importance of submitting to those in authority over us. Lord, give us Your wisdom as we weigh how to do that to the best of our ability, not only to avoid punishment, but because of conscience. Help us to renew our minds in the way we think about those in authority over us, changing our hearts and minds and even our relationships with others as we do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
P.S. Our friend Jeanette is still offering T-Shirts for those who would like one as a reminder to pray for my wife Lana, who has been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The T-Shirts have a verse on the front from the book of Joshua that says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go.” Jeanette created these shirts as a way to gather prayer and to bless our ministry. She would be glad to send you one for a donation of any size to our ministry, anywhere in the world. We sincerely need and appreciate your prayers, and your gifts also help us in a very practical way to continue taking the message of Christ all around the world. To make a donation and get a T-Shirt, just visit:
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Questions for Reflection
1. Read Romans 13:1-7. Why do you think Paul wanted the Christians in Rome to respect those in authority over them? What possible benefits could result from this type of submission?
2. In what areas of your life could you benefit from putting Paul’s words into action?
3. How could changing the way you view those in authority over you bring you more peace of mind?
4. How could changing the way you interact with those in authority over you bring about a change in your relationships with them?
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