“Let everyone be subject 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, whoever 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 you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents 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 as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” Romans 13:1-7
“Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Mark 12:17
Submitting to authority is not a popular topic these days. We like to be in charge of our lives and tend to resist the idea of coming under anyone or anything.
But the Bible has a lot to say about the importance of submission; both within the Church and outside of it. Here are a few observations about submitting to secular governing authorities, whether that’s your boss or your government:
1. Submission is not ultimately about whether you agree with your authority’s policies or not. Nor is it about whether you like the authorities themselves. As long as they aren’t asking you to do something immoral (and Romans 13 operates on the assumption that they’re not) it’s about honoring God by honoring the order and orderers he’s established. Paying taxes was a hot topic in Jesus day because they were outrageously high and went to support an oppressive government. Yet Jesus told his followers to pay them anyways and focus on giving their lives back to God.
2. True submission is on the authority’s terms, not our own. Again, unless we’re resisting an immoral law, it’s not our place as Christians to pick and choose which rules we’d like to follow and which one’s we’d like to ignore. Little kids do that and it’s a sign of immaturity, not wisdom or sophistication. It’s our place to give the authorities whatever we owe them.
3. When we rebel against the governing authorities God has established, it hurts our character, our witness, and often those around us. It can also get us into hot water. Saying we follow Jesus but rebelling against authority is a bit of an oxymoron – like the crazy driver with the Jesus fish bumper sticker. It should be no surprise when a cop eventually pulls them over.
A few concluding thoughts:
- Satan held the first rebellion. When we sinfully rebel, we’re following in his footsteps.
- If you have to look over your shoulder, you’re probably out of line.
- Submission can refine our character like nothing else, similar to the transformation a Marine might experience while going through basic training.