Who are these authority figures anyway? Well, government officials, for one, would be over us, and probably one of the hardest to submit to if you don’t agree with what they do. How about police officers, teachers, pastors, parents? All of those are people in authority, and they all need to be listened to and obeyed. Wives, what about your husband? Yup, he’s an authority figure, too, and demands respect.
So, where did this post come from? Well, it was while I was reading the first chapter of Esther. That first chapter is all about how King Xerxes told the eunuchs to bring his wife to him so that he could show off her beauty to the rest of the people in his company. She refused. By refusing she was disobeying him, her husband and ruler of their nation. What was his response? Did he brush it off and think, “Well, fine. I’m disappointed that she didn’t do what I asked, but what can I do? It’s her life, and I don’t want her mad at me?” I’m going to go with a “No” on that one. In fact, the Bible says that he became furious and burned with anger (v.12b). But he didn’t just stomp off and shut himself in his room to wallow in his anger; he spoke with the wise men who understood the times and were closest to the king (v.13b-14a).
These wise men advised King Xerxes to “issue a royal decree…that Queen Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes.” They went a step further and said, “Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she (v.19). Therefore, not only was she no longer allowed in the king’s presence, but she was stripped of her title and replaced (obviously by Esther, but that’s the next chapter). This was done so that “all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest” (v.20).
I don’t know how you feel about all of this, but I know there are women out there who would be furious. As I read this chapter I wasn’t sure what to take from it. Yes, I got the idea, but I wanted something more. I moved on to my next reading in Acts, but something (someone) kept bringing me back to Esther.
How I see this is two-fold. 1. This is for those in authority. 2. This is for those under authority. And guess what? Most of us fall in both categories.
Those in Authority Positions
Those who are in authority, whether it is through appointment (government), employment (law enforcement, teacher, boss, etc), or in your own home (husband, parent, guardian), have the responsibility to maintain order, and to demand respect. To do this you don’t have to rule with an “iron fist,” but you do have to assert yourself as the head. The problem we have in today’s society is that too many people (parents especially) are afraid to put their foot down. Because of this there are far too many kids, employees, citizens, who do what they want regardless of what the consequences could/should be. People in authority are afraid to “rock the boat,” and therefore disorder comes.
How many times have you seen kids on the street wrecking havoc? How about that Kindergartner who rides the bus speaking like an entitled adult? What about the rioters that flood cities and nothing is done? What about laws that are made to appease and not protect?
The path that our society is walking on is a dangerous one, but there is something we can do about it. What can we do? Exactly what I said above: assert your authority. You’re not going to make everyone happy. It’s impossible. But you need to do what it right. It doesn’t mean that you put unrealistic expectations upon those who you lead, but those expectations you do have in place should be enforced without fail.
Be a leader who leads.
Wait a minute! Some of those people have, or have had, a hard life. Their family situations are not ideal. Their lifestyle isn’t like ours, and they’re constantly ridiculed for it. They weren’t raised to “know better.” I hear excuses like this all too often, and it bothers me. All these excuses do is harm those people. By “going easy” on them, or giving them a separate set of rules, you’re isolating them from everyone else. You’re teaching them that they don’t have to follow the rules that you had originally set, rules that you deemed important. Don’t make separate rules for others. Titus 3:1 says, Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good. It does not say to remind the people who have perfect lives, or the majority, etc. There is no distinction. Everyone has the same rules to follow, and every rule should be followed the same way.
This does not, however, relieve those under authority from any responsibility.
Those Under Authority
I said this was two-fold, and that’s exactly what it is. As those under authority it is our responsibility to obey those who are over us. As much as we may want to, we cannot say that we won’t obey because we don’t like what they want us to do. This does not mean, however, that we go against what the Bible tells us. God is the ultimate authority, and therefore we need to find a way to obey without going against Him.
Did you know that all authority is God given? Romans 13:1 says, 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. And since authority is God given, verse 2 continues with, Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. I don’t know about you, but I really try hard not to rebel against God. This does not mean that I’m perfect. Far from it. I admit there are authority figures that infuriate me. There are others I want to just roll my eyes at and walk away from. But we’re not supposed to do that, and we need to strive to be the followers we are told to be by God.
Hebrews 13:17 says, Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Hm...let's put that another way. Let’s look at it through the eyes of one who is in charge. Parents, let’s focus on you for a moment. You love your children. You want what’s best for them, and you want them to grow into God fearing, responsible adults. Unfortunately, kids are…kids. They don’t always listen, they don’t always want to hear what you have to say, and sometimes they outright say, “No.” I’m very used to this as I have 4 children. Thankfully, the youngest one can’t talk back or disobey (he’s only 7 months old). However…I have three who are old enough to listen and do exactly what I tell them, but it seems that at times their ears stop working. Too many times I have to tell them to do the same thing over and over again, and many times they’re getting in trouble for something. As a mom I wish that were not the case.
My dream is to have a perfectly clean home (because, well, they wouldn’t mess it up or fight me about cleaning); all of my children would get along without fighting or frustrating each other. If they all just did what is expected of them all the time, then life would be easy, and doing my job as their mom would always be wonderful.
People who refuse to listen to authority, to obey them and give them the respect they deserve, are like children who are disobedient to their parents. No one who has this authority wants their job to be difficult. They have a job to do, and they want it to go well. We should not make it difficult for them. We do not have that right. Not only that, but when they can’t do their jobs easily because you are there making it difficult, you ultimately lose out. Let’s go back to the kids. If they just did what they should they wouldn’t have missed opportunities. My kids have missed out on outings, chill time in front of a computer screen, play time at a friend’s house. I would say that’s missing out. What about employees? They could have had a better raise or even a promotion if they did what was expected of them.
I like what Romans 13:5 says: Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. “If you don’t start cleaning your room right now….” How great would it be if our children, our employees, anyone under us, would just do what they should because to do otherwise would go against their conscience? We wouldn’t have to punish them for disobedience. No one would be sent to their room or lose electronics, no one would be fired or arrested. It sounds good, doesn’t it? Then maybe we should start obeying because we know it’s right, not because we could ultimately be punished for it.
And now we have a call to attend to. We need to step up and humble ourselves to our place under the authority that has been established by God Himself. We need to be obedient and respectful. Titus 3:2 continues from above with, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. In Romans 13:7 we are told to give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. This is what we need to strive to be. As people in authority we need to remember that we are the leaders, the head, and whatever authoritative position you are in, you need to be the one in charge. Don’t let others under you get away with disobedience, for it will bring disorder to that which you have set. This will not only benefit you, but it will benefit them as well.
Lord Jesus, I thank you for being the ultimate authority, and for the knowledge that all authority has been established by you. Help me, oh Lord, to accept those whom you have chosen to be in positions above my own, and to give them the respect that they deserve as your servant. Help me also, as an authority figure, to lead as you would have me lead. Help me not to back down where I should stand firm. In all I do, let it be pleasing to you. In Your holy name, amen.