How Your View of Authority Affects Your Life
1. To what extent is your life affected by your view of authority, and how can you appraise what your view is?
THE majority of your relationships with other persons and the happiness you achieve from them are affected by the way you view authority. This affects family, religious and secular associations that cover almost every hour of every day. The important thing to remember in these relationships is not just that you recognize authority, but how you view that authority. Do you see it as necessary and in many cases a loving provision for your benefit? Or do you look upon it as something to be circumvented if it becomes inconvenient or contrary to what you would like? You can obtain a clear appraisal of your view of authority by briefly reviewing the areas of your life that are affected, considering situations that may arise as a result of the way you view it. These relationships can be broadly divided into two groupings, those outside and those inside the Christian congregation. We will review them in turn.
2. (a) How does one’s view of governmental authority become evident? (b) What is the proper way to view such authorities?
2 Your view of governmental authority usually is shown by the way you view representatives of the government under which you live. You may come in contact with representatives such as policemen, judges, government officials, tax collectors or teachers. In dealing with such authorities outside the Christian congregation, the proper view is reflected by recognition and acceptance of the principle of relative subjection. There is a common tendency to see the authorities as being inherently bad and thus disrespect them. This disrespect often becomes evident in one’s failure to obey what seem to be unnecessary or unjust laws such as certain traffic regulations, or one’s engaging in “little” dishonesties in connection with customs and taxes. Or it may take the form of using derogatory slang names for policemen and other representatives of the government. With respect to this latter practice, it is interesting to note what Solomon advised Jews under the kingdom of Israel: “Even in your bedroom do not call down evil upon the king himself.” (Eccl. 10:20; Acts 23:5) And Peter showed that Christians ought to apply this principle to secular rulers today: “Honor men of all sorts, . . . have honor for the king.”—1 Pet. 2:17.
3. Why is it important to develop the proper view of governmental authority now?
3 Why is this so important, since these authorities are part of a passing system? It is because of the view or mental outlook toward authority that it cultivates, not only in ourselves, but also in our children and those with whom we associate. The existing governmental authorities are now acting as “God’s minister to you for your good,” and must be viewed in this light, however imperfect the individual administrators may be. To take a position against them in even small matters would be to take “a stand against the arrangement of God” for our time. (Rom. 13:2, 4) In Jehovah’s new order, we will need the right view of the authority that will be taken over by the Kingdom government, no doubt through earthly administrators. At that time these may have to handle much of what we now consider to be secular functions. It would certainly be unwise to carry over an attitude of disrespect for men appointed to administer these things under God’s government.
4. Give an example of how to maintain a balanced view of secular authority without compromising Christian principles.
4 Even in areas where secular authority and God’s authority seem to be in conflict, it is wise to show respect for governmental authority to the extent possible. For example, your child may attend a school where the educational authority requires children to learn about the theory of evolution. Would it be proper to speak slightingly of the teacher to your child and thus cultivate in him disrespect for this authority? No, instead, you might explain that a Christian could show proper respect for authority by listening to what is taught, recognizing that the teacher is required to teach the subject. You could also point out that this does not mean that a person has to believe everything he hears, any more than he has to agree with the views of the political party in power merely because it exercises authority over him. (Prov. 14:15) A proper, balanced view of the teacher’s authority is thus maintained without compromising Christian principles.
5. Is it wise to get involved with rebellion against existing authorities, and why?
5 It is also unwise for one to be taken up by the current trends toward dissent against the existing civil authorities. Proverbs 24:21, 22 speaks about “those who are for a change” from the administration of Jehovah’s anointed king. The advice given is: “With those . . . do not intermeddle. For their disaster will arise so suddenly, that who is aware of the extinction of those who are for a change?” This principle could certainly be applied by Christians faced with the modern rebellion against authority, which rebellion often takes the form of violence. The ones hurt most are usually the rioters themselves. The Christian will wait on Jehovah to remedy mankind’s ills when His kingdom “stone . . . cut out not by hands” strikes and crushes “all these kingdoms” without any overt acts on our part.—Dan. 2:34, 44.
6. (a) How do some view the authority of their employer? (b) Can such a view be justified? Why?
6 Often in this old system of things the policy is to do as little as possible for one’s secular employer, just enough to “get by.” Sometimes employees are heard to brag about how little they can do on the job and “get away with it.” One who knows what the Bible indicates about the near future might even rationalize: “The business will soon be destroyed at Armageddon anyway, so why work hard to perpetuate it?” He may even use such specious reasoning to condone spending time when he is unobserved to do other things, such as prepare a Bible talk or preach to other employees during hours he has agreed to work for his employer. He ought to ask himself: “Is this honest? Is it fair to my employer? If I asked my employer if I could do these things, what would his reply be?” Whether the employer is himself dishonest or unfair does not enter into the matter. Any activity beyond what you have agreed with your employer to do during the time he is paying you would make your view of his authority suspect. A person who does these things would not like to think of himself as a thief, but do his actions not amount to taking dishonestly time for which the employer is paying?—Heb. 13:18.
7. (a) How are some influenced by others on the job? Illustrate. (b) How is the proper view of authority in employment displayed?
7 Another related matter that is good to think about is this: “Have I let other employees influence my view of the employer’s authority? Do I follow their bad habits of coming to work late, stopping early or just ‘loafing’?” The Bible’s counsel respecting a person’s relationship to his “owner” or employer is: “Please them well, . . . not committing theft, but exhibiting good fidelity to the full, so that [the Christians] may adorn the teaching of our Savior, God, in all things.” (Titus 2:9, 10; Col. 3:22, 23) One can ‘commit theft’ in ways other than taking money or things from one’s employer, as shown above. Also, if, without the knowledge of one’s employer, one takes off paid “sick leave” when really not ill, one is showing disrespect for the employer’s authority as well as Jehovah’s laws on lying and theft. In these things considered “little” by employees in general, one can reflect on one’s view of authority and whether one has the Christian traits that Jehovah desires of those who will live in His new order. One can show one’s proper view of authority by finding joy in accomplishment, mastering one’s job and becoming efficient at it, thus developing good habits for the future when one will be under the authority of Jehovah’s righteous overseers.
8. (a) Whose responsibility is a child’s view of authority? (b) Is it easier to be a parent who is lax in administering discipline?
8 Moving on to relationships inside the congregation, we come to that between parent and child. With regard to parental authority, it is not up to the child to develop the proper view on his own. Parents must take the initiative, especially in the child’s early formative years. This means to do as the Proverb (Pr 13:24) advises: “The one loving [his son] is he that does look for him with discipline.” When discipline is needed, following through every time with well-thought-out correction and counsel usually creates in children a fine respect for parental authority. However, to many parents, this seems just too much effort to make when they want rest from the cares that come with the other aspects of their lives. The farsighted parent, though, sees beyond the immediate work of disciplining his child. He sees the heartwarming benefits that a child who has developed the proper view of authority can bring to all the family. Solomon said: “Chastise your son and he will bring you rest and give much pleasure to your soul.” (Prov. 29:17) So a child will actually prove to be a source of refreshment and less work for the parent who is willing to put forth the effort in early stages to instill in him a deep respect for parental authority.
9. (a) Do children appreciate parents who do not exercise authority? (b) How far-reaching is parents’ cultivation of respect for authority in children?
9 The parent who indulges his child, letting him have his own way rather than exerting parental authority where called for will find this result to be true: “If one is pampering one’s servant from youth on, in his later life he will even become a thankless one.” (Prov. 29:21) Youths have meager thanks to give a parent who does not show enough interest to give of himself with discipline rather than of his pocketbook with material things. You parents are largely responsible for your child’s view of authority and there is little sympathy to be found in God’s Word for those who say: “I just can’t control my child.” Youths’ view of parental authority has a profound effect on the way they view authority outside the family as well; thus parents should consider carefully the next time they would rather “rest” than administer needed discipline.
10. How can a Christian wife enhance her children’s view of authority, and with what benefits to herself?
10 Another thing that strongly affects youths’ view of authority is what they observe of the way parents display their own view in application of the headship principle. (1 Cor. 11:3) Does your husband constantly say when his child asks for a decision on something: “Go ask your mother”? Are you a wife who usually operates independently of her husband, exercising all the authority with the children so that they come to you with almost everything instead of going to their father? You may find that this will contribute to the above attitude in your husband, or perhaps it will cause him to become resentful of your taking over the father’s rightful authority. Try directing the children to their father on the more important issues. In many cases it will bring a threefold benefit—he will find a feeling of accomplishment in fulfilling his proper role as head, you will have the satisfaction of having a husband who really is the “head of the house” and the children will grow up with the proper view of authority. They will see parental authority as a stable and united front, worthy of their respect.
11. (a) What problem may arise with regard to a wife’s respect for her husband’s authority? (b) How will the wise wife handle the situation?
11 One of the biggest problems a wife may have with regard to family authority is in the case where she has the more dominant or capable personality. Perhaps she finds it difficult to maintain the proper view of her husband’s authority if he does not measure up to her expectations. Two courses are open to her. She may take over his authority, though this is contrary to God’s instruction, or she may show that she has the right view of authority, whether the authority meets up with her expectations or not. The wife who takes the latter course and lovingly looks to her husband for decisions will find herself much happier than if she tried to take over from him. By her humble and tactful consideration of him, he may even increase in the qualities necessary to the exercise of authority. This will enhance the other qualities that caused her to love him in the first place, making for a happy relationship not possible without the Bible’s wise counsel. (Eph. 5:33) Even in situations that seem to test the wife’s respect to the limit, if she has the proper view of authority, she will not at once assume that her case is the exception. She will first examine herself and endeavor to apply the sound principles of God’s Word and the suggestions of His servants.
12. How is the arrangement of authority in the Christian congregation to be viewed by women who are part of it?
12 Somewhat similar to the authority of male over female in marriage, in the Christian congregation the man also has certain authority over the woman. This is sometimes difficult to accept for the woman who has been “emancipated” in modern society. The majority of those in Jehovah’s organization are women, and for them to assent to male authority is a testimony to the way Jehovah’s Word can work. A woman coming into this organization who has a secular job where she has authority over a large number of others, including men, may find it difficult to restrain herself in the presence of a male who is not so able to direct others as she is. However, if she continues to accept her place in Jehovah’s arrangement and see in it His way, she will make a valuable contribution to the peace and harmony of the congregation.—1 Tim. 2:12.
13. When the individual disagrees with the decisions of those in authority, how should he view the situation?
13 Thoughts or actions to the effect that one is superior in ability or judgment to the one in authority can result in frustration to the individual and dissension in the congregation. But what if we find it difficult to submit to a certain decision or way of doing things set out by the overseer in authority? Rather than brooding over it or trying to make others see how wrong it is, display the proper view by accepting the direction of the one who has the appointed authority to handle the matter. Even if your judgment is better in this one case, are you better qualified or willing to handle his position in other respects? Then, too, one could be mistaken. Sometimes a seemingly wrong course turns out to be right in the outcome, perhaps through Jehovah’s direction.
14. What can one do to help persons who complain against the decisions of the appointed overseer?
14 And if someone should try to stir up sentiment ‘for a change,’ by word and deed help him to get the proper view of authority. Then the one presiding ‘will not have to act with severity according to the authority he has, to build up and not to tear down.’ (2 Cor. 13:10; Heb. 13:17) The peace and harmony that come to the congregation when those in it have the proper view of authority is far more important than doing things in the most “efficient” way. If we have a suggestion that we are sure is important enough for consideration, it is best to wait for the proper time and in the right manner present it to the one with authority to handle it, just as Queen Esther did in ancient times.—Esther 4:11; 5:1, 2; 7:1-3.
15. How should we view the authority of the visible governing body of Jehovah’s organization?
15 The visible governing body of Jehovah’s organization has also been given authority by Him to direct the work of His worshipers on earth at this time. (Matt. 24:45-47) The congregation and its overseers show their proper view of authority by accepting willingly its counsel provided through the printed page, letters or its traveling representatives. Sometimes there is a tendency to doubt the fitness of certain counsel, perhaps about the matter of dress or hairstyle, regarding it as an undue invasion of privacy and one’s “freedom.” Yet one with the proper view of authority will realize the concern Jehovah’s organization has for the way God is represented to the world through us. (1 Cor. 4:9) He will view the instructions, not as arbitrary rules, but as an evidence of Jehovah’s loving interest in his worshipers.—Prov. 3:12.
16. How have some been affected by progressive dispensation of spiritual food, but what is the right view?
16 Sometimes persons speak against the understanding of certain Scriptural teachings that the Watch Tower Society has set forth. For example, there were those who had difficulty accepting the change of understanding regarding the “superior authorities” of Romans 13:1. Some even stumbled from their dedicated relationship to Jehovah over this matter. They did not have the proper view of the authority of Jehovah’s organization for providing spiritual “food at the proper time.” When some of the disciples had difficulty accepting what Jesus was teaching on one point, saying: “This speech is shocking; who can listen to it?” they “went off to the things behind and would no longer walk with him.” Peter, with the right view of Jesus’ teaching authority, realized there was no other place to go for truth and so remained in the way of life.—John 6:60, 66-69.
17. How does one show one’s acceptance of Jehovah’s authority?
17 The most important relationship that one has is with one’s Creator through dedication. This, too, is affected by the way we view authority. Do we accept Jehovah as the one “searching the heart” and therefore ‘in all our ways take notice of him’? (Jer. 17:10; Prov. 3:6) The way we can show respect for Jehovah’s authority in this personal dedicated relationship is by obedience, especially in areas that may be unobserved by others. Such things as self-abuse and wrong or immoral thinking can be controlled when we have the proper view of Jehovah’s authority. This will demonstrate how seriously we take our unique relationship with Him. We will be constantly conscious of his loving interest in us and accept the guidance of his authority in our lives. We will fear to violate his laws, not because of reprisals, but because we realize he knows what is best for us and that any other course would be to our harm.
18. Illustrate how one’s view of Jehovah’s authority may be tested, explaining the proper view in this case.
18 One situation that is particularly difficult for some is when they “fall in love” with someone who is not dedicated to Jehovah. This is especially true where there are few potential marriage mates for one among those serving God. The question of how we view Jehovah’s authority in this matter where powerful emotions are involved becomes a very real one. One’s desire for “freedom” in this area could set in motion the chain of events that has drawn many back into the old system in bondage to a mate who has no respect for Jehovah’s authority or his righteous principles. Those with the proper view will not find themselves in this situation, because they see Jehovah’s counsel in such matters not as just authority speaking, but as based on a loving interest in what is best for his worshipers, eternally. They will be content to wait until the situation can be remedied in Jehovah’s way and due time.
AUTHORITY IN THE NEW ORDER
19. When is the time to cultivate the proper view of authority, and why?
19 Now is the time to begin molding our thinking with respect to authority for the new order. There is no reason to believe that Jehovah will change his way of dealing with men. He will no doubt use his representatives to administer the operation of earthly activities. Do you find it difficult to accept the authority of these representatives in a spiritual way now? Then how will you react if directed by them at that time to care for some mundane responsibility such as collecting the garbage?
20. How may our view of authority be important to us in the future, and of what is this view a reflection?
20 Remember, it was on this matter of respect for authority that the first man was tested and it may be that at the end of Christ’s thousand-year reign this principle will also be involved in the final test. This could be indicated by the fact that there would be “nations in the four corners of the earth” that would be led to attack Jehovah’s authority as represented by the “camp of the holy ones and the beloved city.” (Rev. 20:8, 9) Our view of authority is really a reflection of our understanding, our appreciation of Jehovah’s purpose in all its connected parts. When a person lacks understanding, then he becomes “like a horse or mule without understanding, whose spiritedness is to be curbed even by bridle or halter.” (Ps. 32:9) Rather than be curbed at Armageddon or later, it is wise to develop and display understanding with respect to authority so we will be the kind of persons Jehovah wants in his new order of righteousness. Then we will work in harmony with his direction through Christ’s Kingdom reign and make our peaceful Paradise earth a grand testimony to the benefits that come when we have the right view of authority.
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Do you respect the authority of your employer, or do you do as little as you think you can get away with?
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A child will be a source of refreshment and less work to the parent who instills in him a deep respect for parental authority