How Important Is It to Obey?
THE baseball player knew only too well what was expected of him. He could use his bat as he pleased unless signaled to do otherwise by his manager. But this seemed to him to be a most important game and he was certain that he could improve upon the judgment of the manager. So, although he was instructed to “bunt,” he did the very opposite; he gave the ball a wallop that resulted in a home run, thereby winning the game. The baseball fans no doubt acclaimed him a hero, but he was fined $100 for disobeying his manager. He learned that obedience was more important than winning a game.
That was years ago and other players since then have had to pay fines for various reasons. But it might be asked, Was it just, fair and reasonable to penalize a player for winning a game? No, he was not penalized for winning the game but for going contrary to orders. What would happen to the sport of baseball if each player could do as he pleased? Where would be the teamwork? Besides, while in this isolated case the batter’s judgment may have been better, how often is this the case? Moreover, who can say whether the game might not also have been won had the batter obeyed? Yes, some people are hired and paid to call the signals, for that is what they are supposed to know best; others get paid for cooperating with them. Cooperation often means to obey, which this ballplayer failed to do.
The very sound of the word “obey” is irksome to many people. Some modern brides object to the word “obey” in their marriage vows. Ever so many people want to be free to do as they please, to do their “own thing.” But life begins and continues only as long as we obey. How so? In that we all need to obey the laws of creation—such as gravity, cause and effect, metabolism, and so forth—to keep on living.
Not only is it in our interest to obey the laws of creation, but it is also in our interest to obey the laws that men have made for the orderly functioning of society. Anarchists would do away with all laws; but what confusion and jeopardy would result! Take just the simple matter of traffic lights at a busy intersection. Without those lights and the obedience of car drivers, the traffic at that point could be hopelessly snarled, not to mention how many persons might be killed because of accidents. No question about obedience to traffic laws being important!
Or consider the men in a symphony orchestra. The conductor might be a genius, but what good would that be if his men did not obey him? Musicians know only too well the importance of obedience, for their jobs depend upon their implicitly obeying the conductor, the notes and the first musician of their section! Is obedience important for them? It certainly is!
Examples could be multiplied, but the foregoing should suffice to underscore the importance of obedience in everyday matters of life. So, it is but to be expected that God in his Word, the Holy Bible, which he gave as a ‘lamp to our feet and a light to our roadway,’ should stress the importance of obedience in spiritual matters. (Ps. 119:105) In fact, the word “obey,” in its various forms, occurs more than 160 times in the Bible, and hundreds of times we find references to God’s commandments, laws, orders, judicial decisions and regulations, all of which call for obedience on the part of those loving Jehovah God. The very opening chapters of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, tell that all the trouble we have in the world stems from our first parents because they failed to obey God.—Gen. 2:17; 3:11-19.
By the very nature of things in every human society, if there is to be order, harmony and accomplishment there must be cooperation, and cooperation involves some measure of obedience. But who should decide who is to give the commands and who is to obey? Since God created the earth and man upon it, and these all belong to him, has he not the right to require that man obey him? And that being so, he also has the right to delegate to some the right to command and to others the requirement to obey them. And all of this God does wisely and lovingly, not arbitrarily.
God’s Word commands: “Children, be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord.” (Col. 3:20) Is this a loving and wise command? Indeed it is, for not only did parents bring the children into the world, which of itself makes them responsible, but they have the greater experience and the obligation of providing their children with food, clothing, shelter, education, training, religious instruction and recreation. How can they properly discharge these duties if their children do not cooperate by obeying? No more so than a conductor can do justice to a piece of music unless his men fully cooperate by obeying him!
And there are other spheres of human activity where God requires individuals to obey. For example, obedience is called for in the marital relationship if there is to be peace, harmony and happiness in the family (Eph. 5:21-23), among citizens in relation to their governments for justice to prevail (Rom. 13:1-7), among servants or employees in relation to masters or employers so as to get work done (Eph. 6:5-8), and among individual members of a congregation in relation to their overseers or elders for mutual advantage. (Heb. 13:17) Of course, all such obedience is relative, meaning that it is rendered so long as it does not go against what God commands.—Acts 5:29.
There is an incident in the Bible that shows how vitally important it is for God’s dedicated people to obey him in all things. Israel’s first monarch, King Saul, had been commanded by Jehovah God to execute retributive justice upon the Amalekite nation for their dastardly attack while Israel was in the wilderness. Contrary to God’s instructions, Saul failed to destroy the king and the flocks of the Amalekites, using the excuse that he saved the flocks for the purpose of sacrifice. But the prophet Samuel told him: “To obey is better than a sacrifice, to pay attention than the fat of rams. . . . Since you have rejected the word of Jehovah, he accordingly rejects you from being king.”—1 Sam. 15:22, 23.
How important is obedience? Truly very, very important!
[Picture on page 164]
“To obey is better than a sacrifice,” the prophet Samuel told disobedient King Saul