Honor the Ones Given Authority Over You
“Honor men of all sorts, have love for the whole association of brothers, be in fear of God, have honor for the king.”—1 PETER 2:17.
1, 2. How do people view authority today? Why?
“THE kids have all the rights. There’s no respect for parents,” bemoans a mother. “Question Authority” says a bumper sticker. Those are but two reflections of a situation that prevails today, as you must know. A general lack of respect for parents, teachers, employers, and government officials is common all over the world.
2 Some may just shrug their shoulders and say, ‘Well, those in positions of authority don’t merit my respect.’ At times, that may be hard to deny. We are faced with a steady flow of news about corrupt government officials, greedy employers, incompetent teachers, and abusive parents. Happily, few Christians view those in authority in the congregation in that same light.—Matthew 24:45-47.
3, 4. Why should Christians show respect for those in positions of authority?
3 As Christians, we have “compelling reason” for respecting those exercising secular authority. The apostle Paul admonished Christians to “be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.” (Romans 13:1, 2, 5; 1 Peter 2:13-15) Paul also showed a valid reason for obeying the authorities in the family: “You wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as it is becoming in the Lord. You children, be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing in the Lord.” (Colossians 3:18, 20) Congregation elders are worthy of our honor because ‘the holy spirit has appointed them overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God.’ (Acts 20:28) It is out of respect for Jehovah that we honor human authorities. Naturally, honoring Jehovah’s authority always comes first in our lives.—Acts 5:29.
4 With Jehovah’s supreme authority in mind, let us consider examples of some who did not respect those in positions of authority and of some who did.
Disrespect Leads to Disapproval
5. What disrespectful attitude did Michal show toward David, and to what did that lead?
5 From the history of King David, we can see how Jehovah views those who look down on God-given authority. When David had the ark of the covenant brought to Jerusalem, his wife Michal “got to see King David leaping and dancing around before Jehovah; and she began to despise him in her heart.” Michal should have recognized David as not only the family head but also the king of the land. However, she voiced her feelings in sarcasm: “How glorious the king of Israel made himself today when he uncovered himself today to the eyes of the slave girls of his servants, just as one of the empty-headed men uncovers himself outright!” A result of this was that Michal never produced children.—2 Samuel 6:14-23.
6. How did Jehovah view Korah’s disrespect for His anointed?
6 An outrageous example of not honoring God-appointed theocratic leadership was that of Korah. As a Kohathite, what a privilege he enjoyed serving Jehovah at the tabernacle! Still, he found fault with Moses and Aaron, God’s anointed leaders of the Israelites. Korah banded together with other chieftains of Israel and brazenly told Moses and Aaron: “The whole assembly are all of them holy and Jehovah is in their midst. Why, then, should you lift yourselves up above the congregation of Jehovah?” How did Jehovah view the attitude of Korah and his supporters? God viewed their action as dishonoring Jehovah himself. After seeing all those on their side swallowed up in the earth, Korah and the 250 chieftains were destroyed by a fire from Jehovah.—Numbers 16:1-3, 28-35.
7. Did the “superfine apostles” have any reason to criticize Paul’s authority?
7 In the first-century Christian congregation, there were those who disregarded theocratic authority. The “superfine apostles” in the Corinthian congregation had a disrespectful attitude toward Paul. They criticized his speaking ability, saying: “His presence in person is weak and his speech contemptible.” (2 Corinthians 10:10; 11:5) Whether Paul was an outstanding speaker or not, he deserved respect as an apostle. But was Paul’s speech really contemptible? His public discourses recorded in the Bible give evidence of how convincing a speaker he was. Why, as a result of a brief discussion with Herod Agrippa II, an “expert on all . . . the controversies among Jews,” Paul brought the king to the point of saying: “In a short time you would persuade me to become a Christian”! (Acts 13:15-43; 17:22-34; 26:1-28) Yet, the superfine apostles in Corinth accused him of being contemptible in his speech! How did Jehovah view their attitude? In a message for the overseers of the Ephesian congregation, Jesus Christ spoke favorably of the ones who refused to be drawn away by those ‘who said they were apostles, but they were not.’—Revelation 2:2.
Respect Despite Imperfection
8. How did David show that he honored the authority Jehovah had given to Saul?
8 There are many examples in the Bible of those who honored individuals in authority, even when these misused or abused their authority. David was one such fine example. King Saul, under whom he served, became jealous of David’s achievements and sought to kill him. (1 Samuel 18:8-12; 19:9-11; 23:26) Still, though having opportunities to kill Saul, David said: “It is unthinkable, on my part, from Jehovah’s standpoint, to thrust my hand out against the anointed of Jehovah!” (1 Samuel 24:3-6; 26:7-13) David knew that Saul was in the wrong, but he left it up to Jehovah to judge him. (1 Samuel 24:12, 15; 26:22-24) He did not speak abusively of or to Saul.
9. (a) How did David feel while being mistreated by Saul? (b) How can we tell that David’s respect for Saul was genuine?
9 Was David distressed while he was being mistreated? “There are . . . tyrants that do seek my soul,” David cried out to Jehovah. (Psalm 54:3) He poured out his heart to Jehovah: “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God . . . Strong ones make an attack upon me, for no revolt on my part, nor any sin on my part, O Jehovah. Though there is no error, they run and get themselves ready. Do rouse yourself at my calling and see.” (Psalm 59:1-4) Have you ever felt the same way—that you had done no wrong to a person in authority, yet he kept giving you a hard time? David did not fail to show respect to Saul. Upon Saul’s death, instead of exulting in joy, David composed a dirge: “Saul and Jonathan, the lovable ones and the pleasant ones during their life . . . Swifter than the eagles they were, mightier than the lions they were. You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul.” (2 Samuel 1:23, 24) What a fine example of genuine respect for the anointed of Jehovah, even though David had been wronged by Saul!
10. What fine example did Paul set in honoring the God-given authority of the governing body, and to what did that lead?
10 In the Christian era, we also find outstanding examples of those honoring God-given authorities. Take, for instance, Paul. He showed respect for the decisions of the first-century governing body of the Christian congregation. During Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem, the governing body counseled him to cleanse himself ceremonially to show others that he harbored no animosity toward the Mosaic Law. Paul could have reasoned: ‘Those brothers previously instructed me to leave Jerusalem when my life was threatened. Now they want me to demonstrate in public that I respect the Mosaic Law. I’ve already written a letter to the Galatians advising them to keep free from observing the Law. If I go to the temple, others may misunderstand my action, thinking that I am compromising with those of the circumcised class.’ However, Paul evidently did not reason that way. Since no compromise of Christian principles was involved, he respected and complied with the counsel of the first-century governing body. The immediate result was that Paul had to be rescued from a Jewish mob, and he subsequently spent two years in prison. In the long term, God’s will was done. Paul witnessed before high officials in Caesarea and then was taken at government expense to Rome to witness before Caesar himself.—Acts 9:26-30; 21:20-26; 23:11; 24:27; Galatians 2:12; 4:9, 10.
Do You Show Respect?
11. How can we show respect for secular authority?
11 Do you show due respect for those in authority? Christians are commanded to “render to all their dues, . . . to him who calls for honor, such honor.” Indeed, our subjection to the “superior authorities” includes not just that we pay our taxes but that we honor the authorities by our conduct and speech. (Romans 13:1-7) Faced with government officials who may be harsh, how do we react? In Chiapas State, Mexico, the authorities in one community had taken over the farmland belonging to 57 families of Jehovah’s Witnesses because these Christians did not participate in certain religious festivals. At the meetings that were held to resolve the matter, the Witnesses, clean and neatly dressed, always spoke with dignity and respect. Over a year later, the decision was rendered in their favor. Their attitude won the respect of some observers to the extent that they too wanted to become Jehovah’s Witnesses!
12. Why is it important to have “deep respect” for one’s unbelieving husband?
12 How can you show respect for God-given authority in the family? After discussing Jesus’ example in suffering evil, the apostle Peter said: “In like manner, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect.” (1 Peter 3:1, 2; Ephesians 5:22-24) Peter here emphasized the importance of a wife’s being in subjection to her husband with “deep respect,” even though some husbands may do little to deserve such respect. A wife’s respectful attitude may win the heart of her unbelieving husband.
13. How can wives honor their husbands?
13 In the context of these scriptures, Peter draws our attention to the example of Sarah, whose husband, Abraham, was an outstanding example of faith. (Romans 4:16, 17; Galatians 3:6-9; 1 Peter 3:6) Should wives with believing husbands give them any less honor than wives with unbelieving mates give theirs? What if you do not agree with your husband on some matter? Jesus gave some advice that can be applied in a general way here: “If someone under authority impresses you into service for a mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:41) Do you honor your husband by going along with his wishes? If this seems too difficult, share your feelings about the matter with him. Do not assume that he knows how you feel. But when you make your wishes known to him, do so in a respectful manner. The Bible admonishes us: “Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.”—Colossians 4:6.
14. What does showing honor to parents involve?
14 How about you children? God’s Word commands: “Children, be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous: ‘Honor your father and your mother’; which is the first command with a promise.” (Ephesians 6:1-3) Notice that being obedient to your parents is considered synonymous with ‘honoring your father and your mother.’ The Greek word rendered “honor” carries the meaning “to prize” or “fix a valuation upon.” Thus, being obedient requires more than begrudgingly following the parental rules that may seem unreasonable to you. God asks you to esteem your parents highly and value their guidance.—Proverbs 15:5.
15. How can children maintain their respect even if they feel that their parents made a mistake?
15 If your parents do something that tends to diminish your respect for them, what then? Try to see matters from their point of view. Have they not “caused your birth” and provided for you? (Proverbs 23:22) Are they not motivated by love for you? (Hebrews 12:7-11) Speak respectfully to your parents, explaining in a spirit of mildness how you feel. Even if they respond in a way that you do not like, refrain from speaking disrespectfully to them. (Proverbs 24:29) Remember how David maintained his respect for Saul even when the king strayed from following God’s counsel. Ask Jehovah to help you to deal with your feelings. “Before him pour out your heart,” said David. “God is a refuge for us.”—Psalm 62:8; Lamentations 3:25-27.
Honor Those Taking the Lead
16. What can we learn from the examples of the false teachers and the angels?
16 Congregation elders are appointed by holy spirit, yet they are still imperfect and make mistakes. (Psalm 130:3; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Acts 20:28; James 3:2) As a result, some in the congregation may feel dissatisfied with the elders. How should we react when we feel that something in the congregation is not handled just right, or at least so it seems? Note the contrast between the first-century false teachers and the angels: “Daring, self-willed, they [false teachers] do not tremble at glorious ones but speak abusively, whereas angels, although they are greater in strength and power, do not bring against them an accusation in abusive terms, not doing so out of respect for Jehovah.” (2 Peter 2:10-13) While the false teachers spoke abusively of “glorious ones”—elders who were given authority in the first-century Christian congregation—the angels did not speak abusively of the false teachers who were causing disunity among the brothers. The angels, being in a superior position and having a keener sense of justice than humans, were aware of what was taking place in the congregation. Yet, “out of respect for Jehovah,” they left the judgment to God.—Hebrews 2:6, 7; Jude 9.
17. How does your faith come into play when dealing with problems wherein you feel that elders are in the wrong?
17 Even if something is not handled just the way it should be, should we not have faith in Jesus Christ as the living Head of the Christian congregation? Is he not aware of what is happening in his own worldwide congregation? Should we not respect his way of handling the situation and recognize his ability to control matters? Really, ‘who are we to be judging our neighbor?’ (James 4:12; 1 Corinthians 11:3; Colossians 1:18) Why not bring your concerns before Jehovah in your prayers?
18, 19. What can you do if you feel that an elder has erred?
18 Because of human imperfection, difficulties or problems may arise. There may even be times when an elder errs, causing some to be disturbed. Our acting hastily under such circumstances will not change the situation. It may only serve to aggravate the problem. Those having spiritual discernment will wait on Jehovah to set things straight and administer whatever discipline may be needed in his own time and way.—2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 12:7-11.
19 What if you feel distressed over some matter? Rather than talking to others in the congregation, why not respectfully approach the elders for help? Without being critical, explain how you have been affected. Always have “fellow feeling” for them, and maintain respect as you confide in them. (1 Peter 3:8) Do not resort to sarcasm, but trust in their Christian maturity. Appreciate any Scriptural encouragement that they may kindly offer. And if it appears that other corrective measures are needed, have confidence that Jehovah will guide the elders to do what is good and right.—Galatians 6:10; 2 Thessalonians 3:13.
20. What are we going to consider in the next article?
20 However, there is yet another aspect to consider with regard to honoring and respecting those who are in authority. Should not those who are put in a position of authority respect the ones who are placed in their care? Let us examine that in the next article.
How Would You Answer?
• What good reason do we have for honoring those who have authority?
• How do Jehovah and Jesus view those who do not respect God-given authority?
• What fine examples do we have of those who honored the ones given authority?
• What can we do if one who has authority over us seems to have erred?
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Sarah deeply respected Abraham’s authority and was happy
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Michal failed to respect David’s authority as family head and king
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“It is unthinkable, on my part, . . . to thrust my hand out against the anointed of Jehovah!”
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Why not bring your concerns before Jehovah in your prayers?