TWO SIDES TO THE COIN – LITERALLY
Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Romans 13:2
If I disobey authority, my Father will discipline me. Every time I spurn it, I illegitimize the chain of command God instituted to those around me. So are there legitimate limits to my allegiance, especially when leaders are evil?
Anybody ever ask you a tough spiritual question, one that seemed like a trap? Answer one-way and you’re ensnared. Answer the other way and you’re also ensnared. Is there a way of escape? There is.
Jesus’ enemies came to Him with such a trick question. “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Matt.22:17) If he said yes, he would potentially alienate his own people who were doubled over with the heavy burden of taxation. They felt enslaved to Rome. On the other side though, if Jesus said no, that they should spurn Rome by refusing to pay taxes, then these enemies could quote him to the authorities and have him arrested.
At this point, Jesus asked for a coin. When they produced one, he asked whose portrait was on it and whose inscription. Perhaps he held it out to them so they could see it. “Caesar’s,” they answered.
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” Jesus said. Many believe that he then turned the coin over and exposed the back. On it would have been a picture of a Roman god or goddess. Jesus added, “…and to God what is God’s.” (Matt 22:21)
In other words, no child of God should serve Roman gods at the expense of betraying the true God of Israel ~ so at the point where my heart’s devotion to glorify God is threatened, my limit to obeying earthly authority is revealed. I am to be an honorable citizen – to the glory of God – and there are times I must not submit to ungodly demands – to the glory of God.
This biblical principle goes far beyond obedience to national and local government. I should honor authority in my workplace, not undermining those who lead poorly. I should honor the lines of authority in my church, not going around those who are ‘technically in charge’ to do what I think needs to be done.
I visited a friend recently in another part of the country. She was sharing with me how uncomfortable she was with a woman in her church. The two of them served on a committee together and my friend was pressured to defer to her. She was a strong personality. And, she had been in the church longer and knew the pastor well. She was notorious for making her own plans, then just doing them without asking for permission. So my friend asked her, “Shouldn’t the pastor know about this and shouldn’t we wait for his permission?” She dismissed my friend’s concern with a wave of her hand. “I can get him to do what I want. He’ll be fine.” Such a reckless, subversive attitude toward authority, and spiritual authority at that, brings God’s displeasure and negative consequences.
Knowing when to honor Caesar and when to honor His Father did not trap Jesus. He promises this wisdom to me – if I ask.
Give guidance to so many who read this in countries overseas who face the threat of persecution if they obey You. This is not light reading. Oh God, I hold them up to You for strength and wisdom. Amen