24.5 Romans – Submitting with treasures

OK, if Paul hadn’t already hit close enough to home in pulling out this example of serving authorities and an exercise in how to apply the teachings of Romans 12, he closes the discussion with not only hitting the heart, but also the pocketbook.  Taxes!

The great economist, John Maynard Keynes, quipped, “The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that still carries any reward.”  But Jesus says, give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

This hits us at every level.  In Matthew 6:21, Jesus tells us that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  He says this in conclusion to imploring His followers to store treasures in heaven rather than on earth.  But money is one of the items that we struggle to not label as “mine.”  I work hard for it.  It is paid to me.  It is mine.  Right?  But Jesus warns against this.  If we take this as our treasure, then not only do we miss out on heavenly treasures instead, but we dishonor God.

We dishonor God because we convey the belief through our actions that God is a God of scarcity.  If we need to cling to money and horde and protect it and keep it from the evil tax collectors who are going to misspend it anyway, then, we convey the belief that there is a limited amount of wealth that God can and does provide.

Does that fit with anything else you know about God?  Is He a God of scarcity, where we need to get our slice of the pie?  That is not what I know about God, the creator of Heaven and Earth.  God is a God of abundance.  All of it belongs to Him anyway.  Paul’s first letter to Timothy warns us that “The love of money is a root of all evil.”  We cannot serve two masters and we cannot love money and love with the love of God.

I am clearly not one who enjoys writing the check for taxes.  But in recent years, as my faith has matured, I see it for what it is, a way that God challenges me to see things for what they are and rejoice that I am confident in trusting fully in Him.  There is nothing I have missed out on by paying taxes.  There is a lot I miss out on if I put money before God.

I love how Paul concludes this section.  Give to everyone what you owe them: taxes, revenue, respect, honor.  Don’t be confused, this is not about money.  It isn’t even about authority.  It is about giving like God gives.  It is about loving like God loves.  It is about overcoming evil not in the way man would do, of fighting evil with evil a quid pro quo, hand for a hand.  Our God is a God of abundance.  Out give the enemies.  Out love the oppressors.  Out honor those who are not acting honorably.  Out respect those who act disrespectfully.  Do the same for those who love and give and honor and respect as well.  Because, here is what we know to be fact:  We cannot out love or out give or out honor or out respect our God.  Everything we have, everything we are and everything we desire to be is from Him and of Him.

My Answers:

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s. Money is stuff, there is no shortage of it in the world and God controls the allocation of it in the same way that He controls everything else. Do not operate from scarcity, but from God’s abundance

Establish justice (pay for the operation of police, courts and lawmakers)
insure domestic tranquility (homeland security
Provide for the common defense Redistribution of wealth
Promote the general welfare Establish and develop foreign trade and markets
Secure the blessings of liberty Pay what is rightfully and fully due

EX: Honor father and mother
LV: stand up in presence of aged, show respect to elderly
1T5: Double honor to the elders who direct the affairs of the church, especially preachers and teachers
1T6:God, the blessed and only ruler
1P2: Show proper respect to everyone as submitting to God’s authority

By loving them with God’s love. For seeing them as God sees them. Not by lying or by being pacifistic, but by overcoming them with the Love of God and His truth.


24.4 Romans – Submitting as a witness to others

When you live the life of a believer, you get noticed.  When you truly follow God and Love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, others notice – both those who see you as an example, and the forces of evil who see you as a threat.

One of the reasons we are to love like God loves is because of the fact that others are watching.  If our lives do not look any different, then are we truly any different?

Paul goes from explaining this in Romans 12, to challenging us with one of the harder scenarios for doing it in Romans 13, submitting in love to authorities.  So let’s look a couple examples of this through scriptural examples.

Daniel chapter 1 tells us that the king of Babylon conquered Judah and ordered that some of the Israelites from the royal family and nobility were to be brought into the king’s service.  Four young men were chosen from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.  The three, besides Daniel, we commonly know by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  Verse 8: “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”  Think about that for a second as an example of what Paul is discussing.  The authority placed over Daniel was the greatest enemy you might imagine.  This ruler and his staff had not only overthrown Jerusalem, the Holy city and carted off Daniel into service to the king, but this is the same king who defiled the temple of God and stole articles from the temple.  So what does Daniel do?  He asks permission to not eat their food.  And the result?  Verse 9: “Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel”.  We see this time and time again with these 4 young men.  Not only do they “cling to what is good”, but they fully submit in full confidence that God can overcome anything… even to the point of 3 of them being thrown alive into a fiery furnace!

The best example for us is Jesus.  Jesus did not lack for oppressive authorities, both throughout His life and in His “trial” and crucifixion.  Jesus did not hide from the authorities.  In almost every situation, we have notes of the side conversations that were initiated when the authorities approached Him to question what He was doing.  What we witness Jesus doing is loving them in the way God loves (not hard for Him to do since He is God, right?)  That clearly did not mean that He went along with what they said or did.  What He never failed to do was to speak truth to them.  Sometimes the truth may have sounded harsh such as calling them a “brood of vipers”.  But, it was, in fact, the truth and God loved them enough to appear in front of them in the body of the Son of God and speak the truth to them and warn them of whom they were serving (which was not Him!).  Even at His trial and death, Jesus fully submitted to earthly authorities, even with legions of angels at His command, He instructed Peter to put away the sword and healed the ear of the guard.

Just like these two, others notice how we interact with authorities in our lives.  Our hearts, our words, our faith and our actions should all be saying the same thing.  We accept that God is in control and we obey His call to love as He loves.

My Answers:

Because, in one way or another, all leaders bring some level of organization either toward or against something. God is the Master of all things and uses them and their position of authority to shape things for an eternal purpose and for His love of us, even when we do not understand.

They are God’s servants. They are established by God. They are instituted by God.
God works all things for the good of those who love Him. (including leaders and especially leaders)

I need to be cautious that I am not labeling in situations where I firmly disagree. It doesn’t mean we all have to agree on the same course, ideologies or fiscal policies, however, we should not resort to name calling, but instead should recognize that we both want what is best for the citizens even if they are wrong (:-))

24.3 Romans – Submitting to honor God

The first and primary reason we are called to submit to authority is to honor God.  Since God is completely in control the authorities over us are there only with the provision of God.  That does not mean they necessarily follow God or obey His commandments, nor does it mean they practice what is good and right; but, as Romans 8 says, “God uses all things for the good of those who love Him.”

This also forces us to recognize that if an authority is put in place only by the provision and authority of God, then, by logical extension, we are put in a place of submission to these authorities by the exact same power.  If we argue, fight or resist this position, we argue, fight and resist God.

So, what do we do when we just don’t like it?  Let’s go back and apply what Paul tells us is honoring to God in Romans 12:

Do not lose our moral compass or lower our convictions:  Hate what is evil, cling to what is good

Live your life as one who serves, lifting others up even when it means more work for you: Honor one another above yourselves

Do not curse and condemn those in authority: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Do not participate in the currency of evil and wickedness, but stay above the fray: do not repay anyone evil for evil

Let revenge and judgment to God: Do not take revenge

Be an example of giving and trusting God, instead of getting an hording: if enemy is hungry, feed them, give them drink, heap coals on their head

Do not be overcome but be an overcomer: submission does not mean giving up or giving in, it means coming under and being strong

Doing these things is an act of obedience to God.  Doing these things under difficult and oppressive authorities is an act of obedience to God.  Our place is to obey and honor our God and trust in Him in all things and in all ways.

My Answers:

God, because God has established and instituted them

It recognizes and praises the utmost authority of God in all things and situations. We serve God and, thus, serve those he establishes and institutes.

To remain outside of our times of punditry and slander, but to keep a clear focus on God. Also, not to be dissuaded by the sinfulness and deceit of earthly rulers. God knows what He is doing.

24.2 Romans – Submit to Authorities = God is the Authority

Did it strike anyone else as slightly amusing that Paul goes from a discussion about “love in action” in relationship to our enemies and evil and then immediately transitions into politics?  It sounds like things were not significantly different in Rome at the writing of this text than they are with government officials today.

But, the key point of Paul’s writing is not so much about the officials themselves, and, in some ways they are a stand-in for a bigger commitment and message.  The main thing in Paul’s writing is our attitude toward God.  If we acknowledge that God is the creator of everything and if we acknowledge that everything belongs to God and if we acknowledge that God is sovereign and firmly and actively in control of all things and if we acknowledge that there is no power that is mightier than God that could force something into existence that God does not allow, then we truly recognize that God is completely in charge.

If you are like me, that logic plays out and you are nodding your head in agreement.  God is in charge.  Got it.  Believe it.  But, Paul has to go and make it hard.  If we believe that God is completely in charge then that means that every authority over us is allowed to be there because God has allowed it.  Even the liars.  Even the cheats.  Even the adulterers.  Even the murderers.  Even the leaders of old who covered the streets in blood, the leaders who incited war, the leaders who practiced genocide.  Each were allowed to be in authority only under the authority of God.  To say otherwise is to say there are things outside of God’s control.

In Paul’s day, this included the leaders who were hunting down Christians to torture and kill them.  Even the leaders who incited the crowd to have Jesus hung on the cross.

Clearly, Paul is not saying we need to ignore evil and just go along.  Instead, he is telling us that the things he said at the close of chapter 12, “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” applies in all situations, even the extremely difficult situation of submitting to authority.

My Answers:

To come under, to obey, to be within another’s authority and/or control. All are to submit to governing authorities because they have been established by God.

They disagree with their practices or policies. They differ on world views or find them to be lacking or evil. I struggle to submit to the authority of dictators who subjugate their people through lies and theft, particularly those who neglect children and persecute the church. Fortunately, those are not my authority so God has protected me, but they are authorities that God has allowed to come into power for a season.

When ordered to disobey God. Our first directive is to love the Lord our God and give Him our full devotion. Our second is to our earthly authority. If the second contradicts the first, then we must respectfully decline and submit to the consequences.