Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
I was once deserving of a ticket for not making a full stop at a stop sign. I told the police officer that I deserved a ticket because I had just preached on Romans 13, and he laughed and actually quoted Romans 13:1. I was astonished but came to find out that the officer was a Christian. I told him that I deserved a ticket and apologized and was a hypocrite because I had just spoken about this but left church in a hurry to get to work. After promising that I would do better in the future, he was very gracious and gave me a warning, seeing that I was remorseful and knew better. What I was doing was more than breaking the law; I was resisting the authority of God (Rom. 13:2). Whoever breaks the law doesn’t only resist the local law enforcement agencies but (like I did) is resisting the authority that God has invested in them.
Rendering Unto Caesar
Maybe you didn’t realize it, but Jesus actually paid His taxes (Matt. 17:24-27), and this is a God-given directive for all believers. Romans chapter 12 has directives for how Christians should live like Christians, but Romans 13 is how Christians are to live in the world, and this chapter tells us that even paying our taxes is a God-ordained command (Rom. 13:6-7), so even fudging on taxes is sin. We are to not only render unto the local, state, and federal authorities what is legally due them, we are to do it in an honorable and respectful way. God says that both honor and respect are due to those who are over us (Rom. 13:7). So we owe them more than our tax money; we owe them our respect for doing what they are supposed to do under the authority of God.
Reason to Fear
If we are living a life of obedience to the laws of the land, then we have no reason to fear retribution, but if we aren’t, we have every reason to fear because not only are we breaking the law, we are disobeying those who God has placed in authority over us (Rom. 13:3-5). They bear their arms for the local citizenship, but they also bear the arms for God (Rom. 13:3). There is no authority over us that God has not ordained, so if we resist them, we are really resisting God, Who has placed them in these positions of authority (Rom. 13:2). They are not “bearing the sword” for nothing (Rom. 13:4), but for God’s purposes. If we obey, we can have a clear conscience (Rom. 13:5), but if we don’t, we have every reason to fear, and that’s not a good place to be.
A Closing Prayer
Great God in heaven, You have ordained the powers that be. I need to be respectful of them in all cases. and only when the laws conflict with what You command, I need to live a life of obedience, for I do so before them but ultimately for You. In Jesus’ name I pray.
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