Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore, you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
When it comes to living a life that is pleasing to the Lord, it helps me to remember that I have a father-son relationship with God. We always went to public school, so we spent a lot of time under the authority of adults other than our parents. Whether we were in first grade or twelfth grade, mom and dad always expected us to behave a certain way with our teachers. We were to obey them the way we obeyed our parents. We were to yield to that authority as we were expected to do in the home. In this way, we illustrated more than our own personal character. For us, a child who acted up in school was a reflection of the parents and whether they could parent well. If I made trouble, it was a poor reflection on them, and that was unacceptable.
Our instruction to respect and obey authority has several implications. As this passage states, those in authority were placed there by God, so obeying them is akin to obeying him. This passage also tells us that we will gain favor among those over us if we follow this instruction and honor them. It gives us an opportunity to witness to those who might not know the Lord simply by our good citizenship; it softens their hearts toward us. Also, just like when I was a child, my respect for and obedience to authority on the Earth says a lot about the God I serve. The way his children live should show others who He is. If I defy earthly authority when it does not conflict with his, then I defy him and do not live as Jesus lived when He walked among us.
If we are to obey this command for any reason, let it be for the sake of a clear conscience. We should want to please our heavenly Father, which means that we should want to obey him. In many instances, this might be difficult. There is no guarantee that our interactions with those who have authority over us will be kind or gentle. However, in keeping this command, we show not only our character but God’s. We represent him well when we yield, particularly when it is difficult to do so. When we give honor to men, He is honored. Father, make us humble and obedient in this respect, bringing You reverence by revering our earthly authorities.