249. CALLED TO HONOUR PEOPLE, NOT TO WORSHIP THEM

(The Information & Edification Series – Batch 6)

Romans 13:1-7 commands:

  • Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:  For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
  • Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”

Ephesians 6:1-3 commands:

  • Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

1 Peter 2:13-20 tells us:

  • Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
  • Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”

Honouring those in authority and who have the rule over us is therefore important and a command from God. When we don’t honour those that we are to honour, we reap adverse consequences and inherit curses. There is no doubt about this. Even when those who are over us are difficult or treat us badly, we are still called to honour them. The Word of God is abundantly clear on this issue.

Although Saul was evil, treated David badly and tried to kill him several times, David still honoured Saul’s position of authority as king over Israel and therefore, showed him due respect. He did not raise his voice at him or fight against him but the Word of God states that he behaved himself wisely.

When he had the opportunity to kill him and therefore end Saul’s pursuit of him, David did not kill him. Instead, casting aside the advice of those with him to end Saul’s life, he said “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord…” (1 Samuel 24:6)

Later on, he told Saul, “The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.” (12)

In Genesis 16:6-9, Hagar the maid, pregnant with Sarai’s husband’s child by Sarai’s consent, ran away from Sarai her boss because Sarai was treating her harshly. However, she was instructed by the angel of the Lord to return to her mistress and to submit herself under her hands. Whether this meant more harsh treatment, she was to remain under Sarai’s authority and endure.

The Word of God states:

  • “And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face. And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.

Ecclesiastes 10:4 states, “If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.”

Unmistakably, we are therefore called to honour those in authority, like our work supervisors, parents and the government, even when we are being oppressed. However, it is important that we understand as Christians, that honour does not mean worship. Obedience does not mean blind obeisance.

Worship calls for complete allegiance. Honour does not. Worship calls for complete adoration and reverence but honour cannot. For, whereas honour has limits, worship does not. We are to give honour where honour is due but we are not called to worship those who have authority or the rule over us.

People often confuse the two, thinking that to honour means to excuse all wrong in the person in authority, to see them only in glowing terms, to excuse or turn a blind eye to their sinful behaviour and to give a stamp of endorsement on whatever they do, whether right or wrong. They think that to see wrong and to call it for what it is and to refuse to go along with it is to dishonour and to be disobedient.

However, this is not the case. See, whereas worship calls for complete allegiance, admiration and reverence (such as belongs to only God), honour requires us to show and give due respect, to obey when not in conflict with God and to hold in high esteem but no more.

In short, it does not require us to show blind allegiance, to reject blatant truth, to turn our eyes away from it, to ignore it, compromise, to call sin good, to take the side of those in authority in every circumstance, no matter the situation or the clear facts before us and when they are wrong, to pretend that those in authority are without flaw and that those that they have wronged are the ones in the wrong.

If a parent is narcissistic for example and therefore does not see most situations rationally but is quick to take offence, get upset, play the victim and throw guilt trips at a child, even when that child did nothing wrong and it is the parent that has an issue for which he or she needs help, it is not honour for other family members to side with the parent simply because he or she is the parent and to look at the child as bad, wicked and wrong, simply because the parent is irrationally upset with the child.

If the parent is always drunk and is physically abusive to the child, then it is not right to be upset with the child, if he or she refuses to go along with the narrative that the parent is an excellent parent, simply because that parent pretends to be so while in public.

If the parent has a bad, non-Christ-like attitude that is in dire need of adjustment and gets upset if the child sees it for what it is and therefore refuses to pretend that it is something else (because that would be to embrace a lie), then it would be wrong to side with the parent simply because the parent is the parent, turn against the child and pretend that all is well in the world, other than for the child who is wrongfully labelled as ‘the’ problem. In that situation, the child gets wrongfully blamed, a lie gets perpetuated and the parent continues on without seeing any need for repentance, which can have dire consequences on his or her own spiritual welfare.

In such a situation, the problem is not the child, although the child is not perfect. The problem is that the parent has a bad attitude. The problem is that the parent has some serious issues which he or she needs to repent of before the Lord, in humility. For, being a person in authority does not mean that such a person is without accountability before God. It does not mean that he or she can do as he or she pleases and exploit the authoritative role without consequence, simply because it is an authoritative role.

On the converse, not because the issue is with the parent or mainly with the parent, does it mean that the child can be disrespectful to the parent. This is not acceptable in any circumstance, no matter how difficult the situation. Saul was highly irrational, yet David still honoured him by being respectful. It may be hard and excruciatingly painful at times yes, as a difficult parent may be provoking that child sore but by the grace of God, that child can still honour that parent and ask God for grace and wisdom in dealing with that trying circumstance. That child will need to guard against becoming angry, bitter, defensive, resentful, frustrated and depressed but by the grace of almighty God, although it will not be easy, it is possible. That child can overcome evil with good, instead of being overcome with evil (Romans 12:21).

Nevertheless, to honour does not mean that we are to take the side of those in authority and defend them, even when they sin and to therefore side with wrongdoing, going after and attacking those who may highlight any issue or problem which is truthfully in need of addressing or changing. To honour does not mean to elevate a person to a position where he or she is more important than what is TRUE and to excuse, downgrade and justify his or her sinful actions, simply because he or she is a person that we are supposed to honour. That is not honour. That is worship.

If we do this, we are not obeying the scriptures. For, we are elevating the person to the position of God. If we do this, we obey not the scriptures because we are not honouring but worshipping and worshipping any mortal man or woman is idolatry.

We can honour the person by refusing to accept a lie. We can honour the person by respectfully and lovingly calling the situation exactly what it is (because we refuse to pretend that a lying narrative is the truth when it is not) and we can honour the person by continuing to love them, submit to them (once this does not require us to engage in wrongdoing or to believe a lie) and to pray for them, that God will change their hearts, grant them deliverance and even salvation if applicable.

Truth remains truth and truth is far more important than showing blind allegiance to any man or woman. If we feel that to honour someone in authority, we must ignore, undermine and cast truth behind us, then we do err. For, truth is never to be compromised on, irrespective of who is involved. Truth is never to be scorned because it makes someone in authority look bad.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego honoured king Nebuchadnezzer by being respectful of his high office and position but notably, they did not worship him. Therefore, when he was in the wrong by demanding that people bow down and worship an idol, they drew the line there. They remained respectful but truth had to be asserted. They could not be silent and just go with the flow because the king was the king. No. They knew a higher authority, the highest authority there is and he was King of Kings and Lord of Lords and he loves truth. He loves obedience and they knew that he had already commanded, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and HIM ONLY shalt thou serve (Matthew 4:10; Deuteronomy 6:13-16).

In Matthew 22:16-21, Jesus made it clear that, once honouring and serving those in authority does not conflict with our serving God, that we are to honour, obey and serve those in authority. Anything other than that would be rebellion, both against the earthly authority and against God’s Word.

In verses 16-21, it reads:

  • “And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
  • But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.  And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

If there is a conflict though, in that those in authority want us to go along with their wrong and to support it or even to disobey almighty God, the Word of God clearly tells us that we are to obey God, rather than man.

In Acts 5:17-29 for example, it reads of Peter:

  • “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.
  • And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned and told, Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within.
  • Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow. Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.
  • Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

Even when we are faced with a situation where to obey God means that we must disobey the earthly authority though, this does not justify us being rude or disrespectful to the authority. We must still honour them in as far as is possible by speaking respectfully to them, although under no circumstances, can we do what they say. Once again, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego demonstrated this well.

In short, we must be respectful, yet resolute in our stand for the Lord.

In Matthew 23:1-3, Jesus, knowing the scribes and Pharisees to be hypocrites, still called upon his disciples to honour them, by virtue of the fact that they sat in a position of authority, even as Moses did in the Old Testament. However, there was a limit. Jesus required them to be obedient to those in authority but not blindly obeisant. He therefore cautioned them not to do what they were doing. The scripture reads:

  • “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; BUT DO NOT YE AFTER THEIR WORKS: for they say, and do not.” (Matthew 23:1-3)

In short, Jesus was telling them to respect the office and the authority that they had but not to follow their bad example.

In closing, the Word of God is clear. We are to HONOUR all those in authority and those who have the rule over us but we are not called to WORSHIP them.

(Written on 05th May, 2022, added to thereafter)

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