Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:7 NIV)
In the midst of school, I sometimes—not always—find time to attend my Bible Study Fellowship class on Monday nights, when I get out of clinicals early or they’re canceled. Two weeks ago, we had our lesson on Romans 13:1-7, titled “Submission to Governing Authorities.” If you have chance, read the passage.
It’s still stuck in my head weeks later. And I didn’t want to write about it, really, but I can’t get it out of my head or my heart. I think I wrote about these verses a year or so ago. In this day and age, we can cast our opinions left and write about “governing authorities,” whether they be professors, world leaders, parents, etc. We can see so clearly where things may or are “wrong.” You can imagine how tense it felt diving into a lesson like this even in such a safe space.
I chose the last verse in the passage because tax season is upon us, and because it follows the idea of respect and honor. That’s where I feel like I trip up the most. Are my thoughts and actions honoring and respecting to those whom God has placed in authority? Romans 13:1 states, “for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (NIV). It’s funny that that verse says the same thing in two different ways. It must be an important point!
In all honesty, I haven’t done a great job applying this passage. And it has just stuck with me. I’m not just talking about the obvious, like politics. Sometimes, my classmates and I gripe about our instructors: how condescending they sound, how their instructions are awful or are just not there, how some people felt like they are treated poorly—we could go on and on and on. And yet, it clearly states that we owe honor and respect to those God has placed in a position of power.
I’m going to ignore history or present-day politics of any sort in this post because it honestly hurts my head and my heart. But what I see in these verses is how big and outside of my comprehension God and His plans really are. I don’t understand the “why” about lots of things that those who have been placed in authority have done or are doing. And it’s not like those in power over me have said that I cannot worship Jesus—which is one of the main reasons given in the Bible to rebel against authority.
I’ve been called to respect and honor and pay my dues. What does that look like for me right now in the bubble of my world? Well, I need to pray for my instructors and my leaders. I need to not complain alongside my classmates and friends in such a way that the object of my complaint loses the honor and respect that is due. I need to be quick to listen and slow to speak.
And I need to trust that my big, big God is sovereign and knows the whys and hows of what’s going on. We aren’t called to be complacent, just paying respect, honor and dues where it is owed.
Miel can be reached by email here.