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Submission to Authority

Briefing: When you hear the term “submission to authority”, what comes to mind? Do you think about how civilians are to respect the laws of your city, state and country? Do you think about their actions towards you as a law enforcement officer? What about you? What is your response to the authority placed over you?

Dispatch (Assignment): Make a list of all of the people, places and things that have authority over you.

On the Street: The Bible is very clear about obeying authority. You may not like your supervisor or administration but you are called to obey the authority that God has placed over you. All throughout the Bible, God calls Christ followers to be different than the world. This means that we are not to react, grumble and complain about our bosses, like non-Christ followers.

I’ll be the first one to confess, I need to do a better job of being a good employee than I have been in the past. As a sergeant, I am middle management. How can I expect my officers to obey and respect me if I don’t obey and respect my chain-of-command?

One of the most obvious authority figures in Proverbs is the father speaking to his son. Please don’t dismiss these verses because you don’t live with your parents anymore, rather, think about your Heavenly Father talking to you. The best place to start this lesson is in Proverbs 4:1 (NASB), “Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding,” Proverbs 19:20 (NASB) “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.” We have to have a mindset that is open to receiving what God is giving.

Proverbs 24:21-22 (NIV), “Fear the Lord and the king, my son, and do not join with rebellious officials, for those two will send sudden destruction on them, and who knows what calamities they can bring?”

Proverbs 19:23 (NASB), “The fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.”

Proverbs 19:16 (NKJV), “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, but he who is careless of his ways will die.”

Proverbs 21:30 (HCSB), “No wisdom, no understanding, and no counsel will prevail against the Lord.”

God tells us in Proverbs 8:15-17 (NIV), “By me kings reign and rulers issue decrees that are just; by me princes govern, and nobles, all who rule on earth. I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” If kings reign and rulers issue decrees by God’s will, should we not follow them? As long as the authority does not ask you to do something that is illegal, immoral or unethical, you follow. This is legitimate authority.

Those who are placed in authority in our lives are usually the ones who instruct and correct us when we do wrong. When we rebel against this authority we can expect some dire consequences. Here is what Proverbs has to say:

Proverbs 10:8 (NIV), “The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.”

Proverbs 10:13 (HCSB), “Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of the one who lacks sense.”

Proverbs 12:1 (NKJV), “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.”

Proverbs 16:20 (NRSV), “Those who are attentive to a matter will prosper, and happy are those who trust in the Lord.”

Proverbs 17:2 (NIV), “A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son and will share the inheritance as one of the family.”

Proverbs 19:29 (HCSB), “Judgments are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools.”

Proverbs 21:11 (NIV), “When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom; by paying attention to the wise they get knowledge.”

Proverbs 28:4 (HCSB), “Those who reject the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law battle against them.”

Proverbs 28:7 (NIV), “A discerning son heeds instruction, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.”

When Pilate was about to sentence Jesus to be crucified he asked Jesus, “Where do you come from?” When Jesus gave him no answer Pilate said, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” Jesus knew that His Father had placed Pilate in the Governors position. At times when I think I have had bad supervisors, I have to realize that my opinion of the authority over me does not matter. God placed the legitimate authority over me and He expects me to be obedient to Him and submit. I submit to legitimate authority.

Proverbs is not a set of pretty sayings that looks at the world through rose colored glasses. We are going to have bad supervisors and rulers over us but just because they are bad leaders or managers does not give us the right to disobey them or to rebel. A bad leader can still be legitimate authority. It is not our place to overthrow. God will deal with them on an individual basis like He will deal with you and me. Here are some of the proverbs that deal with bad authority.

Proverbs 11:10-11 (HCSB), “When the righteous thrive, a city rejoices, and when the wicked die, there is joyful shouting. A city is built up by the blessing of the upright, but it is torn down by the mouth of the wicked.”

Proverbs 19:10 (HCSB), “Luxury is not appropriate for a fool, how much less for a slave to rule over princes!”

Proverbs 28:3 (NIV), “A ruler who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.”

Proverbs 28:12 (NIV), “When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.”

Proverbs 29:2 (KNJV), “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.”

Proverbs 28:15-16 (HCSB), “Like a roaring lion and a charging bear is a wicked ruler over poor people. A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor, but he who hates covetousness will prolong his days.”

Proverbs 28:28 (NIV), “When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding; but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.”

Proverbs 29:12 (NKJV), “If a ruler pays attention to lies, all his servants become wicked.”

Notice that the proverb does not tell us how to overthrow these rulers or how to get them fired. We are simply reminded that there will be wicked, oppressive, tyrannical rulers. As a police officer, my job is to arrest the bad guy and make a good case against him/her. When it goes to court, I have no control over the judge or jury. I have to accept their decision of guilt or innocence. It is the same with a bad supervisor. Do your job and let God do His.

Here are some proverbs about good supervisors. Just remember, don’t put too much faith in man. Don’t put all your hopes and dreams on a great chief or supervisor. Proverbs 11:7 (NIV) says, “Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing.”

Proverbs 19:12 (HCSB), “A king’s rage is like the roaring of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.”

Proverbs 20:26 (HCSB), “A wise king separates out the wicked and drives the threshing wheel over them.”

Proverbs 25:15 (NIV), “Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.”

Proverbs 28:2 (HCSB), “When a land is in rebellion, it has many rulers, but with a discerning and knowledgeable person, it endures.”

Proverbs 29:4 (NIV), “By justice a king gives a country stability, but those who are greedy for bribes tear it down.”

Proverbs 29:14 (HCSB), “A king who judges the poor with fairness, his throne will be established forever.”

Proverbs 31:8 (NIV), “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”

Proverbs 31:9 (NIV), “Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Proverbs 25:3-5 (HCSB), “As the heavens for height and the earth for depth, so the heart of kings is unsearchable. Take away the dross from the silver, and there comes out a vessel for the smith; Take away the wicked before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness.”

As a law enforcement officer, you have authority. Who gives you your authority? The answer is God. You can find where He has ordained you in Romans chapter 13. Verse 3-4 (NIV) says, “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrong doer.”

Investigational Resources: Psalm 94:12-14, Ecclesiastes 8:5, Jeremiah 33:3, Isaiah 1:1-31, 2:3, John 6:45, 1 Corinthians 1:30, Ephesians 3:14-19, Hebrews 13:7, Romans 13

Officer Safety Principle: As a law enforcement officer, you are God’s servant and authority. People who do what is wrong should fear you. In the same regard, your supervisor is the authority placed over you. Do you want to be free from the fear of the one in authority over you? Then do what is right.

from The Book of Proverbs Through the Eyes of a Cop
©by Charles Gilliland. Used by permission.
Click here to check out the entire Through the Eyes of a Cop series!