All authority is God’s
And so, for Jesus’ detractors, the name of the game continues to be entrapment! As a Trini would say with a pronounced ‘steups’, “Dem eh ha nutten better to do dan to try to trap Him aagaaain!” And one could virtually see the Trini’s face contort in disgust.
Yes, the Pharisees are at it again, and this time they have enlisted the aid of the Herodians to do their dirty work with them. Each party had its own ulterior motive for trying to entrap Jesus – for the Pharisees, Jesus would’ve been discredited with the Jews if He had told them to pay taxes; the Herodians on the other hand, would brand Him as a traitor to Rome if He did not support taxation.
What would Jesus do? Of course, Jesus saw through their wiles. He knew what each was about so, once He had established the identity of the ruler on the face of the coin, He firmly admonished them saying, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”.
It is obviously a question of respect for authority, but all legitimate authority comes from God. ‘Legitimate’ because there are those who assume authority as if it were their right, as against those to whom authority is rightfully delegated.
God expects that we respect those to whom He has delegated authority. Sadly however, many disrespect authority if they do not like the person; that respect for authority becomes an emotional issue, rather than one of responsibility and obedience to Him who has placed that individual there.
Scripture clearly says in Romans 13:1–7 that the claims of the ruling authority were to be met unless they were in conflict with the claims of God, “Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God… … Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due.”
As the Herodians rightfully observed, Jesus did not regard a person’s status; would that it were so today, but unfortunately a person’s status often is a determining factor if respect is shown to him. His financial attributes are also recognised, as are his social links.
But again, ultimate authority comes from God: “I have called you by name, giving you a title, though you do not know me. I am the LORD, there is no other, there is no God besides me.”
Bearing in mind that all authority is God’s, it behoves us to respect delegated authority whether we like the person or not; whether we agree with the authority figure or not; whether we associate with the person or not – once the claims of that ruling authority are not in conflict with the claims of God.
On the other hand, today, in many homes, organisations and societies, there is so much abuse of authority. Many are hurting, and in their vulnerable moments, they fall prey to unscrupulous authority figures.
Authority figures have a great responsibility towards those with whom they interact in their capacity as leader. From President to pastor, parent to teacher, manager to supervisor, husband to wife, there is a great responsibility that rests upon that leader’s shoulders. Didn’t Jesus say in Matthew 18:6, “Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin … it would be better if a millstone be cast around his neck …”? And Ephesians 6:20 cautions parents not to provoke their children, but rather to bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
So many of us do not recognise that the authority we wield comes from God. We live in an apparent manmade world where God is being side-lined more and more on a daily basis, “It is I who arm you, though you do not know me”. We feel that the world belongs to us; we have made it our oasis so we flaunt our own capabilities as we continually empower ourselves with our less than God given ideals and values, but we are each answerable to God for the authority He has bestowed upon us.
Each one of us is part of a chain of command – we may not recognise it but we command some level of authority, and we are each also subject to the authority of another. My sister, my brother, can we say that we are each giving to our individual ‘Caesar’ the respect that is due to him/her, while at the same time giving to God all that is due to Him?
We pray that our eyes be open to a new revelation.
The Gospel reflections for October are by Anne Marie Richardson, a wife, mother, grandmother, and retired educator of the parish of Santa Rosa, Arima.