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Who's The Boss? (Romans 13:1-7)

April 19, 2015 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Faith at Work

Topic: Romans Passage: Romans 13:1–13:7

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Faith at Work

Who's the Boss?
Romans 13:1-7
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
April 19th, 2015

 

I. How Did You Do?

So how did you do this past week? How did you do in terms of your vocation?

No, I'm not asking if you got to work on time, or if you completed all your assignments, or if you won “employee of the month”. I'm asking about how you did in terms of seeing your vocation from God's perspective.

Remember when we talk about vocation we are talking about your calling, or to be more specific, your callings. Last week we thought about the extremely important topic of vocation or calling. All of us have a vocation, or like I just mentioned, all of us have many vocations in the sense that we each have been called to a variety of roles, positions, giftings, and relationships. For example, you may be a wife, a mother, a sister, and a doctor. Or you may be a son, a student, a brother, and an athlete or maybe a writer.

And hopefully, for all of us, the very first calling on our list is “child of God”, “disciple of Jesus”.

But what we discovered last week is that every single one of us should see ALL of our vocations or callings in light of God's design; and this is in light of how God works through all of us in the world. Last time, we saw from Genesis 1 that God intends that our work (in all our callings) result in His glory and the greater good. We saw from Genesis 2 that God wants us to enjoy His provision, but within His boundaries. Finally, we discovered in Genesis 3 that God's design and desire is that we would find fulfillment in our vocations, in spite of the frustrations that we all face in our vocations in this fallen world.

That means you students glorify God by being a student, by fulfilling your role as a student, by appreciating your role in light of how it blesses others, by enjoying the blessings of your calling with God's boundaries in mind, and by showcasing the fulfillment that God can give you in your calling, in spite of the frustrations that often plague students.

That means you moms glorify God by being a mom, by fulfilling your role as a mom, by appreciating your role in light of how it blesses others, by enjoying the blessings of your calling with God's boundaries in mind, and by showcasing the fulfillment that God can give you in your calling, in spite of the frustrations that often plague moms.

But as I emphasized last week, I again want to narrow the focus in this series to the topic of career; to the workplace. And specifically this morning, I think it's important for us to think about God's perspective on the subject of authority in the workplace, that is, God's perspective on your boss, your manager, your assistant manager, your general manger, your team leader or section leader or division leader, your supervisor, your director, your deputy director, your foreman, your crew chief, your president, your CEO. How do you see them?


II. The Passage: “No Authority Except from God ” (13:1-7)

Look with me this morning at Romans 13. I'm going to read through the first seven verses of this chapter. As I do that, I want you to think about what Paul has written here, about what God has inspired here, regarding the topics of vocation and authority. Look at what we read...

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. [2] Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. [3] For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, [4] for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. [5] Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. [6] For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. [7] Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

So the first thing I want to do is connect this passage with authority in the workplace. Clearly, this passage does speak about vocation and position, but specifically positions within the Roman government. But notice the phrase in verse 1: “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God”. Keep that it mind and listen to a similar statement from the Apostle Peter:

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, [14] or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

In both passages, Paul and Peter speak specifically about the place of government in God's design, but they both begin by casting the net wide and talking about all positions of authority as being part of God's design. Now, as we dig deeper this morning, I think the idea that this also includes bosses and managers and supervisors (not to mention teachers and coaches and HOA board members and church leaders...I think this connection) will be affirmed.

Now, you know as well as I do that a huge part of our experience in the workplace is related to our relationships with those who are in charge. Who here could share a story about either a fantastic boss or a fantastically terrible boss? So as we break down Romans 13:1-7, let's discover God's perspective on your relationship with the 'higher ups'.

First of all, we learn from verse 1 that, Your boss's position is according to God's purpose. We've already talked about the fact that God has designed a world with a kaleidoscope of vocations. And that kaleidoscope includes managers and supervisors. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

A boss has an important role to play in the machinery of a business, a department, or any kind of organization. This was true 2000 years ago in terms of civic leaders in the Roman Empire, and it's still true with institutions and organizations today. For the greater good, God has, is, and will use bosses [expand on gym lights illustration from last week].

Number two, we discover in verses 2, 4, and 6 that Minding God means minding your manager. We see that whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed. Why? Because your manager, (verse 4), is God's servant for your good...he is the servant of God. It may not always seem like it, but, according to verse 6, the authorities are ministers of God...

But how do we know these concepts are not restricted to the civil government, since that is the specific focus here? Because Paul talks about the same concepts in a different setting in three other passages. Listen to some of Paul's teaching on this idea:

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ... (Ephesians 6:5)

Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. [23] Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, [24] knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Col. 3:22-24)

Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything... (Titus 2:9)

The same subjection or submission that Paul encouraged in Romans 13 is addressed here in the context of the closest thing we have in the New Testament to an employee/employer relationship. The point is clear and indisputable: if an employee wants to honor God in the workplace, he or she will honor those in authority over them.

As we see in verse 5 of Romans 13, respectful submission at work is not simply motivated by not wanting to get fired or docked pay. It should be ultimately motivated by a desire for a clear conscience before God. Honoring your boss is God's will for you.

Third, verses 3 and 4 of Romans 13 reveal that It's more about your supervisor's position than disposition. Notice how Paul spells out the responsibilities of a civic leader in verses 3 and 4...

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, [4] for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.

Clearly, all of us know (or could guess) that not every civil servant in the Roman Empire, just as is the case with civil servants today, not every one of them faithfully carried out their responsibilities. We were reminded last week that every human institution, that our work and our workplaces have been tainted by sin. None of our vocations is immune from the effects of human rebellion. But notice Paul doesn't qualify this statement by saying, “Be subject to the governing authorities... but only if they are upright, honest, and kind.” Clearly books like Exodus, Daniel, and Acts teach us that we must obey God first if a civic leader or our boss at work orders us to do something that is clearly sinful.

But God does not give us the right to resist or slander or make it difficult for a leader just because we don't like their management style, or because they're lazy, or because they're harsh, or because we don't like how they spend their free time.

Peter addressed this very dilemma when he spoke to servants in I Peter 2...

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. [19] For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. [20] For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. [21] For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:13-21)

And that passage leads us right into our fourth point.

If we think about Romans 13 in the larger contexts of the book of Romans and of the NT, then I think we can also see that Scripture is directing us to Come under your team leader for the glory of your Leader above.

You might have a dishonorable supervisor who deserves reproach, but his position deserves honor. Remember Romans 13:7: Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

It didn't matter that Christians in the First Century were rightly disturbed by some of the ways their tax money was being spent by the Roman government. Their concerns did not give them the right to not pay their taxes. In the same way, concerns about our leaders do not give us the right to NOT give them the honor their position deserves. But why is that?

Because of all people, followers of Christ must demonstrate that we understand what it means to be under authority, that we recognize God's design for authority, and that we know who is ultimately in charge. And we do this with the same grace we've received from God through Jesus. Even if a person does a poor job as a manager, we know God's design, and therefore, we know why a manager is important. And so, even when a leader does not glorify God in his vocation, WE CAN glorify God as those being led. And when that happens, whether they see it or not, we become a blessing to our supervisors.

And do you know what God does through our God-focused, grace-based submission to authority? He shines the light of Christ. We are following in His steps. We are reflecting His example. Listen again to Paul's instructions to Titus...

Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, [10] not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. (Titus 2:9-10)

Who will have the more effective witness in their workplace, the employee who is always arguing with and criticizing their superiors, or the employee who is gracious, respectful, and submissive, even when they are not being treated well? Trust me, bad bosses will get enough flack from their unbelieving workers. That will be the norm. But those who do not work, (Colossians 3) by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord...those who...work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men...they will stand out from the crowd.

And as we've talked about in terms of our One Mission, that's the kind of lifestyle that raises questions, generates conversations, and open doors for us to share the gospel of Jesus.

 

III. The Ultimate Insubordination

This morning if any of you have a kind, understanding, and fair supervisor at work, give thanks to God, express your appreciation to your boss, and be faithful to pray for him or her. But if you have a difficult boss, if you are chafing under severe supervisors or bungling bosses, please remember WHY you have or WHY you do find yourself grumbling or talking badly about them or pushing back when they push you. It isn't because of their failings. It's because of your ultimate insubordination. That's not my assessment. It's God's.

Everything in Romans up to chapter 13 makes it abundantly clear that the ultimate insubordination is our failure “to honor [God] as God” (1:21). And when we reject God's authority and put ourselves in charge, we will always struggle with the idea of submission or subjection. But you might say, “Well, you don't know how bad it is at my work”, to which I would respond, “Well, you don't know (or you've lost sight of) how good God is in every place, and all the time!” And this God is for us through Jesus.

You see, only the gospel (Christ crucified and risen) can give us a genuine heart of submission because 1) it humbles us, confirming for us that we are no better than even the worst boss, AND, 2) it reminds us of the grace that we've been given, and are called to give to every person. That is, in fact, where Paul goes if we keep reading Romans 13. Look at v.8:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. [9] For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [10] Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)

Recognize that? It's one of the Great Commands, isn't it. What is God's will for you? That you would think about your boss or bosses in light of the Great Commands as you carry out His mission. We'll talk more about this idea next week.

Before we finish this morning, let me mention this: we live in a different world than the first readers of the New Testament, who lived under the Roman Empire. In your workplace today, you probably have the opportunity to talk with your manager, or talk with someone in human resources, or file a formal complaint when dealing with a boss who is twisting his vocation. Let's be clear: I am not saying NOT to do those kinds of things. It is often important that we pursue such things, for the sake of the other employees and for the good of the supervisor as well.

But before we pursue those options, we must make sure our spirit is in line with the spirit of God's word about subjection or submission. If the love of Christ, if the grace of God, if the gospel is not shaping our attitude toward our superiors, then formal complaints and talks with the HR department will become the tools of anger, pride, and resentment. Becoming embroiled in 'office politics' in this way will not bring glory to God. Biblical subjection truly does prepare us, when necessary, to speak the truth in love in our workplace.

But let me share just one more verse...

Masters, do the same to them [that is, treat your servants in the way God would have you treat them], and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him. (Ephesians 6:5-9)

For those of you who are supervisors, managers, bosses, God's word is very clear about the fact that you are also accountable in light of His design for your vocation. Can those underneath you see in you the God who is over you? Do they understand something about the leadership of Jesus because of your leadership? Are you thinking about your position in light of the Great Commands and the Mission of God?

Why don't we close this morning by praying for these very things. First, do so for yourself and for your boss (or for your employees) in quietness, and then I'd love to pray for you.