The Ethics Of Authority


After Jesus put to silence His accusers by answering their questions in Matthew 22, He addresses His disciples and the people in Matthew 23 as to how they should act toward these rulers and Pharisees.

Since these rulers were in a position of authority, they should be respected and obeyed regardless how they act. Christ had previously shown His submission to Caesar, and this He did for our example His actions follow the course exhorted by the apostles Paul and Peter to obey those who have authority as “ordained of God” (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Taxes should be paid. They are to be supported. Prayer should be made for them.

The example of hypocritical rulers must be avoided. The Pharisees and rulers made void the Law by their traditions. Although they failed to keep the law they were to enforce, the law should not be rejected because of the unworthiness of the teacher. Pride filled their hearts. Hypocrisy was a way of life. They had rolls of the law sewn into or hanging from their garments to look religious. They violated a basic principle of authority – if you talk the talk, you must walk the walk. Aspiring to be like them would be the height of ignorance and blindness. Beware and avoid this leaven is the reason Jesus brings this to their attention.

Authority is cultivated by true humility. Self-exaltation is a moral crime. It will promote jealousy and wrath. It parades itself, as did these rulers and Pharisees, “at feasts”, “in synagogues”, “in markets”, “in the streets”, and “in the temple”. They would rather be called “Rabbi”, “Teacher”, or “Master”. This is a temptation Jesus resisted. Jesus also pointed to the Supreme Authority – God. He also wants His disciples to follow this same example. No Christian should ever covet titles as a means of recognition or to receive the accolades of man. Let humility reign within the heart. Lose yourself and let Christ exalt you (Matthew 16:24).

Authority is as authority does. Why are there so many denominations? Why are children running households? Why is there an indifference toward marriage? What makes parents abuse children? Why do churches divide? All the foregoing questions have one simple answer – attitude toward authority. A bad attitude sabotages one’s whole future and opportunity to please God and our fellow man. A bad attitude, if not changed, will no doubt cause one to be miserable in this life and lost beyond the grave. How we view authority is how we will exercise the same when we are given the position to exercise it. It would do us well to remember “all authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth” says the Lord Jesus Christ.