How To Say No To Authority

Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank.

–Daniel 1:8

How do we respond to government authorities if they ask us to do that which violates God’s Word? Is there ever a time we are to say no to the authority figures in our lives, whether it be the government, a pastor, or an employer? Let me suggest four principles for how to respond to those who ask us to do what is wrong in God’s eyes.

One, discern the true motives of the person who is in authority. Let’s say your supervisor asks you to fudge some figures on a report. Ask yourself, “What is she really trying to accomplish here?” More likely than not, she just wants to make herself look good. It is helpful if you can discern the real motive of the person who is asking you to do wrong.

That leads to principle two: develop an alternate plan. Once you know what the person is after, come up with a creative alternative. That is exactly what Daniel did in Daniel 1. King Nebuchadnezzar had asked Daniel to eat food that would have violated God’s law. So Daniel came up with an alternative. He said, in essence, “Why don’t you allow me and my friends to eat only vegetables and water for ten days? Your men can eat from the king’s table, and after ten days we will see who is stronger.” That was a creative alternative.

Three, show respect. If a government official asks you to do what is wrong, do not respond by saying, “You pagan! What is wrong with you?” Instead, show respect to that person whom God has placed in authority. Remember, the goal is to win that person to Christ. That is the point Peter made in 1 Peter 3:1-2 when he spoke to wives about respecting the authority of their husbands. He said, “Wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” The way we win over people in authority is by our respectful behavior, not our disrespectful behavior.

Four, be ready to suffer the consequences of obedience to God. I wish I could promise that if you do the previous three things I suggested, the person in authority will say, “Oh, I did not realize that was wrong–you can do what is right instead.” But it does not always happen that way. Many times we end up having to suffer the consequences of choosing to obey God rather than human authority figures. And that is the counterbalancing truth to the biblical command to respect authority: sometimes we have to say no to governing authorities in our lives.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Mr. Solomon Goes to Washington” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.

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