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Paying Your Dues

When someone tells us what to do, the issue is not what but who.


How many of you would say, "The truth is, I really am more clued in than my boss"? Who would say, "My boss, my company, my manager, my supervisor, my board, my president,"—whomever you work for—"makes decisions that make me think, What are you thinking? Do they not know how hard we're working?" Every one of us has a story about working for somebody and thinking, If I were in charge, not only would it be different, but it would be better.

All of us have a different response when our authorities ask us to do things we don't agree with. The question is, as a Christian doing work as unto the Lord, how do you deal with that very real situation? In those situations, our natural reaction is to focus on the what—what they're asking us to do. We think, That's ineffective, it's inefficient, it's going to hurt the bottom line, it's insensitive, it doesn't make any sense, or it requires more work. We don't like the what. But God says: I want you to look at the who. Don't worry about what you've been asked to do, but rather who is asking you to do it.

All authority is established by God.

The apostle Paul wrote a letter to Christians in Rome who were living under Nero's rule. As time went by, Rome became less and less patient with Christians and eventually fed them to lions and burned them at the stake. Paul wrote to a group of people under a pagan government that was antagonistic toward their religion. In these verses we can find a principle that applies to many areas of our life.

Imagine being a Roman Christian and hearing apostle Paul say: By the way, this nation, this country, this system that's so antagonistic to your faith—God established it. You need to view Rome as a government that's been established by God. Can you imagine how they felt? Some of you are thinking, If you're going to say my boss has been put in his job by God, then you really need to come visit me. There is no way in the world.

In history and in our lives, God works through authorities. When we resist authorities we are actually working against God. That's why when we're asked to do something, the issue is not what but who. God has established authorities, and we know that oftentimes God is up to something through the authorities in this world. When we forget that this is how he works, we oftentimes miss what he's trying to do.

Not only does God work through authority, God even works through pagan and unjust authorities. God directs and implements his plan in the life of believers through authorities that don't even believe he exists. Throughout Scripture we find that God was always up to something, always using the authorities that were in place, yet often nobody knew what God was up to.

Imagine when God allowed Roman soldiers to manhandle his Son, strap him down and nail him to a cross. God was up to something. We have can experience salvation today because God used a pagan government to accomplish his will. The apostles didn't recognize God's hand in this. When Peter pulled out his sword in the garden and said, "I'll put a stop to this," Jesus said, "Put your sword away. This must be accomplished." Jesus understood that oftentimes God works through authority even when we're not sure how.

We can look back in history and clearly see God's activity. But then we go to work in our little worlds with our little details and our little issues, and we forget that God works through authority. When we bail out because we don't want to put up with authority, not only do we potentially miss what God is trying to accomplish, but in some human way we may thwart his plan. The issue is not what; it's who. All authority has been established by God.

Rebelling against authority brings judgment from God.

Paul gives us more details. Here's a promise you can claim: When you fight against authorities God has established, you will reap judgment. The difficult thing is that even when you're right, there will be judgment.

Picture your boss, manager, supervisor, or president in your mind. He or she is God's servant for you. You might be thinking, That's Satan's servant, not God's servant. But God wants to say to you: No, that's my servant. Rome was my servant. Through Rome I brought you salvation and spread Christianity. Pharaoh was my servant. Through Pharaoh I created a nation. If I can handle Pharaoh and if I can handle Rome, I can handle your boss.

Paul uses taxes as an illustration. They had a problem with taxes back then. They weren't simply concerned that taxes were too high. Rather, the Christians couldn't understand why they should give money to Rome when Rome intended to use the money to build pagan temples. Worse yet, they were financing their own persecution; they were giving Rome the money to pay the military that was putting them in prison. Paul responds: You're not paying taxes because the taxes are fair. You're paying taxes because Rome asked you to. It's not the what; it's the who. If the government God established asks for a certain amount of money, you give them what you owe regardless of what they're going to do with it. You're not responsible for that. You are responsible for being under the authorities that I've established.

You may be thinking, I don't have to pay my taxes because the government's funding this and supporting that. God doesn't agree with that, so I don't have to pay my taxes. If you're thinking that, you are wrong, and you are going to reap the judgment of God. You will be right on the issue but wrong on the application. The reason we pay our taxes as Americans is not because we agree with everything the government does with our money, but because God has placed the authority over us.

Paul tells the Romans to do what they are hired to do. If they were hired for their talent, they should give their talent. If they were hired for their time, they should give their time. If they were hired for their education and ability, they should give them that. Don't make an issue about every little thing—or even the big things—that you disagree with. It's not about what; it's about who.

I have a good friend named Leanne Meadows who teaches hearing-impaired children. Leanne is a leader with a strong personality. If you take a strong leader and place them in a highly bureaucratic environment, it's not a good mix. Every once in a while Leanne and the school system have conflict, because for her, teaching these kids is not a job; it's a mission. Because these kids are only a small group of kids in this large school, she often feels they don't get what they deserve. Not long ago, she had a big conflict, and she told me about it. This is Leanne's story.

When I was eight years old I read a story about Helen Keller called The Miracle Worker, which sparked a passion in me for deaf children. I got my degree in teaching deaf children. I was part of a team that worked with deaf children in a public school. As with all teams, there's usually one person that doesn't want to pull their weight. We had such a person. Over time, tension kept building and building, and everyday I would get frustrated. It seemed like our principal knew what was going on and our supervisor knew what was going on, but nobody would do anything. I was frustrated because I didn't understand why this person was being allowed to keep going.
So I went in. But I went in with the wrong attitude, and because of all my frustration, I just blew up. What resulted was a meeting with my supervising teacher, my principal, and my assistant principal concerning my role as a teacher instead of this person's role with her children. Even though I was doing my job, I was the one that blew up. I was the one that had the wrong attitude. When I finally came to my senses about the whole thing, I began to really pray for the people that were over me in authority. At first my attitude in prayer wasn't right either. I was praying, God, you get them then. If I can't, you get them.
A friend of mine said to me, "Leanne, it sounds to me that you're a hearer and not a doer." I read that chapter in James and thought, That's true. I knew what my role was as a Christian in the workplace, and that I should respect authority. But I had gone in with a completely different attitude. I didn't do what the Bible said at all. Instead of approaching them to talk about the problem, I went in with blazing guns and attacked my authority. Instead of solving a problem, I felt like a child that had gone to the principal's office.
Eventually, God taught me how to pray differently. He taught me to pray for them by trying to see their side of the story. As a result, God changed me. Circumstances haven't changed at work. Decisions are made every day that I still don't agree with. But my response has changed. That was a lesson God needed to teach me about authority and how I should respond to it.

Obeying authority brings protection through God.

Let me give you a saying that will help put this in your memory:

When someone tells me what to do,
The issue is not what but who.

Before we ask "what idiot came up with that", we have to say, "Where is it coming from?" If the source is an authority—even if it's a temporary authority—that God has placed over me, then I have to be very careful how I respond, because God may be up to something I don't know about. He always works through authority and never blesses rebellion.

I believe God uses and develops us where we are for whatever's next. Many of you are happy where you are. Others of you wish "next" was last week. If you're a believer, and God is conforming you to the image of Jesus Christ, then he is going to use where you are now to prepare you for what's next. That means God is going to use the authorities he's placed over you now to prepare you for those you will work with next. The most important issue at work is not that everything be done efficiently and effectively. The most important issue is that we learn to respond well to the authorities God has placed over us. When someone tells you what to do, the issue is not what. The issue is who.

One of the reasons I am so passionate about this is because I've seen God apply this principle in my life in significant ways. When we first started this church, I had a lot of input into how we designed the building. I argued strongly that we not put a baptistery in the worship center. In our first plans, the architect did what I asked. I went to the elders and said, "Every time I've seen baptism done, it's sort of an add on. They just tack it in and it's never significant. I want us to build a completely different environment for baptism." I went on and on about how smart this was and how great it would be.

When I finished, one of the elders said, "I think we should put the baptistery in the worship center." The guy next to him said, "Me too." At the end of the night, we voted. The vote was 11 to 1 in favor of the baptistery. If I had my way, I would have felt justified, and I would have robbed us of an incredible experience of watching people pass through these waters. God protected me—protected us—through the authorities he placed over me.


You'll face incompetent people at work. Just remember that you don't know what God is up to. The important thing is that God is working in your life. When you learn to submit to the authorities of God, he will use that authority to direct and protect your life.

For the outline of this sermon, go to "Paying Your Dues."

Andy Stanley is the founder and pastor of North Point Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Sermon Outline:


All of us experience conflict with those who have authority over us.

I. All authority is established by God.

II. Rebelling against authority brings judgment from God.

III. Obeying authority brings protection through God.


Submitting to authority will allow God to direct and protect our lives.