How many times do we know what to do but mess it up with how we actually respond? Knowing what to do and following through with actually doing it is a huge part of passing the Authority Test. Understanding the role that authority plays in our lives can sound like a simple explanation: Honor the people giving orders and making decisions over you whether you are in agreement or not. The truth is, a simple explanation doesn’t always translate into easy action steps.
Jesus provided a great example of how to think about authority when a group of people asked Him whether or not they should pay a tax to Caesar (they were hoping to get Jesus to say something controversial). For Jesus to say that they should pay the tax could be seen as dishonoring to His own religion and heritage, but if He were to say that they should not pay the tax, that would make Him a revolutionary in the eyes of Rome. As a part of a minority living in a foreign territory, Jesus understood the importance and complexity of authority—both good and bad.
Instead of offering them the yes-or-no answer they were looking for, Jesus revealed that our response to corrupt authority is one that defies our natural response. Jesus told them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” (Luke 20:25, ESV). This answer shows how we can, in most cases, pass the Authority Test that maintains respect for those in authority. If Caesar asks for a coin, give him a coin. After all, his face was on it! But Caesar also wanted the worship of his subjects and, as Jesus said, our worship should only belong to God.
In order to get from one level to the next of responsibility and authority, we have to pass the Authority Test. Our greatest test involving authority comes when we disagree with that authority. This test will always reveal our attitudes toward the authority figures in our lives. You see, we can’t control those who are in authority over us, but we can always control our response and our attitude. In telling the people to pay the tax to Caesar—who also demanded the worship of his subjects—Jesus showed that He maintained an accurate attitude towards authority that had become corrupt. In that case, it wasn’t about the person in authority. It was about honoring what God had allowed to be in place while still honoring God.
It is important for us, as Christ followers, to remember that even when authority fails, God is looking at our response. There is always a right response to wrong authority.
The right response never includes a physical or verbal attack on authority.
The right response never includes a demonstration of anger or hostility.
The right response never includes never stirring up strife against authority by railing on authority to others.
The most common right responses to wrong authority are simple and few. Let me give you two:
1. Appeal to a higher authority.
2. Peaceful withdrawal from the authority’s jurisdiction or sphere of power.
Something to think about: What does submitting to authority look like in your everyday life?
I want you to pass this test! You can dig deeper into the Authority Test by reading Proving Ground 2.0: Nine Tests That Prove Your Potential.