You’ve got to obey your government
- 13:1 We all need to let the government govern us. Our leaders got where they are because God put them there. That’s true of every government leader.
- 13:2 So you should know that anyone who bucks the government is taking a stand against what God has set up. If you do that, you’re going to get punished for it.
- 13:3 Good people who are well behaved don’t have anything to fear from their leaders. It’s the people who do wrong who should be afraid. If you don’t want to live in fear of your leaders, do what’s right. Your leaders will appreciate you for that.
- 13:4 Government leaders are doing God’s work. They are trying to help you. But if you do things that you know are wrong, you have every right to be afraid. You should know that your leader doesn’t carry a sword just because it nicely accessorizes his outfit. He’s on assignment from God as an avenger who has full authority to punish someone who misbehaves.
- 13:5 So obey the laws. Don’t do it just because you’re afraid of getting punished. Do it because you know in your heart that it’s the right thing to do.
- 13:6 That’s why you should pay your taxes, too. Government leaders are acting on assignment from God when they do their job.
- 13:7 Pay everyone what you owe them. Pay your taxes. Pay your bills. Pay your respects to the people who deserve it. Honor the people who deserve it.
Law, speaking to love: “You complete me”
- 13:8 There’s only one debt you should owe anyone: love. The whole point of the Jewish law is to help people learn to love each other.
- 13:9 Remember the Ten Commandments. “Don’t commit adultery. Don’t murder. Don’t steal. Don’t obsess over what others have and what you wish you had, too.” These and the other commandments can be summed up in a single sentence. “Love others in the same way that you love yourself.”1
- 13:10 Love is a pacifist. It doesn’t hurt anyone. Love is what completes the law. It’s what the law is all about.
Dress in your daytime behavior
- 13:11 Live your life like this. Do it because you know what time it is. It’s time to wake up from our sleep. The day of salvation is closer than it was when we first believed in Jesus.
- 13:12 Night is just about over. Here comes the day. We need to stop doing the kinds of things people do under the cover of darkness. We need to dress for the light of day.
- 13:13 Let’s live a respectable life, as though it’s always daytime. Say no to getting drunk, going to wild parties, having sex with whoever is willing, getting into arguments, and stoking up jealousies.
- 13:14 Let’s live a respectable life, as though it’s always daytime. Say no to getting drunk, going to wild parties, having sex with whoever is willing, getting into arguments, and stoking up jealousies.
Paul is quoting from his Bible, the Old Testament book of Leviticus, 19:18. Jesus said the same thing. “You have to love your neighbor every bit as much as you love yourself (Luke 10:27). See also Matthew 22:39 in Mark 12:31.
LIFE APPLICATION. How do you react to Paul’s opening comment in Romans 13? “We all need to let the government govern us” (13:1)? Which of the following comes closest to your reaction?
- What about dictators who conduct genocide?
- Is it wrong, then, to protest unjust laws or corrupt leaders?
- What about nonviolent resistance such as trespassing during a protest?
- It’s in the Bible, so I believe it’s the right thing to do.
- I’m hoping he was talking about the people in Rome at the time, and not everyone else.
- Didn’t Paul say much the same to slaves: Obey your masters?
LIFE APPLICATION. There’s plenty of reason to trip over the second half of Romans 13:1, “Our leaders got where they are because God put them there. That’s true of every government leader.” What are we supposed to do about the tyrants who rule as murderers who extort the wealth of their people?
LIFE APPLICATION. Here’s yet another statement Paul made that trips Christians: “You should know that anyone who bucks the government is taking a stand against what God has set up. If you do that, you’re going to get punished for it” (13:2).
LIFE APPLICATION. Okay, this is getting repetitive, but here’s another statement Paul made that could seem flaky to some Christians: “Good people who are well behaved don’t have anything to fear from their leaders. It’s the people who do wrong who should be afraid” (13:3). What do you think about that?
LIFE APPLICATION. Should we pay cash for everything, since Paul said, “There’s only one debt you should owe anyone: love” (13:8)?
LIFE APPLICATION. Read the last section of the chapter, “Dress in your daytime behavior,” (13:11-14). Which of the following best reflects your reaction:
- Easier said than done.
- Preach it.
- We probably need to hear that every day, though I’d rather not slap it on the fridge with a magnet.
- That last verse sounds like it could make a wonderful morning prayer: “Lord, let people see you in me today.”