Chapter 13:17 (ESV) - Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Question to consider: If God created everyone as equal, why do we have leaders?
Submitting to other people does not come easy to me. Maybe it is because I have spent most of my time in a country that lets me speak and act freely. Maybe it is that my sin nature desires to rebel against authority. In either case, I strive to overcome my tendency toward rebellion because ultimately in submitting to leaders, I am submitting to God. Remember that this statement is another example of worshiping God with reverence and awe.
Who are the leaders to whom the author is calling us to obey? Most likely, he’s still referring to the leaders he mentioned at the beginning of the chapter who spoke the word of God to us since he declares they are keeping watch over our souls and will need to give an account to God for their leadership. This would include our parents, bible teachers, elders, and pastors. Other passages of scripture like Romans 13:1-7 consider all authority, both civil and spiritual to be God’s servant for our good. Obviously, if someone in authority asks you to commit a sin, you have a higher duty to submit to God first and not commit the sin, but this scenario does not occur very frequently.
It is exhausting as a leader to have people argue and question every decision you make, and it can suck the joy right out of the job. There are a few who may give good counsel to a leader to help them make wise decisions, but many times, people who complain about a leader’s decisions have no idea what was involved in making them. So the author is being very practical when he says that this kind of behavior is of no advantage to you.
This may seem like a wacky example, but I’ve attended quite a number of youth sporting events in my life, and it always astounds me when a parent will rise up and yell at a referee or umpire for a call that they don’t like. In this case, the umpire or referee is the one in authority over the game. Many times, the rebellious parent is speaking from a position of bias and may not even have a good enough angle to adequately judge the call. However, even if the referee made the worst call in the history of bad calls, what does that parent really think they will accomplish with their outburst? It won’t change the call, and it removes any joy the ref may have had in judging the game which could have an adverse effect on the players.
If rebelling against such a low-level authority figure as a ref at a youth sporting event can disrupt our lives, think about how much more of an impact our rebellion can have when it comes to our work or our families? Let us worship God with reverence and awe by obeying our leaders.
Lord God, please forgive us for the times that we go against those whom You have given as an authority over us. We pray for wise leaders who truly desire to care for our souls as people who will give an account to you for their decisions. Help us to encourage them so that they may lead us with joy and that we may do the good work that You have created us to do. Amen.