Do We Stick It Where It Suits Us?

Exterior building wall covered with bubble gum of all colors

Many of us fail to honor and respect those who hold positions of authority.  We are sometimes more interested in how they and their organizations might serve us, rather than how we might sacrifice in the name of honor and respect.  We cry, “Injustice!,” and often decry our parents, our bosses, our schools, our safety net, our government…even each other when our allegiances don’t match.  We can fight for the oppressed, yet disintegrate the cause because we don’t honor those with the authority to improve the situation.  We can rally against discrimination, and discriminate in the process.  And, at a more basic level, we can defy our parents when all we really want is their support.  Do we cry for peace and justice while raising a fist at government, at those who disagree with us, and even at innocent bystanders?

[NOTE: This post and it's follow up clarification posted on 10/29/17 has been rewritten into 3 new posts beginning with this one.]

If we don’t believe in an absolute truth and a supreme god, then maybe all of the above is okay.  We can make our own rules – rules that suit our own ideals (and cravings).  We don’t owe anyone anything.  Shouldn’t we get what we can out of life?  If people get hurt along the way, maybe it’s their fault for letting their guard down or for not having a more popular bias.  We’re not responsible for others who don’t hop on our bandwagon anyway, right?  We just need to stay away from the short side of a conflict.  We can't be the underdog.

If that last paragraph didn’t sit well with you, maybe it’s because you understand there really are standards for living.  Maybe it’s because you know the true God who established a moral law, and who we should honor with our intentions and our actions.  After all, He is the God we will answer to someday, and actually every day.

[Note:  After you read this post, you should also read A Clarification:  Do We Stick It Where It Suits Us?, Part 2.  It addresses some questions readers have asked.]

David, the Psalmist, had great respect for God and he understood how to honor Him.  Many of us know David for his sin with Bathsheba, but he was very moral and he respected God’s sovereignty.  He knew God was the ultimate authority, even before he became King.  He consistently and sacrificially honored God, even while he waited and wondered when it would be his time to wear the crown.

God chose David to replace Saul as Israel's king, but it didn’t happen overnight.  The transition was a very long and eventful journey that lasted as long as 22 years (2 Samuel 5:4).  Those 22 years were far more eventful than most of our life stories.  He played music for the king, killed Goliath, was hunted by the king, lived in a cave, and assembled his own army with countless victories against all odds.  But very notable was David’s honor and respect for the man who was responsible for much of his blood, sweat, and tears:  King Saul.

How could he honor King Saul?  Saul wanted him dead and God already declared that David would succeed him.  Wouldn’t David have been justified if he were to shake his fists at the king and defame him?  Wouldn’t it have been okay to rally his troops against King Saul, this man whom God pronounced unworthy of the crown and whose days God numbered?

The short answer:  No, it would have dishonored God.

Here’s why:  God chose Saul to be the king.

That’s the bottom line, and it is relevant today.  It dishonors God every time we defy the people He places in authority.  So, when it comes to our superiors, every lashing remark on our Facebook and twitter feeds, every livid accusation expressed at the water cooler, anything seething deep within as we retreat to our rooms, as justified as it feels, is done in direct defiance to God.  I realize that’s a harsh statement, but we have no business questioning or warring against the decisions God makes in His sovereignty.  Nobody does.

David understood this important life truth and he lived by it.  David must have had a special, though unrecorded, back story because God said, “…David, son of Jesse, is a man after my own heart.  He will do everything I want him to do” (Acts 13:22b, GW).  He was committed to God’s commands even as a teenager, and he honored God throughout his 55-year journey before declaring his son Solomon as his successor.

So, David’s life is an example of godly living.  Yes, David failed to please God at times, but look at what God recorded centuries later in the New Testament.  He said, “David…is a man after my own heart.”  If David did not consistently make God-honoring choices, and if he did not exemplify godly character through the years, God would not have made that statement and He would not have followed it up with, “He will do everything I want him to do.”  (Read Acts 13:21-23 and 1 Kings 15:4-5.)

So, what can we learn from David’s example about living under the rules and whims of King Saul and how he honored him after he died?  I see at least six commitments we should make regarding respect.

If we respect our authorities…

1.  We honor God’s decisions.

David was accommodating and compliant.  He respected the authority and wishes of his father, the prophet Samuel, and God.  (See 1 Samuel 16.)  In fact, it seems everything he did was as if it were done for God.  This is exactly how we should approach everything we do.  Colossians 3:23-24 reads, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men...You are serving the Lord Christ” (ESV).  These verses speak specifically to subordinates, and many other portions of Scripture support the same idea:  Colossians 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 10:31-33; Matthew 4:8-10…

David also understood that governments and rulers were given their positions and authority by God Himself.  All governments are established by God.  Those who resist government, oppose what God established (Romans 13:1-2ff).  I realize it is hard to accept this truth today, but don’t forget it was hard for David, too, and for many others throughout biblical history.  Again, we cannot question the decisions God makes in His sovereignty.

We don’t have a seat at His decision table, and we would do well to respect Him for it.
Otherwise, we defy Him.

David honored King Saul as God’s choice.  He respected Saul as King and honored God by letting Saul finish his tenure God’s way and in God’s timing.  How often do we push back when a decision doesn’t go our way, or when a comment goes against the grain (i.e., doesn’t match our biases)?  Let’s take a moment to consider whether our preferences align with God’s declarations and commands.

Do our desires and points of view differ from God’s?

Can God call us men and women after His own heart?

Later in life, David reflected on how every battle and every victory was God’s.  His kingly accomplishments did not necessarily come because he was a fitting king.  They came because God chose him to be king and God worked mightily through him despite his human limitations.  (See 2 Samuel 22:1-23:7.)  He probably rubbed people the wrong way.  They probably felt slighted at times without ever realizing the real issue might have been that they weren’t on the same page as God – with their attitudes, their decisions, their actions, their hearts…

2.  We fulfill our assignments even when they don’t match our ambitions and passions.

David was to be king, but first he had to be the king’s personal musician, a.k.a., servant.  Whenever Saul was troubled (“tormented by evil spirits,” as 1 Samuel 16:14 puts it), he summoned David to play soothing music to calm his heart.  Saul loved and trusted him so much that he arranged to have David live with him.  He also made David his armor bearer, a truly honorable position, but he didn’t get to accompany Saul when he and his army went to battle the Philistines and their giant Goliath.  So, David was in one of those crossroads where we tend to ask ourselves, “What is in store for me and am I headed the right direction?  Do I need to escape!?”

But David didn’t ask those questions.  As we discussed earlier, he treated his duties as assignments from God.  That’s why, when the Israelite army went to the battle line without him, he returned to his home to shepherd his father’s flock.  That’s why, when his father asked him to take bread to his brothers on the battle line, he obliged him wholeheartedly.  (See 1 Samuel 17:12-20.)  That’s why, when Saul decided David had become a threat to his kingship, David remained on the run, living in the wild, with limited resources and sometimes none at all (1 Samuel 21).

Sure, David wondered about his situations at times, but he didn't complain.  He maintained his respect for the journey God set before him.  He fulfilled his duties under King Saul (musician and armor bearer), he fulfilled his duties to his father (shepherd and bread courier for his brothers), and he fulfilled his duties to God (to faithfully follow Him and succeed by honoring God’s choices for his life).  He even accepted his position under Saul as a battle regiment captain and on certain missions where he’d face scores of enemies while Saul hoped that he would be killed by Philistines.  (See 1 Samuel 18.)

3.  We maintain respect when they fail to meet their promises.

As the man who defeated the Philistine giant Goliath, David was promised riches, Saul’s daughter as his wife, and an elevated social status for his family.  He was to enjoy a life of royalty (1 Samuel 17:25).  But the opposite very quickly became his reality.  Saul grew jealous of David’s success and popularity, and of the fact that he was anointed as the future King of Israel.  His riches were replaced with a death sentence, and Saul offered his daughter in marriage only as a ploy to send David to the dangers of battle, as often as possible.  In fact, the daughter Saul gave him to marry wasn’t even the daughter he’d promised.

But how did David respond?  He continued to honor and serve Saul.  His respect for King Saul didn’t falter.

How do we respond when our superiors change their plans?

How do we respond when we realize those who hold the power made false promises just to get our approval?

How do we respond when a protection organization doesn’t believe our story?

How do we respond when a parent apologizes, yet makes the same mistake over and over again?

If you’re like me, we often lash back because it's not right.  Sometime after David’s story, Rehoboam, King of Judah, was ready to retaliate against Jeroboam, King of the remainder of Israel (1 Kings 12).  Jeroboam was a harsh and unfair king who succeeded David’s son, Solomon.  He killed one of Rehoboam’s leaders, so Rehoboam readied 180,000 soldiers to go to war against Jeroboam.  But God sent Shemaiah with a message to stop him.  He told Rehoboam that He, God, was responsible for Israel’s division – for dividing His favored family and for the unfair situation under King Jeroboam.  I’ll say it again.  God chose to have Israel endure unjust circumstances.

Does it seem right when God puts us in unjust situations?  Well, it certainly doesn’t feel right.  But God has a bigger plan and it doesn’t always match our wishes.  Whichever direction our next steps take us, God wants us to maintain respect for our authorities and for Him, just as David did.  (For a glimpse into the unrest between Judah and the rest of Israel, read 1 Kings 11.)  Let’s take this a step further…

4.  We honor our agreements even when they later become unfavorable.

When situations become unfavorable to us, how do we respond?  We like to walk away, don’t we?  If our work situation degrades, we look for another job.  If marriage isn’t working out, we might divorce or look elsewhere to fill the voids.  When traffic backs up, some of us make our own lane in the shoulder.  Further from our minds is fulfilling our commitments and honoring our previous agreements.

But, at some point, our arrangements likely become unfavorable.  That’s just life.  Frankly, that’s the way it should be.  When we get comfortable, we get complacent.  But as we thrive, we encounter unfavorable situations.  When we’re promoted at work, we face new challenges.  Churches that grow in number, might need to offer multiple services and manage parking problems.  Married couples have children.  New challenges, even very difficult ones, are a normal part of life, and we who follow and honor God must continue to honor God and honor any agreements we made until those agreements change.

David experienced difficulties, to say the least, but he didn't run from his commitments.  Of course, he ran from King Saul to save his life, but he stuck around at first to see if things would change (1 Samuel 18:10-11, 19:1-10).  And, may I say that he didn’t break his agreement to serve the king and play music when summoned.  No, King Saul modified their agreement when he purposed to kill him.

David honored his agreement with King Saul because he honored God.  Even when his situation became unfavorable, he continued to do what was right.  He continued to endure difficulty after difficulty without running from his circumstances.  David met each situation with a drive that ultimately improved his circumstances, each small success after another.  He acquired weapons, assembled an army, secured allies, conquered nations, and gained the loyalty of the people of Israel during his 22-year journey to royalty.  (Read about it in 1 Samuel 21:1 – 2 Samuel 5:4.)

When life gets hard, we cannot run.  We cannot shirk our responsibilities.  We must remain committed to those who depend on us, no matter how hard it gets, even when they are the antagonists.  We must stand fast to honor God, and when we accept unfavorable situations as a part of God’s bigger picture, God might someday consider us people after His own heart.

5.  We do what pleases God even when sin would be an acceptable option by many onlookers.

As we journey through life, we will come upon opportunities that seem to advance us in God’s path.  During those moments, we need to discern what would honor (or dishonor) God?  In the context of this article, when we are faced with an opportunity to escape the authority of a superior, or worse, to dismantle their authority, we cannot proceed if it means we sin against God.  Some decisions are wrong no matter how much people support them, even when the support comes from godly people.  I write knowing that some situations are so bad that taking a step against a superior seems to be the best or maybe the only choice we have.  That may not be true.  Most of the time, the right decision is to remain in the bad situation.

God-honoring decisions are often unpopular, but wrong decisions are just plain wrong and they dishonor God.  Honking angrily at a police officer for parking his vehicle in my lane of traffic, as I have done, is wrong.  Rebelling against the authority of our parents is wrong, no matter how unfair our lives may be.  Posting derogatory remarks on social media about our teachers or bosses or government agencies is unacceptable, even if they drew first blood.  Defaming and fighting against our President, even if you think he’s detestable, is the wrong choice.  And, yes, the choice is ours.

When King Saul tried to kill David, David walked away from the situation (1 Samuel 18:10-11, 19:9-10).  When he sent David to battle and assigned details that almost certainly meant he would be killed, David went to battle (1 Samuel 18:11-30).  And when David had two opportunities to kill Saul (1 Samuel 24 and 26), he did not take advantage of them.  Why?  Because God chose Saul to be the king.  In fact, after David chose not to kill Saul while he slept, he reprimanded Saul’s men for failing to protect their king.  And after Saul died, David commanded that no one harm Saul’s family members, and he instead honored them.

Did David consider killing Saul?  He sure did.  In 1 Samuel 24, his men nearly convinced him that his time to be king had finally come.  He could have finally stopped running, finally stopped hiding, and finally worn the crown as God previously declared.  His men reminded him that God said, “I’m going to hand your enemy over to you” (1 Samuel 24:4).  All the pieces were in place.  Everything was coming together, but to follow through would have been to sin against God.  He would have defied God’s sovereign authority, and that was unthinkable to him (1 Samuel 24:6).

6.  We confess and repent of our disrespect after those moments when we do disrespect.

As I wrote earlier, David was not perfect.  In fact, he is known for a severely egregious compound sin (see 2 Samuel 11):

1) He watched Bathsheba as she bathed.
2) He used his position to summon her.
3) He slept with her (and she got pregnant in the process).
4) He tried to cover his sin by attempting to have her husband sleep with her ASAP.
5) Since her husband didn’t sleep with her, he sent her husband to the front battle lines to have him killed so that he could take Bathsheba as his wife and thereby not appear guilty of any sin.

But here’s the best part of this story.  When David was confronted by God’s messenger about his sin, David confessed and repented.  He said, “I have sinned against the LORD” (2 Samuel 12:13).  He previously concealed his sin, but that doesn’t discount the sincerity of his confession.  And, once again, David acknowledged his responsibility to God.  He didn’t try to justify or diminish his actions to God’s messenger.  He confirmed that a sin against man is a sin against God.  Incidentally, the prodigal son also acknowledged the same truth.  He said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you” (Luke 15:21).

Have we disparaged others for disagreeing with us?
Have we slandered those who impose rules we don’t agree with, or simply do things that just should not be?
Does our hate lead us to act in ways that tear down fellow men, women, and children?
Do we hurt them emotionally, physically, financially?

They deserve respect as much as our sovereign God demands it.  If we have broken down a relationship due to our lack of respect for the person, we can’t leave it at that.  Make amends, somehow.

First step:  Confess it as sin against God.  He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us (1 John 1:9).

A sin against fellow human beings is a sin against God.
Disrespecting our authorities is disrespecting God.

You probably already realized that this article speaks just as much about our respect for our equals and our subordinates as it does about our respect for our superiors.  Respect is respect, regardless of relation or interaction.  Disrespect is disrespect.  Either way, in the process, we reflect our attitude toward God.  The way we treat others is undoubtedly the way we treat God.

If you have questions about honor and respect or if you want to know more about living for Jesus and what it means to be a child of God, please email me at

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