When to Disobey Authority

When should a Christians disobey someone in authority: family, church, or government? Scripture gives us answers.

What do we do when our government enacts bad laws? 

First and foremost: we never disobey God’s laws to obey government laws. But there’s a difference between bad laws and laws that cause us to violate Scripture. 

For example, when I was in Communist Czechoslovakia in 1980, the official exchange rate was unfairly inflated. I had opportunity to exchange money for a fair rate on the illegal black market and most people in the tour group were doing that, but my conscience wouldn’t allow it. Nothing in Scripture says we must get a fair exchange rate.(1)

During that time, the Communists also had a law that prohibited bringing Bibles to the Czech people. I disobeyed that law by bringing in some Bibles to give away. God commands us to share the gospel and help our persecuted brothers and sisters (2 Timothy 4:2; Hebrews 13:3).

Both laws were bad. You might even say that both were ungodly (one motivated by greed, the other by persecution). But only one forced me to violate Scripture. 

Romans 13:1-6 and 1 Peter 2:13-17 were written when the Roman government was very corrupt, so we can’t disobey laws based on our disapproval of our government or its leaders. Well, we can, but we can't find support in Scripture for doing it.

This principles applies to all authority: family, church, employment, etc.
However, Acts 4 and 5 make it very clear that we should disobey any law that violates God’s laws, even if it means we face fines or imprisonment (Acts 4:18-20; Acts 5:27-32)

This principle applies to all authority: family, church, employment, etc.  

💙Beyond 1-minute for those who want more:

(1) Scripture commands us to give a fair exchange rate, being honest and fair in all of our dealings, but that's a command for our behavior. We don't violate God's commands by being unfairly charged for something (Matthew 5:41; 1 Corinthians 4:12). And we must be especially cautious of our tendency to disobey God's laws in order to gain something financially (1 Timothy 6:10). 

I strongly encourage you to do the Bite Size Bible Study It's the Law. It contains the full text of Scriptures and offers some additional resources. 

Bible Love Notes

1 comment:

  1. TY! Gail for addressing this topic. We are certainly living in a time when having an understanding of authority, and our response to it, is imperative. On one end of the spectrum, there are those who believe simply because something is legal, it is therefore ordained by God (abortion, same sex marriage, legalized marijuana, etc.) On the other end, I've heard many churches teach that we are to 'submit' no matter what (especially in marriage). Certainly, during the time of the Holocaust, folks obeyed the 'authority' believing it was the right thing to do. While others, like Corrie ten Boom, disobeyed the authorities and were blessed by God in doing so.

    The last couple of yrs. of my marriage, I could not sign our taxes. My husband refused to review them with me, yet demanded that I sign them. For over 20 yrs. I had done so, but I 'knew' that something was wrong and could not/would not sign them. He forged my name and submitted them.

    After he was gone, I was contacted by the IRS. I explained the situation to them and they requested my signature to be sent to them. They then sent me a letter releasing me from all obligations. I later learned that they then pursued the ex for 18K in back taxes.

    God had intervened and protected me. My refusal to sign those taxes had gone against everything I had been taught in the churches. It was very difficult for me to not obey, not submit. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit constrained me and I didn't.

    All authority is of God. But when that authority is used for evil and not for good, we must seek the Lord for His Wisdom and direction as to how we are to respond.

    Daniel is a good example in Scripture as to how we are to respond to authority used unrighteously.