What do I owe?

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Before we look at what we owe to others, give thanks to Jesus for paying the incredible debt that we could never pay. It may help to sing a song of worship, such as the hymn ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’.

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Bible passage Romans 13:1–7

Romans 13

Submission to the Authorities
 1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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"You want me to submit to them?!"
Trust of our leaders is at an all-time low. Between the sex scandals, the banking crisis and the tax dodges it is easy to think that our politicians, business leaders and the like are simply out for what they can get, regardless of the cost to others.

How can we honour and submit to people like that?

Cleaning our own consciences
First, we need to remember that it is not our place to judge others, but to look to our own consciences: do you always do what is right, or do you sometimes cut corners, delay payments, fudge the truth or take more than your fair share?

Second, the Bible makes a distinction between what someone deserves and what we owe. Our leaders don’t have to earn our respect and obedience; we are called to fulfil our side of the contract whether they deserve it or not.


Ask God to reveal to you areas where you are not paying what you owe to others, whether that’s financially, in terms of respect, or in some other area. Ask his forgiveness, and take steps to make changes.

Jennie Pollock

Deeper Bible study

Reflect today on the verse, ‘Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.’ (Jeremiah 29:7)

Chapter 12 ended with encouragement to live at peace with everyone and not to take revenge (Romans 12:19–21) – following the example of Jesus and deriving from faith in God. It is God’s prerogative to ‘avenge’ (Romans 12:19), best understood not as God being vengeful but as being the one who has the right and power to work justice. How, when and whether God does this is, of course, entirely up to God, since vengeance is his, to work out as he chooses.

Understanding this puts our chapter in perspective. It should not be read as a wholesale endorsement of all and any government however tyrannical or corrupt, even though at the time of writing the Roman state was ruled by Emperor Nero – not exactly a ruler friendly to Christians. Revelation 13 gives a complementary perspective on how states can become both beastly and blasphemous – but this is not Paul’s concern here. The Christian community in Rome was already at risk, a fragile new movement that was attracting some hostility (within a decade Paul himself would be imprisoned and martyred there). Christians needed to demonstrate that they were not a violent threat to the social order but were good citizens. As they waited for the kingdom of truth and righteousness to be established by Christ they could afford to accept the ‘powers that be’ (v 1, KJV) as provisionally useful in maintaining order and confronting evil. In this way, the powers were serving God and acting as a means of his just wrath (v 4). Even an imperfect order was preferable to chaotic disorder. By virtue of God’s providential rule Christians could see some good even in pagan rulers. Provided rulers did not put themselves in the place of God, the believers’ task was to avoid doing wrong and to do what was right (v 3), while they got on with preaching Christ. Christians should be the best of citizens – while conducting a peaceful revolution.

Nigel Wright

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Isaiah 8,9

Psalm 102

Not sticking it to the man

How should Christians relate to human authority? This sketch, written by Phil Andrews, offers a comic response to this question.


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I want to serve the purpose of God (In my generation)
Mark Altrogge
Copyright © 1982 People of Destiny International/Word Music
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.kingswayshop.com

Love rain down
Kat Regester
Copyright© 2010 Vineyard Song (UK/Eire)
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.vineyardrecords.co.uk

  • Rachael Hampton | Tuesday, 05 September 2017

    Our leaders do not have to earn our respect and obedience; we are called to fulfill our side of the contract whether they deserve it or not. (Jennie Pollock). Ouch! Under Nero? Under others we could mention in our world today? This is a sobering word at a time when leaders are often spoken of with contempt. We need Gilvin's reminder that our words carry power, and we know that it is out of what's in our hearts that the mouth speaks. Thank you WL for adding balance to this instruction. Community involvement is good. We were bemused last year when my husband was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for being a thorn in the flesh of the local government where we lived as he led others in working for the good of our part of the city. In 1 Tim 2:1-2 Paul urges that we pray for our leaders so that we might be able to get on with living godly lives. May we do this diligently, and from a submissive heart.

  • Rachael Hampton | Tuesday, 05 September 2017

    Thank you all for your comments and sharing. KEN you made me laugh at the image of us finally arriving just inside heaven, having been doing course adjustments every 10 minutes as GILVIN said. Lord keep antennae finely tuned to your constant corrections as we chart our way through this and every day. Praying for all, especially those in deep waters. RUTH C, wondering whether you were able to do chemo 3 on Monday, and CAROL, whether you have a treatment plan yet. Glad to know Jan is improving DAVID. Blessing WL family

  • Graham Fuller | Wednesday, 06 September 2017

    This teaching is difficult to understand if you consider Germany under the Natzi regime and all the activities of the resistance movements. People like Bonhoeffer were perfect examples then I suppose?

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Wednesday, 06 September 2017

    There is a difference between submission and obedience. “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). This is always the bottom line. We never obey any person if that would cause us to disobey God. And yet, we are to submit to every ordinance of man (1 Peter 2:13). Submission is an attitude, not an action. It will express itself through actions, but we can have a submissive attitude and yet disobey an ungodly command. When the apostles were beaten for their obedience to God, they didn’t criticize or form a revolt. They praised God and kept right on preaching the Gospel.

  • David Williams | Wednesday, 06 September 2017

    A very helpful comment Gilvin, thank you.

  • Angela Munday | Wednesday, 06 September 2017

    Laws and rules are put in place so that everyone knows what behaviour is acceptable; they are necessary. God knew from our beginning what is good for us and He does each new day. Christian believers know how to conduct themselves; God has given us His Word to live by and peacefully we are able to confront evil to obey Him. RUTH and CAROL may you have strength for this day and DAVID may the negativity you mention be replaced with trust and hope in God's presence here at Wordlive. Amen.

  • Lynda Spencer | Wednesday, 06 September 2017

    GILVIN as usual you have it spot on. Thank you for succinct and helpful comment. Amen to your prayer, ANGELA.

  • Carol Stockman | Wednesday, 06 September 2017

    May God give me patience as I am still waiting for my MRI results. Thank you Word live family for your prayer support. Much appreciated at this unsettling time.

  • Derek Forster | Wednesday, 06 September 2017

    O for a thousand tongues to sing My great Redeemer’s praise, The glories of my God and King, The triumphs of His grace. Jesus, the name that calms my fears, That bids our sorrows cease, ’Tis music in the sinner’s ears, ’Tis life and health and peace. He breaks the pow’r of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free; His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me. Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb, Your loosened tongues employ; Ye blind, behold your Savior come; And leap, ye lame, for joy. My gracious Master and my God, Assist me to proclaim, To spread thro’ all the earth abroad, The honors of Thy name.

  • Barbara Sabin | Wednesday, 06 September 2017

    ..."I know the Lord will make a way for me. If I live a holy life, shun the wrong and do the right. I know the Lord will make a way for me"

  • Gerhard Venter | Wednesday, 06 September 2017

    First, Carol Stockman, I pray that your results will be good, and that God will have you safely under His wings. As to authority: remember that the Romans were absolute sticklers for the law. They never started a war (no matter how unjust) before making a formal declaration of war. The emperor was one man, and although he could (and often did) unleash a storm of injustice on the citizens, chances were that someone like you and me, if we were citizens answering to Nero, would be governed by a more or less blind legal system that as more or less on autopilot. One that had been in place, in Paul's time, for around five hundred years. So, in contemporary terms, sometimes we have to hold our nose and obey. Isn't that exactly wat Jesus told us when he said, look, the whole monetary system belongs to the emperor -- just pay the man? (and I paraphrase wildly).

  • Ruth Lewis | Wednesday, 06 September 2017

    I know we are suppose to pray for our leaders. When we have one like we have here in the US, makes it very hard to do. But in order to please God, I know I must do it, and do it in love. Wow, that is hard. God please love them through me.

  • David Chipchase | Wednesday, 06 September 2017

    Gilvin, really wise comment. Thank you. Ruth L, substitute "Australia" for "US" your comment echoes my sentiments entirely. I was desperately trying to work out how I could possibly respect many of our political leaders so I will, if I may, adopt your sentence for myself. Thank you.

  • David Chipchase | Wednesday, 06 September 2017

    Peter Oliver, remembering you in my prayers. (There is a Peter Oliver whose FB picture shows him flying around in/on something of a cross between a powered hang glider and an ulta ultra-light. Is that you?)

  • Ruth Chisholm | Wednesday, 06 September 2017

    RACHAEL thank you, yes I did have dose 3 on Monday and then travelled across country to stay the week with my sister. Coped with the busy day and now enjoying a restful break.

  • Peter Oliver | Wednesday, 06 September 2017

    Hi David I can assure you it's not me

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