Authority and Responsibility
Sunday’s Gospel from Matthew (click here to read it) reminds us that anytime God places us in a position of authority, it is first and foremost a position of responsibility. It doesn’t matter if it is a church janitor, a rector, a bishop, or President of the United States. Authority in God’s economy is always first a responsibility.
It is easy for us to begin to see our positions of authority for our own benefit. Just a chapter earlier in Matthew, we read Jesus telling the disciples (after they argued about who was the greatest), “whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.” (Matthew 20:26b-27)
Of course, we know this even in our secular dealings: the most effective leaders are those who see themselves as serving those around them. The best manager is not the one who sees employees as a tool to make them look good, but as people to be supported and encouraged to be their best.
I can’t recall anyone who actually disagreed with this principle. But I’ve seen many who don’t behave accordingly. The challenge, I think, is to keep that humble, servant’s heart while using authority appropriately – that is, for the benefit of all.
You may think that you don’t have much authority. Perhaps you are not a “boss”, or you’re retired, or just have not been in the kinds of positions we normally think of as positions of authority. Nonetheless, it remains critically important to our Christian walk that we keep that humble attitude of service in whatever we do. It might be cleaning the church kitchen or dealing with a challenging family matter. Simply by your presence and participation, you have an authority and an opportunity to act in service for the benefit of all.
And remember, this does not mean just doing whatever it seems someone else wants. Rather, it means working to do what is actually best for all involved. That is not easy — it is, indeed, a high and difficult challenge. But it is life-changing, for you and for others.
Ask God to show you where you have authority and how you might exercise it more responsibly, for His glory!
This column appeared in the October 8, 2023 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.