October 11, 2018

Check Your Motives

Romans 13:5

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Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

In Context:

1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. 8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Check Your Motives



Bio | Paula Veal

Salutations! God transplanted me from Nebraska to Dallas after college, and although I've seen more picturesque places, it's the people that I've come to know and love that make this city beautiful. I'm privileged to work with the Watermark children's team, and God has taught me more through our kids' curriculum than I ever thought possible. I also serve with our single adults' ministry, where I get to remind people that we all have a story to tell, a life to share, and a calling that matters.

Central Truth

Following the rules to avoid punishment is self-centered. Following the rules to glorify the Lord is God-centered. God calls us to submit to our authorities, not just to escape consequences, but to honor Him as our ultimate authority. 

Devotional | Romans 13:5

When I was growing up, I was always the "good Christian girl." Oldest child, rule-follower, intelligent, quiet—I was the kid who wanted the other kids to behave so we wouldn't all get in trouble in...

When I was growing up, I was always the "good Christian girl." Oldest child, rule-follower, intelligent, quiet—I was the kid who wanted the other kids to behave so we wouldn't all get in trouble in class. Even the possibility of disappointing my teachers made me nervous. Trust me, I've always been far from perfect and need just as much grace as anyone else, but on the outside, I looked like the model citizen.

Here's the problem: Subjection to my authorities came primarily from my fear of punishment and fear of what people might think of me. My motives were, and sometimes still are, misguided. God doesn't want me to submit to the law just to avoid negative consequences. First Corinthians 10:31 says, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." When I follow the rules to avoid punishment, I'm making it about me. But when I do things to honor the Lord, that's about Him. As always, God cares more about our hearts than anything else. God is good and allows people to be in positions of authority over us, so one way we can honor Him is to honor them. 

You might be thinking, "That's great and all, but what if my authorities start making rules that go against God's Word?" Good question. And one God answers in His Word. After Jesus returned to heaven, His disciples were so excited about the good news of grace and forgiveness, they went around telling everyone. Their authorities were not happy about it and ordered them to stop. Acts 5:29 tells us, "Peter and the apostles answered, 'We must obey God rather than men.'" They respected their earthly authorities, but they knew that they were the subjects of an even higher Authority. They didn't fear punishment (which they received in the form of beatings, imprisonments, and, for many, death), but instead they chose to trust that God's way is best. May the Lord give us all the courage to respect the authorities He's placed over us while still obeying Him.

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Discussion Questions

1. What would you say is the primary motivation behind what you do? Are your motives self-centered or God-centered?  

2. How do you view God, the ultimate authority? What verses do you know that support your view?

3. How do you view and respond to those whom God has allowed to be in positions of authority over you? What might you need to ask God to change in your heart to make your responses more God-centered?

4. If you are currently in the position of authority over others, what is the motivation behind how you lead? Are you submitting first to God as your authority before exercising authority over others? 

9 Comments available

greg jones 2 months ago

Excellent devotional, my opinion you really captured a thought Paul would want us to have today in your central truth…leave it to the children’s teacher for me.

“God calls us to submit to our authorities”-not to our fears is how I like to think of it. Fear has no authority in the kingdom of God. Romans 8:15 We are not slaves to fear, on one hand, on the other hand, it is not the authority’s we submit to that will bring about Romans 8:31-39 in our lives either.

More than conquerors Romans 8:37 and submission to local authorities Romans 13:1 don’t seem to go together. Reading chapter eight and chapter thirteen side by side helps me to see better the mix of the spiritual and physical nature of the reality Paul is trying to convey.

Again, loved this devotional.

Michael Scaman 2 months ago

Regarding authorities “…avoid the pangs of conscience that he is really opposing God…” (from Desiring God) but also (I’ll add) we should avoid the hardening of conscience about the same in scoffing or disregarding authorities.

Having a good conscience may mean subjecting to a not great leader, it may mean obeying God rather than man. In the end it still is living a good conscience ‘Corum Deo’ before the face of God.

Some say the center verse of Daniel is when the King gone mad seven years lifts up his eyes and gets his sanity back and his confession that God is the real ruler of the world.

Michael Scaman 2 months ago

For a good conscience sake. “…not only to avoid God’s wrath but for the sake of conscience…”

God is sovereign in the world and that means not only having 'no God’s before me but being satisfied and trusting Him in how he provided and what he’s doing.

In Timothy also “… the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a sincere faith and a good conscience …”

Jennifer Borgne 2 months ago

My baby girl’s getting married today😍 Prayer is appreciated. Love them both SO much❣️

Steve Seider 2 months ago

Paula, thank you for the truth that will start this day… as it should every day. Examining my own heart and motivation is such a revealing and “re-centering” exercise. It’s gonna be a better day.

Sue Bohlin 2 months ago

Hi Paula–GREAT devo! Love, love, love your central truth on how our motivation for following the rules reveals if we’re God-centered or self-centered.

In looking at the Greek word for “be in subjection,” I found a compelling word picture of arranging oneself under someone else’s authority. I can see how our attitude and perspective in doing that would either please or irritate the Lord. Open-hearted, pliable cooperation is what He’s looking for! The only appropriate response for a creature, created to live and be under authority, in submission.

Hope Harris 2 months ago

Great devo Paula,

Came across this quote this morning in QT:

“The Bible teaches both divine sovereignty and human responsibility, and when you accept both, there is no contradiction or conflict. To ignore God’s sovereignty is to exalt human responsibility and make man his own savior, but to deny responsibility is to make man a robot without accountability.” Warren Wiersbe

Live responsibly! Live to honor God!

Hugh Stephenson 2 months ago

GM Paula. Self-centered v God-centered - Ouch.

Strangely, my first real conception of the “wrath of God” was watching the closing scenes of the first Indiana Jones movie. The face melt really got my attention.

It reinforced my ill-informed understanding of God as authoritarian judge.

It took 37 years and an adult life of self-centeredness for me to hit the wall and see it was my heart He was after, not just my head.

Recovery ministries helped me see how my earthly father parented me had a huge effect on my perception of God.

In Forgotten Fathers we study the names of God so that we might know more of His nature and character:

Creator, Relational, Mighty, Ruler, Provider, Deliverer, Warrior, Shepherd, Sanctifier, Healer, Faithful, Jealous, Refuge, Stronghold, Fortress, Rock, Helper, Redeemer, Shield and many more.

Favorite? El Roi who “sees” Hagar and sends the pre-incarnate Jesus, (Genesis 16).

Sarah Crotty 2 months ago

Paula, I relate to your story, and appreciate how you, rather, how the Lord calls us to check our motives. Thank you.

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