Limits on Authority

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–By Ben Gilmore

Only the Creator God of the Bible is all-knowing, all-present, and all-powerful. With those unlimited attributes, there can be no limits upon God’s authority. Thus all other sources of power and authority must have limits.

For example – Consider the Bible account of King David and his neighbor, Bathsheba. God placed King David on the throne on Judah. In those days kings had lots of authority! Folks are supposed to submit to the authority God places over them – right?

King David sends for Bathsheba. She comes, as she should. He propositions her. Now what does she do? If she agrees, she breaks her marriage vows! If she refuses, she rebels against authority!

She should refuse. When King David propositioned her, he had figuratively stepped out from behind his office desk. God made him king. Certain authority came with that office. David stepped outside that authority and she was free to decline without rebelling against the authority God had given David.

Here is another example from the Book of Esther. The King was named King Ahasuerus. His wife was named Vashti. The king was having a major party with all his V.I.P. types. Everybody was pretty drunk. The king decided he wanted Vashti to come show off her beauty for his drunken friends. (Not a good way to honor one’s wife I’d say.)

Well, Vashti refused and lost her position as Queen. Why? Because the other husbands crowded around the King and pointed out that Vashti’s apparent disrespect for her husband would cause their wives to show disrespect to them.

I think Vashti said, “No” to the wrong request. She should have come to the brawl as requested. She should walk in, wearing a loose fitting turtleneck gown that reached the floor. She should have smiled and said, “You sent for me?” When the King said, “Dance for my buddies, honey.” THEN she should have refused. The King would then have stepped outside his authority as a husband and dishonored his wife.

Some years back we lived in a town called Morgan Hill. The state of California had ruled that, in certain emergencies, towns and cities were free to impose a tax upon city utilities to raise needed emergency funds. The citizens of Morgan Hill petitioned and voted to narrow that rule. They ruled that such a utility tax could not be imposed without a vote of the people (of Morgan Hill).

Several years later, we elected three of my friends to the five-man City Council. The city manager and city treasurer said we had an emergency and needed to impose a utility tax. My friend, the new Mayor, said to the local newspaper, “We can’t put it to a vote, the people will reject it.” The city lawyer said to the councilmen, “You should go ahead and impose the tax. State law says you can.”

My three friends voted to impose the tax. When they did, they had stepped outside the authority we gave them when we voted them into office. Granted: The state said they could levy the tax. BUT the people of Morgan Hill had ruled that they could – only – after a local vote.

Citizens were left with this dilemma: Submit to tyranny, or recall the Councilmen. We voted to recall the Council members who voted for the tax. It sent political shock waves up and down the city administrations of California!

God’s “Law of liberty” imposes limits upon each of us. We discover those limits by observation and reason. Such “Natural Law” indicates, no one should harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions. When someone in authority steps outside those limits, they lose their authority.

In modern societies it is necessary to set further limits within those: Slow to 20 mph in a school zone, for example. Step outside those limits and penalty follows.

Our wonderful U.S. Constitution was written by “We the people” and sets limits, NOT upon the people, BUT upon the national government. We vote (i.e. we “hire”) men and women to exercise authority within the limits we have set. Should they step outside those limits they lose their authority and should be voted out of office.

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