When is it Okay to Disobey Authority?

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Respecting authority is important. It helps us to be good citizens. However, when is it okay to disobey authority? Looking at events in the lives of Jesus, Paul, the disciples, and midwives will help our children understand God’s authority versus man’s authority. This is a step in the right direction on the narrow path of godliness. {Deuteronomy 5:32}

Scripture Focus: Deuteronomy 12:32; Matthew 22:15-22; Acts 16:37; Exodus 1:18-22; Acts 5:27-42

Materials: an American Flag (or the flag of your homeland. If you live in a country other than the United States, this lesson will still fit. Change the wording to match your country.)

disobey authority

Free Poster:  Click on the image below and print.

disobey authorityBackground: When God gave Moses and the Israelites the Law, it was understood that God would lead and the people would follow. Israel was to be a different nation led by a living God. However, the people looked around and saw that other nations had a king, a leader who was human. Eventually God led Samuel choose a king and then Israel was “like the others”. God warned the people that having a king would mean they would lose certain freedoms.

…Fast forward in time to the governments of nations today. All are led by humans.

Object Lesson on When is it Okay to Disobey Authority:

{Hold up the flag.} What do you think of when you see this flag? [Allow for answers. Lead them to be patriotic in nature. I found that younger kids needed more help with this question.]

We live in a nation that is a federal republic. We elect people to represent us in Washington DC. Those elected representatives are to represent the thoughts, cares, and beliefs of the people of their state when laws are created and passed. Sometimes we like the laws that are passed and sometimes we disagree with them. But when a law is passed, we must obey the law. We can try to get the law changed, but we must obey the law.

Bible Lesson on When is it Okay to Disobey Authority:

{Show the flag again.} What does it mean to be a good citizen? [Allow answers.]

Being a good citizen means:

  1. You know and obey the laws. Many people know *some* laws, but there are laws we know nothing about. With the political process of choosing a President, there are many laws and issues being thrown around of which many people are ignorant. The Apostle Paul shows us in Acts 16 how important it is to know the laws of one’s nation. He had been accused, beaten, and put in jail. That was against Roman law. If he had not known that, then those who were in authority over him would have gotten away with treating him unfairly.
  2. You pay your taxes. April is a big month in the United States. Everyone in the country is to pay their taxes. Some people try to not do this. It’s called tax evasion. It’s illegal. People who are caught not paying their taxes can go to jail. The Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus and asked him if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus knew what they were doing and asked for a coin. When they brought it to him he said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Give to God what is God’s.”
  3. You vote. Not everyone can go to Washington DC and have an opinion about everything. So communities will vote for people to lead them and represent them. People will attempt to chose a person who reflects what they believe and care about. It is important that we are educated about the people who are running for offices. The person with the most votes wins. What happens if someone is voted in and we do not agree with them? When it’s time to vote again, we vote the person out.

There are a few other characteristics that make a good citizen, such as caring for people in the community. But for the most part, a good citizen obeys the authority of his or her government. Respecting authority is important. It helps life move smoothly. It helps people to get along with each other. Disputes are taken care of in a peaceful manner.

Children are to be good sons and daughters by respecting their parents. We are to all be good students by listening to and respecting the advice of elders.

But is it ever okay to disobey authority?

Life Application for When is it Okay to Disobey Authority:

Exodus 1 tells us that a Pharaoh came to the throne who did not know Joseph. Remember, he had brought his family to live in Egypt during the famine. During that time, the Israelites multiplied. The group was growing so fast and large that this new Pharaoh began to fear them, thinking they might rebel and overtake Egypt. He turned the Israelites into slaves. He told the midwives to allow baby girls to be born, but if a baby boy was born, he was to be killed. But the midwives feared God more than Pharaoh. They disobeyed him and allowed the boys to live. Eventually Pharaoh had all the baby boys thrown in the river. But one boy was saved. Do you know who that one boy was? [Moses!]

Acts chapter 5 tells us that the disciples were preaching in the temple. They were arrested and put into prison. An angel released them and they went back to preaching in the temple totally confusing the leadership. They were again brought before the counsel. The high priest asked, “Did we not strictly tell you to stop teaching in this name?” (They were preaching in Jesus’ name.) Peter and the other apostles stated, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

{Hold up the poster. Read it aloud.}

How do we know what God commands? [By reading the Bible.] God is the ultimate authority. His words and ways win, no matter what. Think about those midwives. Was Pharaoh asking them to do something that went against God’s words and ways? [Yes. He wanted them to kill.] Whom did the midwives obey? [God] Yes, and God rewarded them.

Think about the disciples. The temple leaders did not want them to preach in Jesus’ name. But what was the last command Jesus gave to them before he ascended? [To be his witnesses and tell people of all nations about him. Mark 16; Acts 1] Were the leaders going against God? [Yes] Whom did the disciples obey? [Jesus]

Words do not express how important it is to know God’s laws and His ways. If someone was to ask you to do something, you need to know if it’s okay with God or not. If it reflects God, then everything is fine. If it does not reflect God, then you have to decide who you will obey. The midwives and the disciples understood that they could get in trouble with authorities if they disobeyed. But they feared God more.

Some situations are easy to figure out. Don’t steal. Don’t kill someone. But what if an adult wants you to do something you know is wrong? What if that adult wants to touch you in an inappropriate way? or hits you? What if an employer wants you to lie about some money? Do you respect his or her authority?

Are you going to obey God? or are you going to obey men?

Biblically, an adult does not have permission to treat you in a harmful manner. Will parents discipline? Yes, that is their job. But if an adult attempts to harm a child in any way, that adult is not an authority that is to be respected.

What can we learn from Jesus, Paul and the midwives? If we want to be godly, then we must respect our government, our parents, and other authorities. Only when asked to do something against God’s commands do we choose God over man.

{Display the poster in the room throughout this series and read it each week.}

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