Proud Towards God 1 — Human Authority Above God’s Words
Updated: Jan 9
Chan Gin Kai
One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?” (Luke 20:1-2)
Some people are proud because they imagine themselves to be better than others. The fact is, no one has a right to be proud even if he is indeed smarter, more experienced, or has contributed more than everyone else. But what is hardest to understand is how anyone can be proud towards Jesus (and God) when our Saviour is perfect in every way.
Yet, like the religious leaders, many of us have been guilty of that. I know I have.
The chief priests, teachers of the law and elders asked Jesus who gave him the authority to preach to the people. These religious leaders had an established system. A rabbi had to be ordained in the presence of at least three other ordained persons from the Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling council). They knew Jesus had taught without proper rabbinic authorisation and questioned his authority. It irked these leaders that Jesus was not part of their leadership structure and yet taught the people.
It didn’t matter to them that Jesus had correctly used the Scriptures. They didn’t care that people had responded better to his teachings and repented. They took more pride in their human ordained authority than the authority of God.
He (Jesus) replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?” (Luke 20:3-4)
Jesus’ reply emphasised the truth that the religious leaders were missing — authority “from heaven” is more important than one of “human origin”.
Isn’t it enough that Jesus taught correctly from the Scriptures? Should his words be discounted or even ignored because he wasn’t part of the rabbinic leadership structure? These religious leaders obviously cared more about the human structure they had put up. They wouldn’t have felt threatened by Jesus if they had cared more about God’s words than their own authority. But they obviously cared more about their power.
This is a sad trait in humanity. Structures that are built to serve the people become hierarchies that suffocate them. Through the ages, from tribes to empires, regimes to republics, systems that are designed to help the people become instruments to rule them. Even leaders who start with the best of intentions get corrupted by pride. Podiums to get them heard become pedestals to elevate their status; walls to keep out enemies become barriers that separate them from their people.
This same pride exists in God’s kingdom too. The religious leaders that opposed Jesus were examples. Over millennia, the same pattern recurs in Christendom and permeates our modern day churches too.
How do we even prevent this kind of pride when it has occurred again and again throughout history?
Sadly, we can’t. Like every sin, the temptation will always surface. But the same solution applies — we should always nip sin in the bud. When left unchecked, this pride grows. It builds hierarchies of human authority that becomes so entrenched that it is difficult to dismantle. Whether we are leaders or followers, we need to be watchful of the tendency to glorify human authority.
Do we hero-worship? We should be respectful and appreciative of our leaders, but we must not put them up on pedestals when the glory is God’s. For those among us who are leaders, do we position ourselves as the hero, the founder, or THE leader? Or do we see ourselves as merely servants of God and His people? “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” (Luke 17:10)
Do we simply accept all that our leaders teach us? We need to check if what they teach is biblical. For those of us who teach, do we draw out our lessons from the Bible (exegesis)? Or do we formulate points for our audience and then find Bible verses to fit them (eisegesis)? Do we emphasise human wisdom or God’s truth? “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11) This wasn't because of any ingratitude or distrust towards Paul, but a greater love and respect for God's words than man's.
Do we ignore the sins of our leaders? Our leaders are tempted by sins and they're fallible too. Do we realise that they need our love and help as much as we need theirs? For those of us who lead, do we react to corrections with humility? Do we appreciate people who care enough to point out our sins or do we brand them as disrespectful and critical? Nathan cared and dared to confront King David’s sin, and David reacted with humility (2 Samuel 12:1-13).
Organisational structures, systems and processes are necessary in church. In fact, they can be a force for much good if they always serve the people and place God's words above human authority. When head of the body is Christ, we will have a church that is beautiful and lasting.
Read more about ‘Proud Towards God’:
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves actively in the Central Christian Church and describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.