The bible calls all people to live peaceful lives by submitting to legitimate authority. Paul exhorts us to pray for those in leadership as well. Solomon’s clearest expression of this is given in Proverbs 24:21. It says “My son, fear the 02 wisdomLORD and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise.” Ecclesiastes 8:5 teaches us that people who obey authority will have a less difficult time in life than those who rebel. However Ecclesiastes 8:6-7 implies that there may be an appropriate time to rebel from authority. It says, “For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him. For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be?” in keeping with the general observations of chapter 3, Solomon seems to be acknowledging that “there is a time for every purpose under heaven,” even civil disobedience. The wise man, however, will have a sense for God’s timing.

There are times in life when we may face situations where we can either obey God or obey human authority but we can’t do both. That was the situation that the Hebrew midwives faced when pharaoh commanded them to kill all the Hebrew male babies. When Peter was commanded not to preach the good news, he replied with “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). But discerning the right time is not always that simple. The glory of wisdom is that it gives us the discernment to know how and when to respond in what we see as conflicting situations. Joseph displayed great wisdom during his ill treatment in Egypt. Daniel showed great wisdom in dealing with authority in Babylon as a prisoner of war. When burdened with the desire to rebuild the temple in Israel, Nehemiah showed great wisdom in his submission to the King’s decree.

Because of our familiarity with these biblical examples we can fall prey to the misconception that all these dilemmas are simple. Unfortunately, we live in a very complex world. The issues are very often complex and confusing. We must be extremely careful here. God does not give the individual the right to choose which laws they will obey and which laws they will not obey. God has clearly commanded us to submit to the governing authorities. Responses of civil disobedience must be clearly supported by God’s Revelation – the Bible. Two things we should do to find guidance on difficult issues. First, pray! James tells us that if any one lacks wisdom they should look to God for the answer and He will give it to them (James 1:5). The second thing is to seek advice from trusted counselors and friends. That’s the real source of wisdom. Solomon says in Proverbs 11:14 that there is “safety lies in many advisers.”