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 (Rm. 13:7).
If there is one command given by the apostle Paul concerning submission to the governing authorities that is practiced the least by American Christians it is the final one on his brief section concerning the matter, namely, “Pay to all what is owed to them: … respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” While we might grumblingly be obedient to the prior command to pay our taxes, we often neglect the debt of respect and honor that is owed to our governing authorities.
While the case might be made that our governing authorities are wicked and depraved (which they likely are), the issue of honoring and respecting them is not dependent upon their character and practices but upon him who put them in authority, namely God. Regardless of who is in office or who put them there by political vote, God ultimately is the one who put them in their place, and therefore they are to be honored and respected in acknowledgement of God’s ordinance.
However, in spite of this command, we are more likely to grumble and to lambast our government than we are to respect and to honor it. Many Christians in spite of this command, feel that it is their right and duty to criticize every government official, since we as Americans believe that it is us, the people, who rule our nation. In spite of this belief, we must recognize that the means does not affect the clear command upon the ends, and regardless of how a person is placed into office, he is in his office nonetheless.
However, this is not an exhortation to turn a blind eye to injustice, but it is one to place our emphasis upon the injustice rather than upon those whom we believed caused that injustice. For example, rather than attacking those who legislated abortion, the attack should be upon abortion itself. The injustice must be recognized at that which transcends any particular person, and therefore must be dealt with as natural attack upon the order of God rather than the morality of particular persons. For to natural men, injustice is readily seen as justice, and the dishonoring of one natural leader will only give rise to another natural leader.
Injustice aside, our tendency as Christians should be to give honor and respect rather than dishonor and disrespect. Certain situations might arise where wisdom will require us to speak out against certain persons, but Christians should be chiefly known as those who pay the debt of honor. It would do us well to strive to pay honor to those in this country, so that we would known to them as Gospel people rather than political activists.