Christ teaches us that every earthly authority is a steward, a manager, whose authority is a delegated to him from above. This is true of kings, judges, church leaders, husbands, parents, school administrators, business owners- every earthly authority is a delegated authority. Everyone has a master over them; everyone has a boss to whom they must answer.
Rulers go bad when they begin to see themselves as disconnected from the authority above them. This is true of kings as well as of the authority within a household. Rulers begin to operate for their own immediate pleasure and abuse those under their authority when they cease to be conscious of their obligation to their own master. In this we see that rulers suffer from the same temptations and faults as everyone else. We all understand the temptation to slack off when the boss isn’t around. For those with authority over other people, the temptation to slack off is a temptation to neglect and abuse.
But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. Luke 12:45-46
Paul the apostle, (that is to say, the messenger of Jesus Christ,) taught explicitly that earthly masters need to see themselves as under the authority of Christ. Exercising your authority as service to Christ is what reforms the master-servant relationship. At least from the master’s side.
Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. Colossians 4:1
It is the mindfulness of being under authority that produces the faithful use of whatever power anyone has received to govern others. In the Christian model, submission to authority is what prevents the abuse of power.
We can draw a sharp distinction between the teachings of Christ and that of modern America on this point. Christ teaches us to submit to authority, in the fear of God. Meanwhile, modern sensibilities suggest that the best safeguard against abuse is for the master to fear his servants, and the king to fear his subjects.
If you truly believe in Christ you don’t need to try to replace responsibility to Christ with responsibility to those under your authority. There is no need to invert the authority relationship. Everyone is responsible to his own master, even the masters. And we are responsible for how we use our authority, how we attend to that which is in our power.
I make this point so that you will recognize what is, and what is not the teaching of Christ. If you want to honor God, cultivate an awareness of Christ’s authority. In whatever sphere of life you have an earthly master, submit to that master out of reverence for Christ. Similarly, in any sphere where you have no earthly authority, you answer directly to Christ for how you use that freedom.