By R. W. McAlister
If you were asked which occupation carried with it the greatest amount of responsibility, what would your answer be? Policeman? Judge? Governor? President of the United States? What about an elder in the Lord’s church? Perhaps we don’t g ive that office the consideration it’s due. Heb. 13:17: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” Let’s look briefly at what this verse means.
“Obey them that have the rule over you.” Christians have a responsibility to obey the rule of elders. A faithful Christian will always obey godly elders and submit to them in matters of judgment and expediency. Godly elders don’t make laws, but they do solidly uphold the law of Christ! They stand behind the Lord’s commands, and they also insist that His laws be believed and obeyed.
“Submit to them” — Yield to them. Be ready to comply with their wishes and requests.
“For they watch for your souls as they that must give account” The Greek is forceful: “For it is they who watch on behalf of your souls as having to give account.” Elders bear responsibility for their oversight of the congregation.
“That they may do it with joy” Be obedient and yielding to them, that they may watch for your souls with joy and not grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. Help to make their oversight of the congregation joyful by easing their burden. Live your life in such a way that your example will be uplifting to the elders, instructive to others, and pleasing to God.
In short, live as a faithful Christian and give your elders no cause for grief. Elders should oversee a congregation that is working with them in the cause of Christ so that when they give account to the Lord (Rom. 14:12), they can do so with joy. If your elders can’t give a joyful account to the Lord of their oversight of you, what does that say about your Christianity? Disobedience and rebellion are displeasing to God and will be “unprofitable to you” in eternity.
Elders have a tremendous responsibility. Let us appreciate them more, help to make their work easier, their burdens lighter, and let us live in such a way that their final accounting to the Lord may be joyful. Thanks be to God for godly elders.
- R. W. McAlister preaches for the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL.He may be contacted through the congregation's website.