Many years ago, fresh out of my teens, I joined the Canadian Armed Forces. At the time, I was not too familiar with the concepts of authority and power. But one summer, as we were on a training camp, my superior, a sergeant, put me in charge of the platoon and gave me a task to accomplish while he went to meet with his superior.
It took me about 2 hours to get it done, and I was quite satisfied and proud of myself. When he came back, I was happy to show the sergeant what I had done and even how long it had taken me to do it. His response was a teaching moment I remember to this day. He said, “Private Amédée, you were in charge of the platoon while I was gone. Why in the world would you do everything yourself?!”
I hadn’t realized the extent of the authority and power I had been given. It hadn’t even occurred to me to share the task with my peers or to delegate it. I had been effective (the task had been carried out successfully), but I had not been efficient (I had not used my resources optimally).
What is the Difference?
As human beings created in the image of God, we ALL have power – the ability to exert influence or control in the world, and authority – the legitimacy (the right) to exercise this influence or control. Power comes from our resources, be it material, spiritual, or other. Authority comes from our identity and/or position.
For example, a police officer can arrest a person because he has the authority (as a representative of law and order) AND the power to do so (a weapon that commands cooperation). Technically, anyone can arrest a person with a weapon in hand (power), but not everyone has the legitimacy (authority) to do it. A lot needs to be said on this topic. Not just to men, but to women too, but since this is an article directed towards men, and considering the famous words of a well-known song by the late Father of soul, James Brown, “This is a man’s world”, here are three things men should know about authority and power:
Power and Authority are a Divine Blessing
Adam and Eve were given authority and power from God to multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. God had a plan for his creation, and to carry it out, he commissioned the first humans with a blessing.
They did nothing to deserve the authority and power they were given. They didn’t have to ask for it, and they didn’t have to prove themselves worthy of it. They were given authority and power as an act of pure grace because they were beloved children of God. It was a blessing! Have you ever considered that as a child of God, you have authority and power in this world that does not depend on your job title or what people think of you?
Power and Authority Should be Shared
The Bible does not say that God blessed only Adam and that Eve had to follow her husband to get a taste of that blessing. But it says that he blessed them both, together! And God did not tell Adam to rule over the earth and over his wife, nor did he tell them to rule over each other. He blessed them both to subdue the earth, as a team. Moreover, through Adam and Eve, our Creator blessed the whole of humanity with the blessing of authority and power.
This means that just as Adam would not have regarded his wife as less than him but rather as his equal, we should all regard our spouses and neighbors as equals and honor everyone. And just as Adam would not have seen himself as more blessed than Eve was, since they shared the same blessing (even though they might not have had the same responsibilities), we should not see ourselves as superior to others.
Whether you are a husband, church leader, politician, or business owner, keep in mind that authority and power are meant to be shared. So who are you sharing your authority and power with?
Power and Authority Come With Responsibilities
God not only created the first humans in his image and blessed them with authority and power, he also set boundaries within which their authority and power were to be exercised. We all have authority and power, but we do not all exercise them to the same level or in the same way. When we exercise them within the boundaries set by God, good fruit results that benefit humanity. But when we exercise them outside of God’s boundaries, we tend to abuse people and corrupt the world.
Authority and power were not given to us to feed our egos or to give us importance. And they were not given just to enable us to live “the good life” at the expense of others. Instead, they were given to enable us to fulfill our mandate on earth. God has a plan for creation, and he wants us to participate. That’s why he blessed us this way: You need authority and power to participate in what he is doing on earth and to fulfill your calling. That’s a responsibility we all share and for which, one day, we will all have to give account.
Authority and power are a blessing from God. They were given to us for free and are meant to be shared. And they also come with responsibilities. Knowing that, what will you do with what you’ve been given?