"Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand." - Romans 14:4 ESV
The Greek word used for master here is kyrios (Strong's G2962) and in today's world a good equivalent would be boss or even supervisor. The kyrios is the one who determines and enforces the consequences and rewards. The have the power to bless or curse. They can give or take away. They can make life hard or easy.
Perhaps we are the master within certain realms. We have masters that make an effort to exert mastery... people or entities that can make life harder or easier.
"The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender." - Proverbs 22:7 ESV
The God of the Bible is the master that gives freedom. He is the master that upholds.
"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." - Hebrews 11:6 ESV
This morning I awoke with this thought echoing in my mind, 'You stand or fall before God alone.' and I can add to that the idea that when I sin I sin against God alone. My 'measuring up' is before the God who says that He is going to uphold me in every situation.
Perhaps we grew up in homes where people around us commanded unusual respect or in strict environments. Maybe it was the opposite... maybe those in authority were virtually invisible until it came time when a decision had to be made and that authority very reluctantly made one and then stepped back into near invisibility again.
The authority we have seen has shaped our expectation of how authority should be. No matter what we have seen before... God is going to surprise us with His goodness.
God's authority is gracious authority. The God of Heaven Is the all powerful deity that serves. He upholds. He Is generous. He is someone who blesses. He gives room but at the same time when He manifests Himself a decision must be made one way or the other and there will be consequences based on the response.
"Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" - Ezekiel 18:23 ESV
No good boss wants his employees to fail. They don't hire with the desire to fire. Some people revel in that power but God is not a person that He would be that contradictory.
"So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty." - James 2:12 ESV
In freedom we can become masters of our own minds and accountable to our own choices. Grace takes us out from under oppressive power and places us in a kingdom that has order, dignity, honor, protection, support and love.
"And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." - Joshua 24:15 ESV
We can choose to be slaves or we can come under the master of masters who serves us by choice... the decisive lionhearted King who rules with a rod of iron while possessing the demeanor of a lamb.