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Hebrews 13:17

ESV Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
NIV Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
NASB Obey your leaders and submit to them—for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account—so that they may do this with joy, not groaning; for this would be unhelpful for you.
CSB Obey your leaders and submit to them, since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
NLT Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.
KJV 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.

What does Hebrews 13:17 mean?

This part of the book of Hebrews is mostly a list of practical instructions for Christian living. As part of this discussion, the writer looked back to heroes of the faith (Hebrews 11). These figures exhibited faith, despite hardships and persecutions, and were able to "hold fast" to trust in God. The writer further developed this idea by noting that Christians ought to look to the example of more recent spiritual leaders (Hebrews 13:7) and to carefully avoid changing doctrines (Hebrews 13:8–9). Respect for spiritual leadership is key to discipleship (1 Thessalonians 5:12; Hebrews 13:7), as much as it is for any other kind of learning.

This verse reminds the reader that those in positions of spiritual leadership are held to a high standard by God. Letters such as Titus, 1 Timothy, and 2 Timothy describe the stringent requirements applied to those who claim to teach the Word of God. James 3:1 clearly points out that those who presume to teach will be held all the more accountable by God. Not only do such people know more (Hebrews 2:1–4; 10:29; Luke 12:47–48), they greatly influence others in their walk with Christ (Mark 9:42; 2 Peter 2:1–3).

A godly, truth-teaching leader is held to account by God, and working for the good of others. When people in a church or other group inspire a pastor, elder, teacher, or other leader to "groan," they're adding unnecessary weight to an already heavy load. The Greek term used here is stenazontes, referring to grief, groaning, or sighing. This is from the same root word used in verses such as Romans 8:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:2–4. In short, those under their spiritual leadership should cooperate as much as possible, instead of being obstinate or difficult.

The general message of this verse seems to be "don't make life harder than it already is for your spiritual leaders." The very next verse displays the kind of attitude which makes obedience easier to extend: humility and grace.
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