Sunday – July 21, 2019
Word On Worship – Sunday – July 21, 2019
But He detected their trickery and said to them, “Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
With taxes and elections being a yearly occurrence, it is appropriate to talk about guile, government, and God. There is nothing like taxes to tempt us to fudge the truth! When you throw in religion on top of taxes and government, you’ve got a built-in formula for hypocrisy. Those three elements—taxes, government, and religion—all play a part in this exchange between the Jewish religious authorities and Jesus over the subject of paying taxes to Caesar. Sometimes a common enemy will bring together strange bedfellows. (FYI: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” East Indian proverb) Although Luke does not mention it, both Matthew and Mark report that the Herodians and the Pharisees joined forces in this attempt to bring Jesus down. But in order to get rid of Jesus, they teamed up to trap Jesus with a question designed to impale Him on the horns of a dilemma.
After some flattery, they asked Jesus, “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” If Jesus answered, “Yes,” the Pharisees would accuse Him of being soft towards Rome and certainly not being the Messiah who could deliver the nation from Rome’s hated sovereignty. If He answered, “No,” the Herodians would report Him to Pilate as being opposed to Caesar’s rule, thus guilty of sedition. They thought that they had Him this time.
But Jesus’ answer stunned them. In one succinct sentence, He showed that God and Caesar each have legitimate realms of authority with corresponding responsibilities. But if there is a conflict between realms, God is supreme over Caesar. By asking His critics to produce the Roman coin, Jesus underscored the fact that they were enjoying the benefits of Caesar’s government: they used his coinage; they enjoyed many civil improvements and benefits that he provided. And so, they were obligated to give Caesar his due.
There are two extremes to be avoided in our outlook on government. The first is to see government as the enemy of God, and to be always opposing ourselves to it. The other extreme is to view government too highly, as man’s salvation and security. It is all too easy to look to government for those things which only God can give. It is all too easy to turn from God to government. Some Christians oppose government unnecessarily and unbiblically, using God as their pretext for rebellion and disobedience. Others seem to view government as the solution to all our earthly (and spiritual) problems. Some think that we can establish a righteous government on the earth and so clean it up that Messiah will come. I believe that only Messiah can clean up this mess, and that only after He comes will a righteous government exist. Let us keep government in perspective. It is not the enemy of God, but it is God’s agent. Let us obey government as to the Lord, in every way possible.