“Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But He perceived their craftiness and said to them, “Why do you test Me? Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?” They answered and said, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Luke 20:22-25)
Serving God Or Serving Caesar
The chief priests and scribes tried vainly to trap Jesus in some philosophical, religious, or moral question to prove He was not the Son of God. They sent spies among His disciples pretending to be righteous, seeking some proof of deceit. On one occasion, they challenged Jesus about allegiance to the Roman government and allegiance to God. Using taxes as the framework of their question, the critics of the Lord wanted to know if God’s people should pay taxes to the Roman government. Jesus perceived their craftiness and trickery and, taking a Roman coin, used the image of Caesar to answer that all things that are owed to the government are to be given, but all things required of God are His.
The answer of rendering to Caesar the things belonging to Caesar and to God the things that are God’s was not a new teaching. Joseph lived in the pagan world of Egypt and gave allegiance to all things Egyptian except his devotion to God. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four young men thrust into the ungodly world of the Babylonians when Israel was taken captive. Throughout their life in the Babylonian culture, they obeyed the laws of the land until those laws came in conflict with the law of God. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were thrown into a fiery furnace when they refused to obey the king’s law, and Daniel was cast into a den of lions for disobeying government policy. They rendered to ‘Caesar’ the things that belong to Caesar, but they held true to their obedience to the law of God first and foremost.
It is easy to fall into the trap of civil obedience at the expense of spiritual directives. Everyone wants to be a law-abiding citizen without repercussions of disobeying civil law. The Bible commends the people of God to honor the king, pray for the rulers, and be subject to the government’s will. As the scribes and Pharisees tried to trap Jesus, the challenge to obedience to God is a decision the Christian must make about answering the mandates of our changing world. A year ago, the country was shut down by the power of government. State governments began to ban the assembling of churches, including making the singing of songs against the law. Fear spread across the land as confusion filled the hearts of the people of God. The United States Centers for Disease and Prevention, a federal agency of the national public health, began to mandate, monitor, and manage the lives of 329 million Americans. If the CDC again takes the country back to the early part of 2020 with its directives, how will the church react?
Peter and John were arrested for preaching Jesus and His resurrection. When questioned by the Jewish leaders and warned not to teach in the name of Jesus, the two apostles declared their obedience to the law of Caesar when required, but they would follow the word of God foremost. Later, when the twelve apostles were arrested for teaching in the name of Jesus, they answered they must obey God rather than men. A clear line was drawn they would not shun from doing the will of God – even in the face of a government decree that forbade them from doing so. The twelve apostles were not civil anarchists or rebels, but men of God devoted to following the divine precepts of Jesus Christ above the mandates of men. Their faith in God fortified their conflict.
Rendering to Caesar the things belonging to Caesar is a noble example of Christian duty. This cannot be at the expense or denial of what God has commanded His church to do. There must be faith in the providence of God to care for His children even when it puts the child of God at odds against the government. Faith comes from serving the Lord and His word; not the CDC, White House, or Supreme Court of the United States. The church will be tested. Let the child of God find in the fires of trial the courage to stand for truth, righteousness, and obedience to the will of the Lord God. What’s the worst that can happen? If we die, is that not joy? Lord, come quickly.