“What Jesus Demands From The World” – Daily Devotional (7/20/10): Demand #43 “Render to Caesar the Things That Are Caesar’s And to God the Things That Are God’s”

Matthew 22:15-21

“Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle [ Jesus] in his talk. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying . . . “Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

“Jesus was Jewish. He was part of a people who lived in their homeland under the totalitarian rule of Rome. The Caesar was absolute and claimed even divine status as emperor of Rome. Caesar Augustus was the emperor when Jesus was born (Luke 2:1), and his son, Tiberius Caesar, ruled from A.D. 13-37 during the rest of Jesus’ life (Luke 3:1). So when Jesus asked the Pharisees for a coin with Caesar’s picture on it, the coin very likely pictured Tiberius. When the Pharisees asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, they were trying to hang him on the horns of a politically supercharged dilemma. The Jews were oppressed and were indignant that the promised land where they lived was ruled by pagan Romans. Paying taxes to Rome was a religious offense. But not to pay them would be suicidal. The Pharisees were manifestly making an effort to entangle Jesus in a trap. “Either he will support taxes to Rome, undercutting his popular, messianic support, or he will challenge taxes. . . . [Then] the Herodians could charge him with being a revolutionary— hence that he should be executed, and executed quickly.” I don’t think Jesus dodged the question. I think he answered it in a way that forces us to think; and in the end the answer demands radical allegiance to God’s supreme authority over all things. The first command, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” gets its meaning from the second one, “Render to God the things that are God’s.” It’s the juxtaposition of these two commands that gives the first one its proper scope (pg. 323-324).”

“Jesus wisely left the scope of these two ownerships and authorities for the listener to answer. Whether this is a compromise with Rome will depend on how a person understands the scope and nature of God’s ownership and authority in relation to Caesar’s scope of ownership and authority. That is what he forces us to think about. The starting point for this thinking is the unmistakable assumption of the second command, “Render to God the things that are God’s.” That assumption is: Everything is God’s. If a person does not hear that in Jesus’ command, he would say, “Hearing they do not hear. They have ears, but they do not hear.” In other words, the all-important fact is unspoken and obvious to all who are willing to hear the obvious. By being unspoken, it accomplishes more than getting Jesus out of a trap; it leads to an answer to the question that is far deeper and more far-reaching than what his adversaries were asking… All is God’s. Therefore what is Caesar’s is God’s. Therefore rendering to Caesar what is his must be seen as an expression of rendering to God what is God’s. This is all-important in understanding how one can be utterly devoted to Jesus as Lord and live in a world with Caesar—or any other authority (pg. 325-326.)”

“Jesus is demanding absolute allegiance to himself and his ownership and authority. All other  allegiances are relativized by this supreme allegiance. All other allegiances are warranted and limited and shaped by this first allegiance. They are warranted because the subordinate authorities in the world, like Caesar, are owing to God’s authority. Jesus said to Pilate, who seemed to have authority over Jesus at his trial, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11). Pilate has authority because God has given it to him. Therefore, such human authority is warranted because it is indirectly God’s. When Jesus said, “Render to God the things that are God’s,” the term “the things that are God’s” included Pilate’s authority, because it was, indirectly, God’s. God had given it to him. He would not have it without God. Therefore, Jesus acknowledges the legitimacy of human authority. It is legitimate, but not absolute. It is from God, but it is not God. It is risky for Jesus to say, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” That puts a high premium on obedience to the demands of Caesar. One of the realities that warrants this risk is that the heart of rebellion is more dangerous in us than the demands of Caesar outside of us. Jesus wants us to see that the danger to our soul from unjust, secular governments is nowhere near as great as the danger to our soul from the pride that kicks against submission. No mistreatment from Caesar or unjust law from Rome has ever sent anyone to hell. But pride and rebellion is what sends everyone to hell who doesn’t have a Savior. Therefore, the subordinate authorities of the world are warranted by God’s will in two senses. On the one hand, he wills that we recognize that these authorities are indeed subordinate and that we glorify him as the only supreme sovereign. On the other hand, he wills that we recognize these authorities as God-ordained and that we not proudly kick against what he has put in place. All our earthly allegiances are not only warranted by the supreme authority of God, but also limited and shaped by that authority (pg. 327-328).”

*** Please listen to the song “Kingdom and A King” by the Robbie Seay Band, which is linked in my Vodpod on this page.  May it challenge you to re-examine your allegiances and to crown Jesus as Lord over all parts of your heart and life.

Blessings,

Pastor Josh

Published in: on July 20, 2010 at 9:00 AM  Leave a Comment  
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