Friday, August 19, 2016

Simply Jesus Pt. 12: “Render to Caesar What Is Caesar’s…”

In Mark 12, a group of Pharisees and Herodians attempt to trap Jesus in His words. They ask Him if they should pay taxes to Caesar or not. Evidently, this tax was wildly unpopular with the Jews and viewed as extremely unfair. 

To make matters worse, the tax of a denarius coin bore the image of the Emperor on it, with an inscription declaring the Emperor to be the son of god. To a pious Jew, this coin and tax were both idolatrous and blasphemous. You can therefore understand why a large portion of them wanted to rebel and not pay.

Desiring to have Him killed, they knew that if Jesus outright said not to pay the tax, he would be guilty of treason against the Empire. However, if He outright said to pay the tax, many of the people would turn on Him. They thought they had Him trapped. They thought wrong.

“Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at.” They brought one. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” And they said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” – Mark 12:15-17

The command, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” is one of the most widely interpreted statements of Jesus I’ve ever heard. I’ve seen folks use this quote to support voting, becoming a participant in war, justify racist societal laws that were in direct violation of God’s commands and other ideas that have nothing to do with the passage.

Seldom if ever do I witness teachers use this passage to instruct others to pay the required taxes to the federal government. I wonder why that is.

Americans aren’t fans of taxes. Most people aren’t, but Americans have a special distaste for them. I believe it goes back to the indoctrination of our elementary school days.

My son took American History two years ago in 5th grade. One of the lessons he was taught about the American Revolution is that the Colonists were justified in rebelling against the British because they were being taxed without representation in Parliament and that was unconstitutional. Have you heard that?

First, the Colonists never sought representation in Parliament. They knew that because they comprised only 1/7 of the British population, even with representation in Parliament, laws like the Stamp Act still would have easily passed and the Americans would have no excuses left.

The claim of the unconstitutionality of the Colonies being taxed without representation is also a fabrication of history. England absolutely had the constitutional right to tax the Colonies without them being represented in Parliament. Nothing in any of the Colonies' charters afforded them the right to a seat in Parliament. Also, none of England’s other Colonies had direct representation in Parliament.

What’s ironic is that though many claim the Colonies had a duty to rebel against the British tyrant, the USA has assumed much of the role of mythological England in its relationship with Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is a US commonwealth/territory where all persons born there are US citizens.

However, everyone born in Puerto Rico has to live by US laws, pay US taxes, and cannot vote. Worse than that, all Puerto Rican males have to register for the draft, and therefore have been forced to fight in Vietnam, Korea, the Pacific and Europe. Taxation and conscription without representation.

I guess by Colonial American standards, they have a duty to rebel against a tyrant. … And that’s when you hear modern American Christians say, “Bu bu but Jesus told us to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

And they are right. That’s the historical, orthodox position of the Church. Pay your taxes whether you like them or not.

And everywhere we, more readily than all men, endeavor to pay to those appointed by you the taxes both ordinary and extraordinary, as we have been taught by Him; for at that time some came to Him and asked Him, if one ought to pay tribute to Caesar; and He answered, “Tell Me, whose image does the coin bear?” And they said, “Caesar’s.” And again He answered them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” – Justin Martyr 160CE, Volume 1, p. 257 [CD-ROM]

We American Christians have always had a complicated relationship with the State. We say that we want separation between Church and State, but then lament over laws keeping us from praying in school, conducting ‘See You at the Pole’ days, or when godly politicians (whatever that means) aren’t elected into office.

In our Sunday gatherings, we talk about the Church being the hands and feet of Jesus, but as soon as we walk out the doors, we revert right back to our core belief that Caesar is our practical Immanuel.

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s not me. I don’t worship the State. I worship God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Maybe you’re right. But just for kicks, I’ve included a Jeff Foxworthy-ish type of test for Christians to gauge their devotion to the false master of the State. Fill in the blanks with, “You might worship Caesar.”

v If the President or prospective President frequently evokes in you extreme emotions such as joy/elation, depression/hopelessness, rage/hatred, or panic/dread, ________________________.
v If you get emotional when you hear The National Anthem or God Bless America, but can’t remember the last time you cried in church, _____________________.
v If you proudly sing The National Anthem and God Bless America at public gatherings, but you keep quiet when it’s time to sing in church, _____________________.
v If the number of times you’ve voted in governmental elections exceeds the number of people you’ve personally led to receive Jesus as Lord, _______________________.
v If you’ve ever cussed someone out or lost a friendship over that person saying something cruel about your favorite politician, _____________________.
v If you full-on celebrate when America’s enemies are killed, ____________________.
v If you feel much more comfortable sharing your political views with strangers than your testimony, _________________________.

If you can honestly say ‘yes’ to any of the statements above, I want to encourage you to bring that to God in prayer. Biblically speaking, the piece of land known as the USA is not responsible for any of the good things in your life. It hasn’t given you anything.

God is the giver of every good and perfect gift, and everything in the world belongs to Him since He is our creator. That means all that we are and have is a gift of God; therefore, we owe Him our undivided allegiance. As Jesus said, “Give to God what belongs to God.”

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