In my last devotional, I pondered what it meant for me to render unto God that which belonged to Him. You and I created in God’s image is what we are called upon to give to God. We can only do that by submitting to Christ, allowing Him to live in us. But it seems only fitting during the month of April, to also consider what Jesus meant in that same passage about rendering unto Caesar. Matthew 22:15-22, “Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. 16 And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. 17 “Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? 19 “Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. 20 And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away.” (NASU)
Jesus gave a broad, general command about what rendering to Caesar what belonged to Caesar. Paul a fuller explanation in Romans 13:1-7, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (NASU)
Paying taxes and giving honor to a government I agreed with would be difficult for me personally but paying taxes to one I disagree with is even harder. I need to remind myself that the government New Testament Christians lived under was much more tyrannical. We agonize a great deal in seeking the will of God but here in plain sight is the will of God for my life (and yours): paying taxes. Christmas, Good Friday, Easter and the Lord’s Supper are great celebrations of remembrance for Christians. But for those of us in the United States, what about April 15? And what about each time you pay out at your favorite retail store? Aren’t paying income tax, property tax, sales tax, etc. good opportunities to remember and celebrate the will of God?
Ouch! I say.
STEVE ELLISON is director of Ouachita Baptist Camp in Arkansas. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.