Mark 12:13-17English Standard Version (ESV)
Paying Taxes to Caesar
13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar's.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” And they marveled at him.
Accompanying Robert Rayburn sermon: The Christian and The State
It is, of course, ironic that the Pharisees use false flattery to try to lower Jesus' guard, but are actually speaking the truth, though they do not believe it themselves.
I love the display, yet again, of Jesus' intelligence and wit. In a single sentence He manages to affirm the legitimacy of the government, while also affirming that we owe God our allegiance over and above human government. God alone has absolute and unqualified authority over humanity, but for the most part, is is possible to fulfill our obligations to both God and the state.
Christians do have the obligation to obey the government, even when that government is foolish and corrupt. But if the government asks us to do anything that would dishonour God, we are to refuse.
we can fail to appreciate the breathtaking implications of the second half: “give to God what is God’s.” With those seemingly innocent and innocuous words, the Lord Christ as much as wrote the death sentences of untold thousands of his followers and committed vast multitudes more to great suffering and sorrow.
Jesus himself paid his taxes and paid them to the full; but he categorically refused to give to the government – either the Jewish government or the Roman – his obedience when it ordered him to do what his Father forbad or when it demanded that he disobey the will of his Father in heaven. He went to the cross, in part, because of that refusal....
Don’t underestimate the implications of the Lord’s short sentence: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar and to God’s what is God’s.” It makes Christians loyal citizens and martyrs at one and the same time. ...
We pay taxes, we obey the laws, all the laws as God has commanded us, until that moment when we are required to do what God forbids or forbidden to do what God commands. There is something very prosaic and ordinary about a faithful Christian life: he or she is a faithful payer of taxes, even taxes that are being put to silly or wicked use. It is for them an act of Christian devotion. But there is, at the same time, something wonderfully extravagant about a faithful Christian life: he or she will give up anything and everything for the sake of loyalty to God and Christ. There is the visible and the invisible, the worldly and the other-worldly, the ordinary and the extraordinary in every true Christian life. Every Christian is to be both: the faithful citizen and the martyr for God. In the world, but not of the world. That is because our Savior said that we are to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. It is a philosophy of life that he has given us. Something to do and to be every day of our lives.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Mark 12:18-27
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