The Pharisees went off
and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.
They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying,
“Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man
and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion,
for you do not regard a person’s status.
Tell us, then, what is your opinion:
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
Knowing their malice, Jesus said,
“Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?
Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”
Then they handed him the Roman coin.
He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”
They replied, “Caesar’s.”
At that he said to them,
“Then render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”
Do you ever feel like people are trying to trap you in your words? Did someone ever ask you a question, and then you wondered if they were running around your back to see if you gave someone else a different answer? Or if they were keeping some mental record of everything you ever said, with the hopes of turning it against you one day?
The Pharisees come to Jesus and start off the conversation by making a confession that they know he is honest. He isn’t going to lie. He knows where his allegiance is. They want to see if he will go against the State-god by going against God–these Pharisees that oh-so-carefully toe the line between their religious law and obedience to the laws of the land. Trying to please both sides always.
Jesus as usual gives the simple answer. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.
Pay your taxes and donate at church, right?
Or does it go deeper than that?
History is full of those that in allegiance to God, denounced paying taxes and lived apart from society. God-first and shun everything else in the world as from the Devil. There’s also those that lift their perceptions of God and His laws to the highest degree. So much that they insist our courts govern with the hand on a Bible and a statue of the Ten Commandments at the pillared gates.
Playing both sides.
Making both God and man happy. Trying to capture everyone in some kind of lie.
“You support gay-marriage? But what does the Bible say?”
“You kneel in defiance of the flag? How dare you? Patriotism is next to godliness, you know? I mean, soldiers gave their life and allegiance for that flag. Do you hate God or something?”Twitter gives us new examples every day, forcing us to draw lines in the sand, make hard choices, and publicly take a stand. Argue on Facebook for the cause, this way you can get caught in a lie about where your allegiance lies.
Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s – a man on a coin. I pay my taxes, but other than that what allegiance do I owe the man on a coin? Is he God? Is Trump a god? Was Obama a god? Is every future leader worthy of anything more than some of my hard-earned coins? My taxes go to help pave roads and educate kids, and I’ve no issue with that at all. But it seems Christ is asking me for some other kind of loyalty.
Render unto God what is God’s – I’ve spent a lifetime in and out of church. I’ve given to God all I can, or at least all I think I can. What can I even give to God, anyway? This always confused me. Am I required to give my money? They say He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Am I required to preach and evangelize the nations? I’ve done that until blue in the face. Am I required to sing the songs and give my worship? The problem is that I hardly believe in anything anymore. What am I giving? I don’t feel like I have an allegiance to the thin air, to a being or a power that even if exists, seemingly doesn’t care about us or intervene on our behalf.
This is not an argument for or against God. It’s not about divided loyalties. It’s simply about I don’t want to give anything to Caesar any longer. I’ll pay my taxes. You pick up my trash and come when I call 911, and we’re square.
But I don’t know what’s left to give to God anymore. I read the books. I prayed the prayers. I even tried to have that personal relationship they talk about. I sometimes don’t get along with the people in my day-to-day life, and you want me to put trust and faith in a God I don’t see and barely believe in and call it loyalty? To give my all?
I’ve got gifts to give.
But nothing but coins to give to Caesar.
I just keep giving what little I have left to my friends, to my family, to my students. I hope that counts for something.
John Robinson is a veteran and a middle school teacher who enjoys tattoos, heavy metal, and Brazilian Jujitsu. He lives in Florida with his wife and son.