When a group of men asked Jesus a political question, he was quick to remind his listeners that there was another kingdom, another citizenship that should be occupying our time.
It was a trap, a trick question. The gathered Pharisees were asking him about taxes and whether Jews should be paying them to the occupying Romans.
Jesus looked at a coin, flipping it one side and then the other. I imagine he had a pregnant pause, a sly grin and a furtive look into the distance before he answered. He asked the mob whose image was on the front of the coin. It was mug of the ruling emperor. “Caesar” the Pharisees answered.
And then he spoke.
“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”
This might have disappointed some of his supporters, as many of them were hoping of a more revolutionary type, a conquering messiah that would save them from oppression. But scripture tells us that people walked away, “amazed.”
His almost flippant answer knocked over the tables of power for all time.
The exchange with a simple coin wasn’t just about taxes. It was a warning to the ruling authorities that they are not the end of everything, that another kingdom had come. It was a recognition that government has its place. But so does God.
The entire book of Matthew talks about these two kingdoms and the struggle we will have, resident aliens in this life we know.
No politician will save us
Earlier this month, at an Iowa fundraiser, Ben Sasse (R-NE) said some shocking things. In his speech, he warned us against relying on government alone to solve the nation’s problems.
“There is no politician who’s going to save America,” he said. “There is no election that’s going to transform your life to become so much better than it is right now.”
I’m guessing that this speech won’t necessarily win him reelection, because we are all about putting politicians in place who will make government work for us as individuals. And politicians are about consolidating power, not being brutally honest.
He went on to say that centered people don’t “put politics anywhere near the center of our identity.”
In case you are wondering, Sen. Sasse is an opponent of Donald Trump.
And he is an opponent of the left.
And he is an opponent of the right.
He is trying to be a friend of the truth. It’s not always easy. And he certainly won’t be popular.
His speech encouraged all citizens to quit ingesting politics as their only meal, and instead focus on “families, churches and communities.”
Both parties are “disastrously sick”
In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Sen. Sasse called both parties “disastrously sick.”
Talk to any side – left, right, center, libertarian, far left, far right – none of them are happy with their side’s effort. They all fall short. None of them are delivering.
Every day I hear people rally to their side, waving flags of solidarity. “Come to our side, and we will finally fix our people, our world.”
But many of you are like me and feeling more than disillusioned with the whole mess.
Then I’m reminded, our work on earth is not elect a savior. Our efforts should not be to keep a party in power. Our money and time aren’t to be solely invested in the kingdoms of men.
As Christians, we have a bigger task ahead of us.
Philadelphia Archdiocese Charles Chaput wisely suggested that “Party loyalty is the quickest way to lose one’s political influence.” He urges people to strive to solve issues through truth and persuasion, and not become solely a “red or blue” follower.
The truth is hard. We don’t really want to hear it. We know deep inside that simply electing a candidate or handing power to a party isn’t the answer to the trouble that we see.
That’s why Jesus spoke of another kingdom.
So why is this one so hard to live in?