“And He *said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ 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.’” (Matthew 22:20, 21)
The story of the Pharisees testing Jesus with questions designed to put Him on the horns of a dilemma is a short but brilliant display of Jesus’ ability to thwart the evil intentions of His enemies. We cheer at the defeat of the scheming religious leaders, and we usually take away a lesson about the appropriate performance of duty to country—taxes, service, honor, etc. But what we often don’t walk away with is what duty we owe to God—the other half of Jesus’ response. “…Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” What exactly would some of those things be?
Every citizen of every country is expected to show loyalty to that country. Not every country has a formal pledge of allegiance, but every nation expects it from its citizens. Are you with them or with us? The Kingdom of God likewise expects loyalty, allegiance, and exclusivity of its citizens—especially since we are at war (you knew that, right?). As one inspirational essay puts it, “I’m a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of His and I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.…And when He does come for His own, He’ll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear!” Are your colors, your allegiance, clear?
And something else along this line, this loyalty is exclusive. Some nations allow dual citizenship—as long as you pay your taxes, they don’t care. But it is not so in the Kingdom of God. Our God’s name is “Jealous” (Ex. 34:14). He will tolerate no dalliance with another; we are exclusively His or we are not His—there’s no in between. Anything else is considered adultery (see Hosea). Are you God’s exclusively?
Machiavelli in the The Prince says that a ruler exercises his authority over his citizens on the basis of either love or fear—mostly the later. Many of us pay taxes, not so much because we love the government but because we’re thinking we don’t want the IRS to come knocking on our door. But the Kingdom of God commands its multitudes of citizens primarily motivated by the powerful and intense love of those rescued from eternal condemnation. We love Him because of His truly “amazing” and profoundly undeserved grace (2 Cor. 5:14,21 and 1 John 4:19). Are you offering the Lord the love He is due?
If it is genuine love that we have for the Lord, it will very naturally bear the fruit of service. This service is difficult to give to the invisible God, who needs nothing from us. Yes, we consider worship as service to the Lord—and so it is. But we’ve also been commanded to serve one another (1 Peter 4:10), serve the church (Eph. 4:12), serve the lost (Gal. 6:10). Because as we serve them, we serve the Lord (Matt. 25:40). Are you giving the Lord His due in service?
Every nation and ruler expects its laws to be obeyed. There are penalties involved with ignoring or violating the law. Part of what Romans 13 commands is “subjection to governing authorities”—in other words, obey the laws. U.S. citizens don’t pay Russian taxes, and South Africans don’t abide by Bolivia’s traffic laws. But U.S. citizens are expected to live by U.S. law, Russians by Russian law, South Africans by South African law, and Bolivians by Bolivian law. What spiritual nation’s laws do you abide by?
Worship, Reverent Fear
The Kingdom of God is no ordinary nation. Its king sits eternal on His throne. His power far exceeds millions of nuclear bombs (He made billions of stars that are little more than huge nuclear reactors)! His full glory cannot be even seen by mortal men and is unimaginably awesome. His gifts and blessings are innumerable; His enormous daily generosity to both the good and sinful is incomprehensible. And His reign is so good. He is good, loving, just, faithful, holy, powerful, merciful, compassionate, wise, constant, and fair. Unlike mortal rulers He doesn’t seek to be served, but consistently and constantly serves with the best interests of His citizens at heart. Way far above all other beings, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are worthy of worship and reverent fear. Do you give Him the worship and reverent fear He deserves?
What we owe Uncle Sam has its proper place on the list of important things to pay attention to in this world as long as we are in it. It is due to Caesar (the government) not only because of the burden of responsibility, the protections that he provides us, and the duty of citizenship, but also if you don’t, you might get a visit from your friendly neighborhood IRS agent.
What we owe the Lord is so much greater and for much, much greater reasons.