Then He said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. Matthew 22:21
“A date that will live in infamy, is how President Roosevelt described December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day; but many Americans seem to believe it is as well an apt description for April 15th in any given year. We are often told around this time how many days (months) we must work after January 1st before we begin paying ourselves, instead of the government. The wit of Ben Franklin expressed many years ago that “nothing can be certain but death and taxes; yet he also told us, “Idleness and pride tax with a heavier hand than kings and parliaments. If we can get rid of the former, we may more easily bear the latter. Believe it or not there is a spiritual element to paying taxes, and Jesus did not avoid the subject; though admittedly when He said what we read above in the Gospel of Matthew He was answering a question put to Him craftily for the purpose of tripping Him into such an answer that would finally silence Him and end His public mission.
The evil intent of Jesus’ enemies, the Pharisees, was to collaborate with their own enemies, the tax-supporting Herodians, to do their dirty work in putting a question to Jesus that would infuriate either the tax-paying national populace of the Jews or the governing Roman authorities. They thought His answer would surely make one of these two so angry that Jesus’ mouth would be stopped and His mission from His Father in Heaven aborted. Instead His wisdom so amazed them, they fled the field of battle, themselves silenced!
We also can be amazed by the wisdom of Jesus in quieting their tongues, and still miss the import of His words to our own sanctification. He desires that we not only hear what He says, in every instance, but express our love for Him through obedience. Tax collectors and taxes both were hated in His day, and we, being honest, grate under the “burden of paying taxes in our day. But what Jesus teaches us here is that the Christian faith is no enemy to civil government. Indeed, the government of Jesus’ day was far more odious than the one we live under in America today. The Jews under Roman rule had no voice concerning the rate of their taxes, or changing their government at the ballot box. Yet God raised up the authorities in their day just as He has the authorities in our day for the purposes of order and justice in the society. Jesus was aware of that and honored the government even though they became His unjust executioners.
He has given us in our day a privilege not enjoyed by every Christian in every age; the honor to say something about how we are taxed and who taxes us, as well as who rules over us. To not exercise that honor is a sin; not just idleness, not just oversight, not just ignorance; it is a willful sin. Give to Caesar (civil government), Jesus said, what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s! Jesus tacitly admonished Caesar for putting an inscription on his coins falsely claiming his own divinity, in saying give to God what is God’s. We are to obey God rather than men when man’s rulings are disobedient to God’s expressed will. And we are to worship Him alone. But we are to obey the authorities over us (Romans 13) in all things that are not in direct disobedience to God and His Word. What we cannot do is exempt ourselves from voting. We are citizens of Heaven, but we are also citizens of our home country. It is our spiritual duty and precious privilege to exercise both responsibilities. We do not put purple ink on one of our fingers when we vote, but think when you vote of those who do, at the risk of their life, and value what you have with thanksgiving to God.
“Heavenly Father, help me in Your strength to give honor where honor is due, and live as one who is in submission to my Lord and Savior.
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