"Render unto Caesar"


The above title is one overused piece of scripture that really annoys me.
It is taken a phrase out of context to suggest we have an allegiance or obligation to a political and governmental entity. It is used to suggest that we should submit ourselves to a civil authority. It is used to suggest that if we are “good christians,” we should support the US policies–especially if the current President is born again.
However, I am extremely bothered by the way many Christians lump their faith and their citizenship into one mass.
Especially with the current foreign policy situations, where many of us (who have access to internet, reading blogs in english, and statistically read this site) are from the predominant Super-Power, I believe we need to have a better understanding of the full Christian message–rather than misquoting this brief statement.

Jesus asks the man, whose portrait is on the money; the man responds Caesar’s; Jesus replies–therefore render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

Without thinking about the broader message of Jesus, this encounter may suggest that people should submit to Caesar (but even if you read it that way, that only means the money that has Caesar’s appearance on it–and therefore one should not fully associate themselves to their civil authority).
I, however, choose to emphasis the final part…give to God what is God’s. That would mean EVERYTHING, for everything created belongs to the Creator. That is what was “amazing” about Jesus statement, He undermined the powerful, civil authority.
This means that all of our actions, decisions, financial supports, everything should be given to God.
It is a reading, such as this, which takes Jesus commandments beyond the expected, the easy, the common and allows them to transform ourlives.
Erwin McManus in a Sermon Series called the Controversial Jesus: Conspiracy says,

God never intended for men to dress up like kings, gods. He never intended huge hats, rings, robes and cathedrals. Or to be about titles, and power and privilougs…
He always intended it [the Christian faith] to be about us, everyday, common hurting, broken human beings needing God. And that is where we have missed our mark.

We have made it about ourselves. About using our economic power, our privilege, our political associations, our influential sway; we have used these things to make life about us. About providing not for the hurt and broken, but for sustaining the life we are accustomed to.
Therefore, I am also hesitant to accept what the Second Helvetic says with regard to submission to the civil authority, especially with regards to war. It says that we should seek peace by all means possible, and if we cannot save our people in any other way then it is justified to result in war (5.256).
But as Christians, as followers of Christ, I believe that we have been called to something more. That we should seek peace by all means possible…meaning that we should seek peace even to our death.
Questions I have heard raised:

  • Shouldn’t we have the right to defend ourselves? Yes we have the right, but that does not mean we should.
  • Of what good will it be if we die? I retort quickly, of what good is a god who would allow Himself to die–oh yeah, an eternal good.?Therefore, render unto God what is God’s: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”?That is asking a lot, so at the very least, please just don’t say “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” for nothing is Caesar’s.
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