Pen Points 5
Render to God
Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.
This was Jesus’ reply after being asked about paying taxes and being shown a denarius with an image of the Emperor on it (Matt 22:15-22). We often use this to make the point that we should, in fact, give proper respect to others, particularly our government, and the proper honor due to God. This certainly corresponds to other passages that teach something similar (Rom 13; 1 Pet 2).
Yet there is more. Jesus’ question is significant: “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” We should immediately be reminded of the fact that we are created in God’s image. His image and likeness is inscribed upon us. Therefore, to render to God the things are His, we are to render ourselves. We belong to Him.
To go one step further, all things ultimately belong to God. Nothing exists autonomously, apart from Him. Even governments and rulers exist but by God’s authority and grace and therefore should also be rendering to God what is His, understanding and responding to good and evil. We pay our taxes and “render to Caesar” as God instructs, but this does not mean that we would render to Caesar at the expense of rendering ourselves completely to God. We must obey God rather than men.
Jesus’ statement is not one that is meant to draw out some form of “separation of church and state.” It isn’t meant to indicate that we can parcel out our lives in piecemeal fashion, acting as a Christian under some circumstances, and doing whatever we wish under other circumstances—rendering to God here and rendering to something else there—as if God is merely a part of our lives. It seems more that Jesus’ point is meant to hit right at the heart of the problem that those opposing Him on this occasion had. They were trying to trip Him up; they weren’t interested in truth. And they certainly weren’t loving God with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind. They were the ones parceling things out. If they thought this through, they would have realized that Jesus’ statement was a knock against their lack of commitment to God and truth.
The point is that rendering to God the things that are God’s means that we will render to Him everything. Yes, we will give appropriate respect to “Caesar,” as God tells us to do. But our service to God is the point. Our lives are to be characterized by self-denial, not just when it is convenient, but always.
Why Expose Evil?
We expose evil, not to gasp and marvel at the brazen insolence of it or to look down upon those steeped in it, but rather to strip it of its deceitful facade, mark it for avoidance, and learn to appreciate the grace God offers. We do this, not out of a sense of self-righteous piety, but out of a full recognition that we are all guilty and must do all we can to pull others from the fire that destroys souls.
“Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, ‘Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” (Eph 5:11-14)
Torn Down to be Built Up
Sometimes, before we can be built up, we must be torn down. When our pride has reared its ugly head and we think more of ourselves than we ought to think, we have likely constructed our own walls of defense against truth. These walls must be broken down before we are truly built up in the holiness of God. In that sense, truth isn’t always initially edifying (as we see it) because it also has the ability to destroy every lofty thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (2 Cor 10:5). Jeremiah was told that he had to “pluck up,” “break down,” “destroy,” and “overthrow” in addition to building and planting (Jer 1:9-10). All of this was to be done with the word of God that was put into his mouth. Preaching the word includes reproving, rebuking, and exhorting (2 Tim 4:3-4). To the one whose pride and sin has built a fortress around his own heart, that message will be debilitating before that heart is repaired and restored in humility. The prodigal learned this lesson by recognizing his broken condition (Luke 15). Indeed, that message has the potential to engender hatred in the hearts of stubborn hearers (John 3:18-21) and make enemies (Gal 4:16). Jesus indeed came with a sword.
If our hearts have such walls of pride, then let us pray that God break and shatter those walls with His message so that we may, in humility, be refreshed and renewed with a new attitude created after the mind of our Lord.