Giving to God what Belongs to God

It is Tuesday, and the religious leaders of Israel are still trying to corner Jesus.

Earlier in the morning, a collection of Pharisees, scribes, and teachers gathered to confront him. They sought to trap Jesus in his words in order that they might have grounds to denounce, defame, and do away with him. However, in their theological skirmish, they failed again. One more time, they left his presence silenced and amazed.

However, these antichrists were determined to not die easily. Therefore, they came at him again, and this time they added Herodians to their team. Now, this was indeed a very strange marriage, for on any other day, Pharisees and Herodians despised one another.

  • Pharisees were churchmen, while Herodians were politicians.
  • Pharisees were Hebrew separatists, while Herodians were in bed with Rome.
  • Pharisees were religious zealots, while Herodians were at best religiously interested.
  • Pharisees were theological non-conformists, but Herodians are theological chameleons.

Yes, Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi would have had more in common that these two groups. However, on that particular day, the Pharisees and Herodians came together due to their mutual hatred for Jesus and his cause. So they asked:

“ … Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” (Mark 12:14-15)

They hoped to put Jesus in a corner. They reasoned his answer would put him at odds with either Rome or the Jewish citizenry. If he came out in support of Roman taxation, he would lose popular support. If he discounted allegiance to Caesar, he would lose his head. Jesus, in their appraisal, was being put in a no-win situation.

However, Jesus, knowing their hearts and hypocrisy, said to them …

“Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it … Whose likeness and inscription is this? … Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s ….” (Mark 12:15-17)

Jesus’ first point was easy to grasp. Looking at the Roman denarius, one would have seen both the image and name of Caesar. In Jesus’ view, a Jewish worshiper was doing right to pay taxes to Rome. It was good and acceptable to give Caesar’s coin to Caesar.

Jesus’ second point was more subtle, but it was more important or foundational. Looking at the crowd about him — Herodians, Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, teachers, elders, disciples, men, women, and children — he saw upon them the image and name of the Creator. Consequently, a dutiful worshiper was doing right to give obedience, honor, and tribute to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It was good thing to give worship to God.

Friends, we all struggle giving taxes, obedience, and honor to pharaohs, kings, emperors, presidents, legislators, judges, governors, magistrates, and officers. The same is true regarding popes, priests, and pastors. In the home, we grow up struggling to submit to fathers and mothers. It continues on with wives finding it hard to honor their husbands. And our struggle continues against employers, teachers, coaches, referees, etc …. It is honorable to see that all authority is custom-placed over us by the omniscient and omnipotent King of Kings. It is also honorable to respect and submit to those God has placed in authority. After all, this is one of the Big Ten Commandments.

But friends, we also struggle giving honor and obedience to our Creator — he who made us in his image. From birth, we find ourselves resisting our Creator’s will. We are unsubmissive rebels who deserve the same fate as the first unsubmissive rebel – Lucifer.

Well, thanks be to Jesus who saves us from the wages of our sin.

And thanks be to Jesus who clothes us with his perfect goodness. Because of Christ, we are seen as beloved sons who are always submissive and pleasing to the Father. It is because of Jesus’ performance that we get to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant!”

And it gets even better. Thanks be to the Holy Spirit who inspires us to obey, submit, honor, and follow. So now, let’s do what our Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit call us to do.

Let’s look at the love of our King. He is the one who loves us so much that he kills himself for our salvation and his delight.

Let’s consider how he never waivers in his affection and always has our best interest in mind.

Let’s remember how wise he is and how foolish we have proven to be.

Let’s hear his voice remind us of the undeserved benefits of obedience.

Yes, let’s rest in the gospel and repent some more. Let’s give God what he deserves and enjoy glorifying him today, tomorrow, and forever.

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