Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Give to God what Belongs to God

Mark 12:12-17 NLT  
  12 The religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus because they realized he was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away. 
  13Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 14 “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?” Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.”16 When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied.  
  17 “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” His reply completely amazed them.

Like the other accounts we've been studying together these last few days in Mark's Gospel, this one was based in a purpose that is well stated by Mark in verse 12-- they wanted to arrest Jesus. They sound a lot like the liberal authorities and media officials of our own day who go out of their way to mis-state truth and then try to trap Christian believers in their own twisting of what is real. These officials put a 'spin' on their statements so they could have 'plausible deniability' when should the people react negatively toward them for their actions. They were dishonest and sneaky, yet they were the 'leaders' of the people. Why do we expect modern day leaders to be any different-- all of them come from the same people group, those who have fallen from God's original design into the sin (self-centered) nature.

These leaders were just arrogant enough to think they could trap the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, in their twisty word games. Like yesterday's question about the seven-times widowed childless lady marrying seven brothers, this question is equally ridiculous. God had already taught Jews about His supreme authority and that governments are in place because He permits it. They new this but asked the question anyway showing their own ignorance of God's Holy Word. Should we pay taxes? The obvious answer is 'of course.' Taxes are the means of funding a civilizations' public services. To refuse that is to refuse public service and public order. Jesus teaches them that the purpose of taxes were to fund the governments operation. They relied on the government's operation to keep the order and the privilege they were, at that moment, enjoying as 'leaders.' Jesus showed his wisdom with this simple parable about what belongs to the government and what belongs to God. They were not giving God what belongs to Him while they were making a fuss about paying the "Cesar" what belongs to his government. Jesus called their bluff (verse 15) in seeing their hypocrisy and confronted them about it.

When we face ridiculous charges because of our faith, we need to call the bluff of those challenging us and quote God's Word alone as the authority for our beliefs and being. But then one would hope that we are faithfully living by God's Word and authority too.

Your servant in Christ's Love

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