He said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
— Matthew 22:21 (NKJV)
Next week, we will celebrate the 237th birthday of our country. We will enjoy life, eat too much, and enjoy time away from work. Yet, underneath the celebration is a stirring of the heart as to how much we owe to our country.
A growing reality is mutual distrust between Christians and government. Christians resist the moral onslaught on traditional Judeo-Christian values. Government questions the allegiance of those who do not agree with current direction and philosophy.
During Jesus’ ministry a similar conflict was felt. The Lord’s answer to those who debated the degree of support for country and faith is an answer for our day as well. “He said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.’”
Let’s remind ourselves of how we can stand as dedicated followers of Jesus and patriotic citizens of our land at the same time:
1. We admit that there are two realms in which we are accountable. We are to be faithful to the Lord and to the government of the land at the same time. Jesus did not exclude either in his response. There are things to render to the government and things to render to God.
2. We realize Jesus placed no conditions in which accountability is forfeited. The word, “except,” never crossed his lips. There were two groups seeking an answer. The Herodians were relatives of King Herod who had so committed to Rome there was no religious reference to their conduct. The Pharisees were so committed to the Law of Moses there was no reference to secular government. Both groups heard they had an obligation in both the spiritual and civil arenas.
3. Civil government is ordained from God. In Romans 13, Paul will encourage all believers to be subject to all authority because all authority is from God. Regardless of how they perform, it is a commitment to God to be committed to the civil authorities. If they mishandle their responsibility, they will be accountable to God.
4. God has certain areas that civil authority does not supersede. In Acts 5:28-29 Peter informs the Sanhedrin that they cannot stop him from teaching about Jesus. His response was, “We must obey God rather than men.”
On July 4th, I will celebrate a great nation that blesses me in so many ways. However, I will remind myself of the Christian heritage upon which this nation was founded and I will rededicate myself to keep that reference point on how I live my life.
As Jesus did, I will talk badly about no one. I will leave judgment to the Lord before whom all leaders will one day stand. Meanwhile, I will accept boundaries on my morals and faith that no one except Jesus can control.
When I compare my government and society to that of Jesus’ day, I am in a better situation. Let me make the most of it by simply rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.
Dr. John A. Temple is pastor of Poplar Springs Drive Baptist Church, located at 4032 Poplar Springs Drive in Meridian. Visit the church website online at www. psdbc.org.