"(17) Tell us therefore, what thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? (18) But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? (19) Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. (20) And he saith unto them, whose is this image and superscription? (21) They say unto him, Caesars. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesars; and unto God the things that are Gods." Matthew 22:17-21.
Render unto Caesar! How very often we have heard these words quoted as a purported justification for total and all out submission to governmental authority. Teaching in the modern church typically assumes the position that Christians are duty bound to bow in humble subservience to every order or command that issues forth from the civil realm. To do anything less, it is taught, actually constitutes sinful conduct on the part of the Christian believer. More often than not, render unto Caesar is the chant of those advocating blind obedience to the state. They assert that Jesus himself made this generalized command and that the proposition is of an inarguable nature.
As is so often the case, the modern Church has succeeded in butchering its interpretation of the verses in question. Due to the compromised status of modern Christianity, it has become necessary to build doctrinal justification for a passive and non-confrontational mentality. Through what is known as 501(c)3 tax exempt status, issued under the guidelines of the Internal Revenue Code, the contemporary church has actually entered into an unholy alliance with what has become the godless institution of the state. The symbiotic relationship between church and state assumes the following form. People are instructed by their religious leaders that the will of God is for them to bow to the orders of Government. At the same time, the state affords specific benefits and favors to the corporate church and its leadership cadre. Thus, a nice, comfortable, convenient, mutually beneficial relationship is maintained between two powerful entities...and the people never know the difference.
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE WORDS OF JESUS
When confronted by his enemies in a manner that was patently disingenuous, Jesus responded by throwing the question back in the face of the adversarial party. They inquired of him in Matthew 22:17 if it was lawful to pay tribute? Being wise as a serpent, Jesus then proceeded to question them as to whose image was on the coin of the realm. Of course, it is important to note that Jesus perceived their wickedness and understood that this situation was about more than the issue of taxation. By virtue of his query directed toward the Pharisees, Jesus enlarged upon the scope of what was under consideration. While never giving a direct answer to their would-be trick question, he nevertheless succeeded in roping them into a larger arena that would expose their own hypocrisy. It requires spiritual depth and maturity to be able to discern between that which belongs to Caesar, on the one hand, and that which belongs to God, on the other. The wicked Pharisees were incapable of functioning on this advanced plane of understanding and spirituality, and Matthew 22:22 tells us, "When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left him, and went their way." It is a sad commentary, indeed, that leaders within the modern church are as confused and misdirected about this subject as were the Pharisees of old!
In the often quoted "render unto Caesar" passage, Jesus set forth two distinct directives. The first instruction he gave was to render to Caesar the things which are Caesars. His next command was to render unto God the things which are Gods. It should be obvious that we must distinguish between the things which are Caesars and the things which are Gods in order to fulfill the tenets of this verse. Yet, in our modern religious setting, little if anything is said about "the things that are Gods." All the emphasis is placed upon Caesar as though the civil authority has a rightful claim to a virtual blank check! What isnt even contemplated is the prospect that Caesar might try to over step his boundaries and begin demanding that which belongs to God. And, in fact, such is precisely what government has been notorious for trying to do throughout all of history! The sincere and objective Bible student will quickly realize that Jesus was in no way advocating slovenly submission to civil authority when he spoke the words that we are examining. The very fact that he was being approached by his enemies in the manner they came to him is, in and of itself, an indication that he had already established a reputation of being in resistance to illicit and improper authority. Jesus was well aware that government had an innate tendency to want to over step its legitimate parameters. He was keenly aware that the state was reflexively inclined toward trying to induce its subjects to respond to its edicts in what amounted to a worshipful mind set and posture. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus stated, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." If the state is placing a demand upon that which belongs to God, an inevitable conflict arises in the life of the Christian believer. To yield to the state in such an instance is equal to the dethroning of God. If an individual opts for such a course of direction he is, in reality, trying to serve two masters. God simply will not honor or tolerate such divided loyalty!
THE COMPULSION TO COMPROMISE
What is it that causes men to be so quick to compromise their convictions? Why are even professing Christians so inclined to buy into false teaching concerning matters such as the render unto Caesar controversy? If you recall, Jesus said that you cannot serve God and mammon. When it comes right down to the nitty gritty, it is really a question of the love of money that we are dealing with. To stand firm for belief and principle often requires that we be subjected to abuse and persecution. Such is especially true if the entity that we are standing in opposition to is government. The state has ways of putting acute financial pressure on those who dare to resist its oppressive authority. The path of least resistance is the one that will insure material comfort and security. At the root of what motivates the person who insists on rendering to Caesar that which is Gods is a problem called the love of money. 1 Timothy 6:10 instructs us, "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." The love of money or the desire to serve mammon, is a common pitfall that prevents men from being able to properly understand scripture such as that which commands the rendering to Caesar only that which is his. To render unto God that which he has rightful claim to requires a great deal of sacrifice and commitment...including the willingness to bear the brunt of hostile resistance and persecution. It is an unfortunate fact of life that even most ostensibly Christian individuals are not prepared to follow such a pathway in the outworking of their lives. It is much easier to simply cave in to all the usurpatious whims of civil authority, and the popular doctrinal misconceptions regarding this subject only serve to make the journey into compromise that much easier.
LOOKING AT SPECIFIC EXAMPLES
The modern church purports to teach and instruct men about God. As has previously been pointed out, the institution of government has developed a relationship with the church wherein they work in a cooperative manner to control the behavior of the masses of the population. Part of the bargain between the civil and the religious powers is that the state is allowed to make blatant encroachments into the realm which God has reserved Biblically unto himself. The modern church fails to blow the whistle at these offenses, and in fact, even offers a modicum of sanction through twisted doctrinal incantations the likes of which we have been reviewing. Along these lines, there is probably no greater area of willful compromise within the contemporary church institutions than that of the manner in which the raising and instructing of children has been surrendered over to the oversight of government. Psalm 127:3-5 states, "(3) Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. (4) As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. (5) Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate." The Word of God goes on to say in Deuteronomy 6:4-7, "(4) Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; (5) And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (6) And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: (7) And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." In Proverbs 22:6 we read, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." In the epistle to the church at Ephesus Paul the apostle writes in Ephesians 6:4, "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." In these and other Biblical verses we have clearly set forth an imperative from on high to properly raise and educate children. Scripture is forcefully specific and unambiguous as to what the responsibilities of those rearing children are. They are to be brought up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord", "trained up" in the way they should go, and taught "diligently" the words that God has commanded. Children are "an heritage of the Lord" and to treat them as anything other than the awesome and profound blessing and responsibility that they are constitutes gross sin and rebellion against the will and plan of God.
If ever an example were ripe for citation as an illustration of how the modern church has become an advocate for rendering unto Caesar the things that are Gods, this is certainly it! Public education in America is, in fact, government education. We dont have "public schools," but rather, government schools. The state has completely and illicitly usurped jurisdiction over the educational enterprise in our modern society, and in the process, Satan has gained a mighty victory! The level of deception that has been spawned by the secular takeover of schooling is truly mind numbing. And to think of the complicity and collusion of the church in the outworking of this crime is a gut wrenching, nauseating exercise indeed! What manner of blood is on the hands of those religious leaders who have conspired with the state to steal the souls of untold millions of little ones? And what of the parents who have been so quick to surrender over their children into the jaws of so vile and despicable an institution as the government school? Our nation is clearly reaping the whirlwind of judgement that is so richly deserved in light of the crime of having offered up our children on the altar of godless humanism! Turning children over to government for educational and other purposes is the epitome of rendering to Caesar the things that are Gods! Dont hold your breath, however, in hopes of ever hearing this truth proclaimed from the pulpit of the modern church. They are not about to own up to the gross sin that they have for so long been guilty of!
Another area where we find flagrant violation of the "render unto Caesar" principle is in the manner in which the contemporary church is established. As we have already pointed out, churches today are legally chartered under the auspices of the Internal Revenue Code. Specifically, it is under Title 26 of Federal law that the designation is granted of being a 501(c)3, "tax exempt" institution. Accompanying that status are rules and regulations that govern the conduct and activity of the church or ministry in question. Major Christian entities have been known to practice self censorship while stating up front that they must do such in order to avoid putting their tax exempt status in jeopardy! It is obvious to any thinking person that such an arrangement creates a situation where the state is in the ultimate position of authority. To think that Jesus, the prophets, or the apostles would have accepted or advocated such an arrangement is utterly preposterous and absurd. The fact that the modern church has bowed the knee to Baal in such blatant fashion goes a long way toward explaining and accounting for the utter impotence and powerlessness of organized Christianity in our modern world! Has the church rendered unto Caesar the things that are Gods by becoming a corporate creature under the guidelines of Title 26? There can be no doubt whatsoever that such is precisely the case!
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
It is important to note that we have only scratched the surface of this controversy in this article. There are numerous other areas wherein the modern church has blatantly abdicated its God ordained role and responsibility, thereby entering into a flagrant violation of the command that Jesus issued to render to God the things that are his. The obedient Christian must come to an understanding of what Godly resistance to evil tyranny is all about. Most professing believers today allow themselves to be led into grievous doctrinal error by the hirelings that occupy the pulpits throughout America. Instead of reading the Scripture and coming to an understanding of clear and undiluted truth, they become infected by a spirit of fear and compromise. Nevertheless... there is no excuse for such behavior in the final analysis. God requires that we stand upon the truth, and come what may, that we bear the consequences. In Acts 5:29 Peter said, "...We ought to obey God rather than men." This bold pronouncement is as relevant and valid today as it ever has been. To submit to mans ungodly edicts in violation of Gods clearly stated principles is nothing less than sin! Yes, there may be a price associated with doing that which is right in the eyes of God. The Apostles were beaten for their refusal to cave in to wicked dictates, but according to Acts 5:41 they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name! In 2 Timothy 3:12 Paul said, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." In spite of the fact that the modern church has figured out how to circumvent this reality, it remains an unavoidable component of the true Christian faith. Those who are determined to enjoy a peaceful co-existence with the forces of evil should sincerely consider that they may, in fact, be standing and living on foundations of sand instead of the Rock of all ages, Jesus Christ!