Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Caesar and God

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
Matthew 22:15-22


‘Caesar’ here represents every other call on our obedience, love and devotion other than God. Therefore it is not just about government or political authority but anything that can take us away from God or conflicts with our call to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength.

That to that extent ‘Caesar’ represents other conflicting demands on our lives that take us away from worshipping, honouring and obeying God.

And so ‘Caesar’ can be family, friends, entertainment, hobbies, anything that demands that God is relegated to second place in your life. This comes into the sharpest relief in two ways. Our daily and our weekly obligations as Christians.

Daily, it is the time spent with God. How many people say they don’t have time to spend in prayer? They lead such busy lives that they can’t event spare ten or twenty minutes for prayer. The question then needs to be asked, what is the ‘Caesar’ in their lives that takes such authority over them that they have to obey its demands and ignore that of the Lord? What things have such sway over their daily timetables that they feel they must give way to that over time with God?

Weekly, it is Sunday worship. Keeping the Sabbath Day holy, at the very least, means worship for an hour or so in the morning. And yet for some, that demand is set aside for the greater authority - the 'Caesar' - in their lives which comes in the form of other things, events or people.

Now that is not to say that sometimes urgent things do crop up over which we have little or no control. And our Christian forebears made the very Biblical exceptions for what they termed 'works of mercy' or need. But how often are these legitimate excuses for not rendering service to God?

And so to them, and us, Jesus says plainly and challengingly, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s (but) to God’ what is God’s.

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