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Rendering to
Caesar or God.

Rendering to Caesar - Sorting out what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God.

No one in the world seems to wrestle with what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God. It isn't even a controversy. Of course you are obligated to pay taxes to Caesar. Everyone knows that. But if this question is so easy to answer today, why did the spies who tried to trap Jesus marvel at His answer? Why were they silent after He responded?

To understand the famous render unto Caesar passage, we need to know what was happening shortly before Jesus was questioned about the paying taxes to Caesar.

The twentieth chapter of Luke starts out with the chief priests and scribes, together with the elders, confronting Jesus about where He obtained His authority. He is a carpenter's son. He obviously has not been educated or ordained by them to preach or teach. Nor does He have a medical license to heal. Who in the world does He think He is?

Jesus outwitted them by asking them a question:

"I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?" And they discussed it with one another, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will say, 'Why did you not believe him?' But if we say, 'From man,' all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet."

So they answered that they did not know where he came from. And Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things." Luke 20:3-8

Rather than answer the question directly, Jesus asked them a question they did not want to answer.

What was left unspoken is that Jesus obtained His authority from God the Father. Not only did Jesus have greater authority than the chief priests, scribes and elders, He was given the ultimate authority. At the close of His earthly life Jesus proclaimed, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me." Matthew 28:18

The religious leaders of the day rejected Jesus, the cornerstone. He was a threat to their power and authority. They feared that if people followed Jesus, they would lose their position and their nation. The high priest reasoned, "it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." John 11:48, 50

Now the stage is set for the question about paying taxes to Caesar. These leaders wanted to force Jesus to take an open stand against the Roman occupying forces. If they could trap Jesus, they could bring charges against Him.

Everyone's familiar with this passage. Even ears that are deaf to parables about vineyards and lost sheep suddenly perk up. Wow! What does Jesus say about paying taxes? This passage is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. I'm reading from Luke, Chapter 20, verses 20-26:

Remember, His enemies are hoping to trick Him.

So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. So they asked him, "Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God.

"Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?" But he perceived their craftiness, and he said to them, "Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?" They said, "Caesar's."

He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.

Once again, Jesus overcame them, leaving no cause to arrest Him. Even though his answer was perfect, later they made false accusations against Him to discredit His authority saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King. (Luke 23:2)

Since they couldn't trick Jesus into saying what they wanted Him to say, they had to lie. They reasoned, "If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." (John 11:48)

Now it's our turn to try to understand what Jesus meant. How we interpret this passage depends on who is our authority and what our status is in the world.

When you hear "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's," your own heart will determine who you need to render to.

This passage sets apart those who are in the world from those who have been called out of the world. Those who are working for money see the obligation they owe to Caesar. Those who are working for God see their obligation to render to God.

For truly 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. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24

The coin shown with Caesar's image represents those who are in the world system, working and serving money. At Jesus' crucifixion trial the mob yelled, "We have no king but Caesar." If that is your status, whatever taxes are due Caesar, pay them. That is what your master demands.

However, if you've joined God's camp and work and serve Him, you're living like the birds. You're not taking Caesar's benefits and privileges. If you've left Babylon and are obeying His commands, you render to God what is God's.

But what about rendering to Caesar? If you are taking nothing from Caesar and all you do is in God's Kingdom, what is your obligation to Caesar? Simple. You have the continuing debt to love and pray for the Caesars of the world, so that you may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Timothy 2:2)

Figuring out what to render to Caesar or to God can be confusing if you are in that hardest of positions - trying to serve God, while still working and receiving benefits from the Matrix.

In our early days of seeking the Kingdom of Heaven, we became involved for a short time with the Quakers, also called The Friends Church. If you are familiar with the Quakers, you know they are pacifists. They hate war or any preparation for war. "Love your enemies" and "Do not resist evil" are among the chief tenets of their faith.

But the Quakers had a dilemma. They could not in good conscience pay taxes that went toward war, weapons, or killing. They grappled intently with the passage, "Render unto Caesar." They longed to understand it and proposed many theories.

Some of these Quakers said it doesn't matter what the taxes are spent on. We have a duty to pay the taxes we owe to Caesar. It is not our business to dictate what Caesar does with the money once it is handed over.

But other Quakers argued that we must answer to God for whatever evil things are done with the money we provide to Caesar. If we support war and killing with our money, won't God hold us accountable? We earned the funds. We have a choice on whether to hand the funds over to Caesar. They quoted from Matthew's gospel, "Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own?" Matthew 20:15

They examined the pie charts and showed where the federal tax dollars were spent. Approximately half the tax budget in the United States is spent on war-related activities.

Six or seven men in our Quaker Friends group decided on a radical plan. They would calculate the taxes that they personally owed. Since half of the tax budget went toward war, they would only pay fifty percent of the taxes owed and withhold the other half to protest the taxes for war. They agreed to suffer whatever punishment was meted out for their actions, rather than paying for armed violence against others.

The tax enforcement agency had no sympathy for the Quakers. They ruled that these war protestors were guilty of filing frivolous tax returns by paying only fifty percent of the taxes that they owed. The Quakers were fined and sent to prison for two years - a harsh sentence. The taxing agency intended to make an example out of them, to deter others from following their lead.

These men were professionals with well-paying jobs as administrators, university professors, and social workers. We were sad to see them sent to the lockup.

Two years later, upon their release from prison, most were penniless and homeless. Their material wealth was gone. During their prison stint, they had no steady income so they lost their houses, their cars were repossessed, and furniture and other possessions were sold just to help feed and clothe their families.

They had been compelled to forsake their worldly goods and one man also lost his wife and children through divorce. When they were released from prison, these tax protestors were in an excellent position to start preaching the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven. They had been forced to make the decision that most people find so difficult - letting go of possessions, houses, paying jobs and unbelieving family.

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Luke 6:20

Now they had a big choice to make. Would they start preaching the gospel as one of God's dependents, living by faith? Or would they seek out a full-time job and reluctantly start paying those war taxes that they found so detestable?

Sadly, most, if not all of them, went back into the system and started working for money again. And I don't think they were any wiser about what to render to Caesar and what to render to God. Were they still tormented because they were financing the war effort? I don't know.

The Quakers never could understand who to render to, because they were trying to serve two masters. They were unwilling to give up their well-paying corporate jobs and work full time for the King. Even though they saw the wickedness of the Matrix, they lacked the faith to step out of it and be dependent on God for their every need. Then they could render to God what is God's. And do it with a clear conscience.

Now it's your turn to decide. Who are you rendering to? If you're still obligated to render to Caesar, how would you like some new dreams? What if you woke up each morning, not to an alarm, but to birds singing. Every day would be different, but satisfying. You would be given a ministry to find souls who wanted to hear some good news about an abundant life that brings peace, joy and liberty.

Jesus came to set the prisoners free. He came for the poor, the suffering, the downtrodden, the lost. Many people are bound up by disease, by hate, by jobs that are stealing the life out of them. If you start living by Faith, you can show your neighbors how they, too, can be forgiven and set free by following Jesus.

Instead of owing the best part of their day to an employer, they could be living in freedom as they advance the Kingdom of Heaven. No more focusing on earthly treasures. As they demonstrate God's love and forgiveness to friends and foes, their treasures are building up in the Heavenly realm.

But how do we render to God? We render to God by losing our life to do His will and advance His Kingdom. Yes, we continue to work, but not in secular commerce. We work in God's commerce.

So, if you're still in the Matrix, don't cheat Caesar. Pay whatever taxes are owed. But don't deceive yourself into thinking you can pay taxes to Caesar and render to God what is owed to God. That's what went wrong with the Quakers. They thought they could serve both God and money.

God doesn't want 10 percent of your earnings. He wants all of you. He doesn't want you using your energy and talents, building up a world system that opposes Him. Choose this day whom you will serve. Give your full allegiance to that Master. Then you will have peace with rendering unto Caesar or to God because you won't be trying to serve both.

Some peacemakers have learned that the way to quit paying taxes to Caesar is to live in voluntary poverty. The taxing rate for zero income is zero. If you're not working for money, you won't be financing the wars and other sins of the Matrix.

Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:3-5

May His Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.

Wake up and repent. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.