As we draw closer to another presidential election, the lines of demarcation within churches are becoming exceedingly clear. Political agendas are running roughshod over theological ideals while Christians quote scriptures to justify their actions, or lack thereof.
As the lie of “separation of church and state” continues to maintain traction in the church, there is yet another twisted theology which is being touted to validate the support of political leanings which endorse wicked schemes such as abortion and homosexual marriage – this is called “rendering unto Caesar.” Simply explained, the idea is that Jesus drew a line between matters of God’s people and the activities of the government; therefore, even though something of the government is deemed objectionable to the ethics of God, an individual can still support it without accountability for the reason that it is a political matter (of Caesar).
An excursus: The worst case of deception is self deception. When we begin to deceive ourselves, we relieve the forces of evil from having to expend any form of energy in deceiving us. They can simply sit back and laugh while we make fools of ourselves. End of excursus.
A better understanding of Mark 12:15-17 (and additional passages) not only disputes the notion of separations, but also calls us to accountability in the affairs of our government in light of the God we serve.
In Mark 12:15, Jesus was answering a trick question concerning taxation. He asked for the one coin which had been specially issued explicitly for the paying of taxes – the denarius. On one side of this coin was the depiction of Emperor Tiberius with the likeness of his mother, Livia, on the opposite. Inscribed on the coin was “Augustus Tiberius, son of the Divine Augustus.” In the eyes of a Jew, this was a pocket-sized idol. Ironically, it was the questioners who had the coin in their possession, not Jesus.
When Jesus asked the question in verse 16, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” the answer given was, “Caesar’s.” In the original language (Greek), the case of this noun is genitive, which simply means possessive. In other words, it was “of Caesar” or “belonging to Caesar.” Therefore, what they had in their custody actually belonged to someone else. This is an important point, but only in the grand context that the only reason anything belongs to anyone is because the ultimate owner (God) has deemed it so.
In the subsequent verse, Jesus told those questioning Him to give back to Caesar what belonged to Caesar. Jesus did not suggest they give to him, rather that they should return what they had. This simply meant they were to respect the state. However, the second part of this verse (“…and unto God the things that are God’s”) delineates the overarching authority. The limitation of the state was with the Almighty God. Even though the inscription on the denarius said, “son of the Divine Augustus,” the only divinity to be recognized was and still is the living God.
As His children, God claims His sovereign right to all of our obedience and commitment (Deut. 6:5). When we presume to hand over what belongs to God (such as our ultimate allegiance) to the government, we in turn render unto Caesar what is God’s.
Our duties to the state are only within the boundaries of God’s will. Because God has spoken concerning the ethical and moral systems by which we are to live, we are bound to His allegiance and none other.
Being bought by the blood of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we must not turn our faces from the One who has redeemed us to give attention to the institutions of men. To embrace a political agenda which directly affronts the ethos of God is to belittle the Cross. The attempt to justify the support of wickedness as “rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s” is merely an exercise in mental gymnastics.
“The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” Psalm 24:1