Mark – God is On Our Side!
Many of us do not like math. Some do. Yea for you. But most of us avoid it because it requires thinking from the opposite side of the brain. Therefore many of us put off balancing our checkbooks and just go with what the bank tells us we have in our account for that day. In this world of instant debit, (the charge hits before you get home), you can do that. But years ago…not so much.
A very close relative of mine used a method of accounting in his early years that I would not recommend. He joyfully looked at his monthly bank statement as if it were his lottery ticket to win or lose. If he had a money left in the final column, he preceded to go spend it, not thinking about checks still out and not included in the statement for that month. AND if he still had checks, then he also concluded he still had money. (Now, I’m laughing out loud, remembering this folly of thinking.) Needless to say, he got into financial trouble more than once until he “figured” out the way of accounting.
Jesus teaches us a lesson in accounting that stumped those who were trying to trap Him. Amusingly, the religious leaders come at Jesus, first with fake flattery. “We know how honest you are”…then they ask a personal question about paying taxes. Taxes, really? Benjamin Franklin is known to quote, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. It was the same in the Roman world that Jesus came to save.
Jesus, as always, comes from God’s vantage point of thinking which is higher than Ben Franklin’s. “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” But guess what, ALL we have belongs to God if you really stop to think about it.
I have learned in my life that you can never “out give” God. We feel obedient when we give our recommended ten percent in the offering plate. We love God back when we give back in the form of offerings on top of tithes to special mission works and other projects that help people find and follow Jesus. Then God seems to provide more for us to give. However, we don’t give because of this blessing, we give because we trust and obey God.
But I’m thinking at this moment that Jesus is taking our thinking beyond all of what is required monetarily. God created us to love Him back like He first loved us. ALL is the key word here. Money is not the issue. Paying the government is not really the topic at hand. Giving ourselves back to the One who created us might be more what Jesus is helping us understand.
Paying the government what they ask is of this earth. It is in the same category as buying groceries, making house and car payments and other “of this world” stuff. But what belongs to God is our very souls. Let us stay focused on that as we read this interaction between the Son of God and mere humans who are not life accounting geniuses.
Mark 12, NLT
Taxes for Caesar
13 Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 14 “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?”
Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” 16 When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
17 “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
His reply completely amazed them.
GOING DEEPER STILL…
DO THE MATH…
A common threat forced two enemies to unite, the Pharisees and the Herodians. The Herodians supported the family of Herod as well as the Romans who gave them the authority to rule. The Pharisees, however, considered the Herod clan to be the evil usurpers of the throne of David, for, after all, Herod was an Edomite and not a Jew. The Pharisees also opposed the poll tax that the Romans had inflicted on Judea, and they resented the very presence of Rome in their land.
Their temporary alliance was a subtle trap, for no matter how Jesus replied to their question, He was in trouble with either Rome or Herod! But Jesus moved the discussion from politics to principle and caught the hypocrites in their own trap.We might state our Lord’s reply something like this: “Caesar’s image is on his coins, so they must be minted by his authority. The fact that you possess these coins and use them indicates that you think they are worth something. Therefore, you are already accepting Caesar’s authority, or you would not use his money! But don’t forget that you were created in the image of God and therefore must live under God’s authority as well.”
The word translated “render” in Mark 12:17 means “to pay a debt, to pay back.” Jesus looked on taxes as the citizens’ debt to the government in return for the services performed. Today those services would include, among other things, fire and police protection, national defense, the salaries of the officials who manage the affairs of state, special programs for the poor and underprivileged, etc. The individual Christian citizen might not agree with the way all of his tax money is used, and he can express himself with his voice and his vote, but he must accept the fact that God has established human government for our good (Rom. 13; 1 Tim. 2:1–6; 1 Peter 2:13–17). Even if we cannot respect the people in office, we must respect the office.
ON TOP OF ALL THAT…We belong to God…Heart, Mind and Soul. Be good citizens where God has placed you. Be good stewards of all He has given to us to manage. But most of all, as believers, we belong to God. Our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, His Son is the most important relationship we have. Give to God what belongs to God…us!
PAUSE AND REFLECT?
Whose likeness is inscribe on us?
Dear Heavenly Father, Lord and Savior
Thank you for setting us straight on what belongs to this world and who belongs to You. You are God and we belong to You. This is the best place to be. Thank you for all you have done, are doing and will do in our lives. Thank you for leading us to give in this world our of respect and honor for You. Thank you for helping us to manage what you have given to us. Continue to help us to manage and to give cheerfully and honestly in all forms. Help us not to dwell on taxes and death but to think of life abundant with You in charge! I give myself back to You. I love You with all that is in me.
In Jesus Name, Amen. I believe.