On His last day in church, Jesus did a great amount of teaching. Once this was completed, the religious leadership began to pepper Him with questions, attempting to trip Him up and create a controversy among His followers. The first question posed is on fire at this moment. “How do I relate to my government?”
Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?
Life and politics in the day of Jesus was not all that different from our current experience. Extremists abounded then as today. These groups, polemically opposed, fought with equal ferocity to prove that they were correct and anyone who dared to contradict them was dreadfully wrong. Sounds a lot like America today, does it not?
The Pharisees thought religion was supreme. Everything in life was to be run by God, or at least their interpretation of God. They fought against paying taxes like wild tigers and hated every moment and penny of the process. The Herodians, basically the political party of Herod which had an inside track to the Temple, thought the state was supreme. They argued that money should go to state issues, not religious ideas.
Back up for a moment and look at how utterly ridiculous that mob must have appeared. Here, united in purpose, were two groups which were planets apart in belief systems. Political opportunists who, on any given day hated each other with passion. Suddenly, they had but one purpose. They wanted to trip up Jesus and find some way, any way, of making Him an enemy of the masses. Funny, I guess politics does make strange bedfellows!
What did Jesus do? How did He respond to the extremes? He brought them to the middle. He pointed out to the religionists that the state did indeed have a legitimate claim on their lives. At the same time He pointed out to the secularists that God had a place in their society.. In our day of savage politics, smear tactics and outright lying by those seeking the spotlight, perhaps we need to embrace the teaching of Jesus once more about relating to our government.
The secularists, and I lump in this group many who are “religious atheists,” by that I mean those who seek to use the Bible, the church, Jesus…any part of the faith that is convenient…but have no intention of actually serving Christ, need to know without doubt that this nation needs God. This country needs a praying, on fire church. They should also realize we are not going away. We are not going to be silent. We are not going to be shamed, prosecuted, or even persecuted to the point we close shop and go home. We are going to proclaim the name of Jesus to any and all who will listen as long as breath is in our body.
Meanwhile, those of us I call religionists, and by that I mean the church which is sold out to Jesus, seeking His will and serving Him as best as possible, must remember a state run by religion alone has never fared well and never will. In fact, looking at history tells us the church seems to be at her best when times are at their worst. As much as I loathe the criticisms, the barbs, and outright lies hurled at the church, the same laws which allow them to speak their opinion allow me to speak mine.
So, how do we live? What do we, as believers, do in these troubling times? We pay our taxes. We do not cheat or swindle people. We honor our leaders and pray for them. However, let no one misread our Christ-like manner. We put serving our God first. We do our best to be good neighbors and wonderful employees. We weigh in on issues where we can make life better and give to assist people who despise our way of life. We will continue our best to make known the simple truths of the gospel. We are clear that all men are sinners and Jesus came to atone for our sin. The only way to heaven is through surrender to Him.
That being done, when the conflict comes down to Him or them, we choose Him and suffer whatever consequences arise. God will use a church such as that for His glory. He will, as He did with the small group gathered around Jesus that final day in church, equip and empower us to stand faithful and true to the heavenly calling He has given and will make us effective instruments in the last day harvest of souls. May He find in us just such a people!