Reading through a different devotional now about God the potter and us, the clay. I’m on the second chapter, and there was something that caught my eye. I’m not sure if the author intended to emphasize this paragraph, but God definitely wanted me to hear it!
The author writes, “A group of Pharisees and Herodians, attempting to trap Jesus with their cunning questions, asked ‘What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?’ (Matthew 22:17)”
If you are familiar with this story, Jesus’ response is that we should give Caesar what’s his and to give God’s what’s his.
I had always understood this story to refer to taxes and tithing, and perhaps it still does, but the author gives a different perspective: “Jesus drew their attention to Tiberius’ image engraved in a Roman coin ….. From this perspective, if the coin belongs to Caesar because it bears his image, what belongs to God? Where is God’s image engraved? Each of us reflects God’s likeness because we were created in His image. Give to Caesar and the world what they so cherish, and give ourselves to God”.
As I reflected upon the author’s scripture reference and her interpretation, I was reminded of a few other scripture references that I think directly relate to Jesus’ story:
First, God expects us to submit to our worldly authorities. In Romans 13:1-7, Paul writes, “Every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:”
From these verses, I understand that God expects us to submit to earthly authorities and obey the laws instituted by our governmental authorities.
Also, in Romans 12:1-2, Paul writes, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”.
I believe in some respect Romans 12:1-2 can be further explained by Paul’s words in Galatians 5:16-23:”This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law”.
I mention these two separate groups of verses for one reason: the author has written that we are to give the world what it wants and give God what He wants. Lest we think that the author implies that we live double lives — sin 6 days of the week and then pray for forgiveness on Sunday — I think it’s important that the scriptures speak of submitting to earthly authorities — obeying the law and paying taxes as they are due. In all other things, realize that as we are created in the image of God, which means we are also expected to obey God’s laws which mean obeying the commandments and ordinances and walking by the spirit and not by the flesh.
I had memorized the verses in Romans, but I would have never thought they could relate to the story in Matthew about what we should give to our government and what we should give to God. But money is money – so, I suppose without thinking of the images of the coin and the image of God, I think it is easy to think that Jesus is simply referring to tithing and taxes.
What do you think? Do you agree with the author, or do you have a different interpretation of the verses in Matthew? I’d love to hear your thoughts!