Render Appropriately

I’ve never personally heard anyone love tax time. Maybe you have, but I always hear things like, “I’ve got to go and meet with our accountant,” or “Let’s see how much the government is stealing this year.” It seems those who are paying taxes hate it, those who are calculating taxes hate it, and those who are collecting taxes hate it. Everyone seems to hate tax time.

Add to this misery the constant complaint that our taxes are used to fund things we disagree with and you’ve got a volatile situation. The Federal Government spends $930 million on unnecessary printing, $175 million on maintaining vacant buildings, and $35 million on “phantom” medical clinics that were set up by criminal gangs to extract money from the government. If those aren’t bad enough, $3 million was spent to fund research on World of Warcraft players, $862,000 was spent to store unused furniture, and $700,000 was spent to study the effects of bovine burping on our environment. When you consider what is happening with our taxes, it makes it hard to get motivated to send that check.

Yet, no matter how we feel about it, we must pay our taxes. Uncle Sam has made it clear that taxes must be paid. We even have the old adage, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” God has also made it clear that we pay our tax bill.

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away (Matthew 22.15-22).

Those things stamped with the image of Caesar belonged to Caesar. This was way for the crowds to see and understand. They owed taxes because taxes belonged to Caesar. But there’s another lesson in what Jesus said here.

Coins are stamped with the images of their maker. Or maybe another way to view this is that they are imaged with the face of the one who had authority over them. Caesar controlled the government, and therefore he controlled the currency.

We are stamped with the image of God. We are told that we are made in His image (cf. Genesis 1.26-27; 5.1-2; James 3.9). This means that He is our maker and we belong to Him. Because He has authority over us, He has the right to control us. If we are to give our currency to our government who issues it and has authority over it, then we must give ourselves to our God who has issued us and has authority over us.

This is how we “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” We should be unattached to our earthly things and become only attached to our God. We are made to bear His image. He is our maker. He is our authority. He is our God.