6th Sunday after Pentecost July 1, 2018
575, 579, 578, 577
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Almighty God, keep this nation under Your care, we pray. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Help us provide trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and thus serve You faithfully in our generation to the honor of Your holy name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.
Dear fellow redeemed in Jesus Christ, fellow heirs of eternal life in Christ Jesus,
My wife’s family has an interesting situation when it comes to their citizenship. Each member of their family is a citizen of the United States of America, but their home is in British Columbia, Canada. They have all the rights and privileges of U.S. citizens, even though they do not live or work in the U.S. They can vote in U.S. elections, even though they are currently ruled by the Canadian government. Though they work in Canada, they still have to fill out a form 1040 and pay income taxes in the United States. They have United States passports, but Canadian drivers licenses. To add another twist to their citizenship, my father-in-law was born in Nigeria, Africa while his father served as a missionary there. So he is a United States citizen who was born in Africa and lives in Canada.
So it is quite interesting situation they are in, being U.S. citizens but living in another nation. And yet, couldn’t every Christian say this of themselves? When God brings someone to faith in Christ Jesus, He makes that person a member of His kingdom. Heaven is now the homeland of every believer. The Apostle Peter calls us “sojourners and pilgrims.” We are temporarily passing through this life on our way to our eternal homeland of heaven. Jesus has secured our visas for heaven by rising from the dead and our passports are stamped with His blood.
If heaven is our homeland, what then is our responsibility here on earth? Since God is the supreme Judge of our souls, do we still have to yield to the laws of man? As we approach our nation’s holiday of the 4th of July, let us consider our dual citizenship as Christians. Whether or not you live in the United States, the truths of God’s Word about our dual citizenship still apply. Let us seek to keep in mind our responsibilities as a citizen of this world and citizens of the kingdom of heaven. May God, by His Holy Spirit, ever help us to be faithful citizens! Amen.
We are told that if you want to keep your friends, there are two things you should never talk about—religion and politics. It seems that everyone has different religious views and different political views, and are deeply passionate about both. If you express your own views, you run the risk of ruffling feathers. It seems that the Pharisees and Herodians were counting on that as they approached Jesus in our text. The Pharisees were a sect of Jewish religious leaders and the Herodians were loyal followers of the political leader, Herod. Here we have the religious leaders and political leaders coming together to try and trap Jesus in His words.
They approach Him with smooth words and flattering speech, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” These hypocritical men try to butter Jesus up with compliments. They thought they had set the perfect trap. The Jewish people despised the Roman government and the ungodly Caesar Tiberius. So if Jesus told them that they should pay their taxes to Caesar, the people would surely turn on Jesus. On the other hand, if Jesus were to forbid paying taxes to Caesar, the Herodians would report Him to Pilate and have Him arrested as a man who defied the laws of Caesar.
While these men thought they had trapped Jesus with their cleaver question, Jesus cannot be fooled. He really is true and teaches the way of God in truth. “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.” While His enemies thought they had the upper-hand, as always, Jesus shows Himself to be the Master Teacher. They brought Jesus a denarius—a coin worth less than twenty-five cents. He asked, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” They thought they had asked the perfect question to entrap Jesus, but the Master Teacher uses their question as a teaching tool for all generations.
First, Jesus teaches us about our responsibility as citizens of this world. The Pharisees along with most Jews of the day hated being ruled by the heathen, Gentile government of Caesar and Rome. They thought that since they were the people of God they should not be subject to anyone. The Jews would have liked nothing more than to be told that they don’t have to pay taxes to this ungodly ruler. Yet Jesus says, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”
We can identify with that sentiment, can’t we? Which one of us wouldn’t love to be told that since we are Christians we no longer have to pay our taxes? But Jesus gives us no such permission, does He. In fact, He speaks about our responsibility to the governing authorities. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” Caesar for us today (as Americans) is the U.S. government, the states we live in, as well as the county and city. Jesus teaches us that we are to render to our government what is due them.
Our responsibility to the governing authorities goes far beyond the question of paying taxes. Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul teach us that the governing authorities are placed over us by the ultimate authority— God. The Bible says, “For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” (Romans 13:1b) The U.S. government and its leaders are placed there by God.
We are blessed in this land that if we disagree withthe political positions of our leaders, we have the opportunity to express our disagreement with our votes every two, four, or six years. But as long as thatan or woman is in office, they are there because it is God’s will for them to b there—for better or for worse. God had the ungodly tyrant Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus and the governor Pontius Pilate in authority at the time ofeus. Though we may disagree with the rulers, though they may be unfaithful to Gd that does not give us the excuse to rebel against them. In fact, in Romans3Pul says that when someone resists the governing authorities, they are in fc esisting GOD. Tiberius claimed the authority of a deity anda obe worshiped—yet Jesus says to render to him the things that are due him. Though a later Caesar would outlaw and kill Christians, Paul and Peter tahu that we are still to render what is due to them.
What is due to the leaders God has placed over us?The Apostle Paul writes, “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:7) In 1 Timothy 2, Paul writes that God wants us to pray for all mn, especially “for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead uiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” And the Aotle Peter teaches us to “honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:17)
God is the ultimate authority. He has placed thegoverning authorities over us to rule over us in matters of the body. To rebel against the government would be to rebel against God Himself. The only time were given permission to disobey an order of the authorities is when they tell us t do something that is contrary to God’s Word. For instance when Nebuchadnezzaromanded that all people bow down to his statue and worship it, Shadrach, Msach, and Abed-Nego did not lead a revolution, but silently refused to bowon When Peter and the Apostles were commanded to stop preaching Jesus Christ adHm crucified, Peter replied, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) But in all other matters which do not go against God’s Word, wer ogive honor, fear, taxes, and pray for those in authority over us. This is orCrstian responsibility as citizens of this world.
We are not only citizens of this world, but God in His grace has called us to a greater citizenship. By bringing us to faith in Jesus, He has made us citizens of the kingdom of heaven. “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19) Heaven is our home. And what is our responsibility as citizens of the kingdom of heaven? Jesus addresses this matter too when He speaks of rendering “to God the things that are God’s.”
But what are the things that are God’s? In short— everything is God’s. The earth and everything in it belongs to God. He is the author and giver of life. He also sustains life by giving seed to the sower, bread to the eater, sunshine, and rain to produce crops. But the “things that are God’s” go far beyond that.
What have we given God in return for His providing for our bodies? Sin. You need only consider our relationship with the government HE has given us to see our sin. How often have we failed to pray for those in authority over us? How seldom do we honor and fear our rulers? How often do we resist those God has placed over us—maybe not physically, but in our hearts? How often have we thought about cheating on our taxes either because we don’t agree with the things the government is doing or because we think we deserve to keep more of our money? This is but a small sampling of our sin.
But God has given us more than just physical life and sustenance, something far more valuable and precious—His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ. He gave His Son as a sacrifice for our sin. He placed our sins of rebellion and disrespect on His only begotten Son and punished Him in our place. Jesus died to set us free. In raising Jesus from the dead God declared us not guilty of our sin. And when we could not come to faith in His Son for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, God too, did that for us. He called us and made us His own by the work of His Holy Spirit in our hearts. Through the Gospel in Word and Baptism, He brought us to faith in Jesus Christ.
We are His twice over! He gave us physical life and spiritual life. So what are “the things that are God’s?” WE are the things that are God’s! “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Our lives, our all, belong to God. Jesus purchased us with His own blood and God set us apart as His own by giving us His Holy Spirit. Therefore we give God all the glory and praise both in our body and in our spirit, which are God’s. We worship Him with our lips, with our hearts, and with our daily lives. What is our responsibility as citizens of the kingdom of heaven? To live our lives to the glory of God who loved us and saved us!
This is our dual citizenship as Christians. We have responsibility to our government as citizens of this world. We pray for those God has placed in authority over us. Whether or not they are honorable makes no difference, we give them honor and fear because that is the will of our God. We gladly pay our taxes to glorify our God. But our lives, our soul, our very being belong to God. As citizens of the kingdom of heaven we look to glorify God in our body and our spirit which God has purchased with the blood of His own Son. In love for the Savior, may we give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s, and thereby honor both God and the government He graciously provides.
Christ, by heavenly hosts adored, Gracious, mighty, sovereign Lord,
God of nations, King of kings, Head of all created things,
By the Church with joy confessed, God o’er all, forever blest-
Pleading at Thy throne we stand: Save Thy people, bless our land. Amen. (TLH 566:1)
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.