“On Your Mark”
Render Unto Caesar (Chapter 12 Verses 13-17)
The idea is again to catch Jesus out, so there are no holds barred. Now normally speaking the Jews would have no truck with the Herodians (v13). But for their present purposes they are not fussy, anyone will do. Their words are coated with flattery, and deceit (v14), only a fool would have been taken in by them, certainly not Jesus (John 2.24-25). They pretend on this point of practical theology, to want to know God’s will, but in reality the question is raised in order to snare Jesus. The truth is what they get, without fear or favour (v15). Intending to dig a hole for Jesus, they fall into it themselves, head-first (v16). The question of Jesus seems so innocent, and they without hesitation answer with the utmost clarity (v16b). The answer is brilliant (v17). The money they produced is their own, so that means they use and accept it. Their nation in the providence of God, belongs to the Roman Empire (Romans 13.1-7), and the use of this currency was one of the privileges of that Empire, which they obviously not only used, but enjoyed. Both obligations run together, it is not a case of either or, our obligation to God covers the entirety of life, including our attitude to the government.
Our obligation to God should make us model citizens. And that applies even in the case of a tyrannical government. The state is divinely instituted by God’s will. “The Church and state are divine institutions, with different objectives, and independent of each other. The members of the Church are members of the state and ought to be good citizens; and the members of the state, if Christians, are members of the Church, and as such are subject to her laws. But neither the officers nor the laws of either have any authority within the sphere of the other” (A.A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology), puts it quite well. The Church should always assist, augment the state, and of course vice versa (Romans 13.3-4). But of course as experience has proved throughout history when one attempts to interfere with the other, havoc abounds. Once more Jesus nullifies their attempt to snare him, and leaves them amazed and speechless (v17b). But who can argue with the wisdom from above (James 1.5; 2Timothy 3.15-16; 1Corinthians 1.24)? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1.7), it consists in knowing God, being dependant upon his grace continually. It means having a teachable spirit, and being regulated by his word.
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)