Render Unto Caesar — Is That All Jesus Said?
If you’ve read the Bible much, and you’ve been engaged in politics at all, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard of the encounter Jesus had with a group of Pharisees. These religious elite hated Jesus and they were constantly looking for a way to trap the Son of God. So they posed the following question to Jesus: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
But Jesus, understanding the evil in their hearts, responded:
“Why do you test me, you hypocrites? Show me the tax money.”
As soon as they brought Jesus the money, He responded, “Whose image and inscription is this?”
And the Pharisees said, “Caesar’s.”
Then Jesus instructed them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
I’ve always marveled at the response from Jesus and have heard this passage used frequently regarding a citizen’s responsibility to be engaged in the political process. While that’s certainly a possible conclusion, if we stop there, we are missing the greatest message that Jesus was communicating.
I’ve read this verse dozens of times, but it dawned on me recently what the greater message was that Jesus was no doubt communicating. To understand that message, we must go back to Jesus’ question to the Pharisees: “Whose image is on the money?” That was an easy response because they could look at it and see that Caesar’s image was emblazoned on the coin.
But have you ever wondered what was left unsaid? What was the greater message?
In the very first chapter of the Bible, we read this truth: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image…’”
God’s image is emblazoned on every human that has ever lived, including you and me. We were created with the image of God stamped upon us.
So if a coin bearing the image of Caesar was to be given to Caesar, what should should be done with a life that bears the image of God?
Uncle Sam demands and always receives what is due him. You and I don’t hesitate to honor that obligation.
But what about the obligation that Jesus informed us of when He affirmed that we are to “render to God the things that are God’s”? If His image is stamped upon us, do we take our obligation to completely give our life back to Him as seriously as we do “rendering unto the tax man” that which is due him?
So next time you hear this passage, I hope you’ll remember the greater message Jesus was communicating. It wasn’t mainly about taxes, or even politics. No, it was about offering back to God the life He gave to you, without reservation and with complete abandon.