|"Render to Caesar...."|
I'm not a lawyer nor a politician. In fact, I have a tendency to be politically incorrect most of the time. But I do have a voice, some basic knowledge of the bible, and the indwelling Holy Spirit to help me sift through controversial issues. As a result I have formed a Biblical Worldview! I hope these posts will help you do the same!
I've taken three verses from the Gospels to give you my take on Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). They are Matthew 7:12; I Peter 2:13-17, and today's scripture Mark 12:17 (ESV). "Then Jesus said to them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar and to God, the things that are God's. And they marveled at him."
The historical context is critical to this verse. Having said that, Bible scholars dispute over its many interpretations. By the way, let me give you one more disclaimer... I'm not a theologian either! But, even if I was, there would not be enough room in this post to elaborate on each one of those interpretations here!
Let me just say, read, Mark 12: 13-17 for yourself including some previous chapters and you'll find that the Pharisees (ancient church folks!) were trying to trap Jesus! This verse is not about
taxes! Like today, people had to pay taxes to the government and if you were a Jew you not only paid State taxes, but Temple taxes too, perhaps more there than anywhere else!
This verse is not the basis for arguing the Separation of Church and State which some say supports the First Amendment. This term has been misinterpreted in so many ways since the days of the Founding Fathers of America that it barely resembles the original intent. It does not even appear in the U.S. Constitution at all. So let's not even get into that!
By posing the question of paying taxes (vs. 14), the Pharisees wanted Christ to incriminate Himself. If He said yes, pay these taxes, then He discredited Himself with the Jews. If He said no, don't pay the taxes then He would be considered a traitor by the Romans and charged with sedition. So what did our Master do? He cleverly evaded the question! We still don't know what He meant by His response at the time! But there are some key lessons from the whole scenario that are most relevant to our topic!
Christ looked at that Roman coin and He saw the face of Caesar! On it was an inscription declaring Caesar as a son of a divine being. The word render, means simply to give back. Give back to Caesar that worthless coin, because in essence, both Caesar and the coin belongs to God! (Psalms 24:1) It was really of no concern to Christ!
In the latter part of verse 17, however, He causes us to think deeper regarding His response. In our rendering...Who is your God? Christ is asking us to make a choice! When it comes to our Christian Liberty who has the greater authority in our lives? Caesar (government, legislation, culture, science, people, etc.) or God?
As the end grows near Christians will find themselves in the middle of many disputable matters (issues that the bible does not speak specifically about like the RFRA) The choices we will have to make will become more frequent but not necessarily more difficult as long as we remember WHOSE WE ARE! We have a dual citizenship, one on earth and one in heaven (Philippians 3:20); therefore we can not expect that we will always be understood or popular! We should however, follow the teachings from the scriptures in my prior posts, along with these guidelines from I Corinthians 8:1-13 when we have to make the choice.
OUR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM CHOICES MUST:
1. Edify (build up) not tear down fellow believers (8:1-3)
2. Not cause us to judge other believers' practices in disputable matters (8:4-5)
3. Reflect a convincing belief that we are right in doing something before we do it ( 8:6-7)
4. Not violate our own convictions/conscience (8:7-8)
5. Not make another stumble even if it is acceptable in itself (8:8-9)
6 Follow the self sacrificing example of Christ (8:10-11)
7. Not discredit Christ or Christianity (8:12)
8. Show we are willing to voluntarily set aside our rights in certain cases (8:12-13)
REMEMBER, FREEDOM IS NEVER TOTALLY FREE...IT ALWAYS COSTS SOMEBODY SOMETHING...FOR CHRISTIANS, IT COST CHRIST HIS VERY LIFE!
UNTIL NEXT TIME...