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Give to God what is God’s

January 14, 2011

Many people are familiar with the passage in Matthew 22 where the Pharisees ask Jesus about paying taxes to Caesar.  The were trying to trick Jesus into condoning civil disobedience just because Caesar wasn’t a nice guy.  Yet Jesus so eloquently quipped, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Mt 22:21).

The teaching most commonly taken from this is that Christians should obey government rulers whenever possible.  As Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rm 12:18).  But if the government were to make a law against, say, going to church…should that law be obeyed?  Of course not!  When Peter was imprisoned for preaching the Name of Jesus, he replied, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29).  So if the government ever makes a law that says I can’t go to church, bet your bottom dollar that I will go to church every day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

That was a nice teaching from Matthew 22:21, but in my opinion, it isn’t the most important one.  Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s – absolutely.  But what about the rest of the verse?  And to God what is God’s – ah!  It’s kind of like the old Texas Revolution cheer – “Remember the Alamo!  Remember Goliad!”  Everyone remembers the Alamo…we just forget to remember the rest of the saying.  (The Goliad Campain was fought before the Alamo btw…)

So let’s pay some hommage to the second half of Matthew 22:21.  While the first half emphasizes our obligations to our human authorities, the second half emphasizes our obligations to our Supreme Authority – God.  In other words, Jesus is saying, “It is true that you have responsibilities that you need to take care of.  I know that.  BUT, don’t forget about God.  No excuse is good enough to justify ignoring God’s place in your life.”

The big question now becomes, what in your life is God’s?  Or perhaps more appropriately, what in your life should be God’s?  Regardless of how busy you become, does God deserve part of your day?  How about just 20 minutes for Bible reading and prayer?  Does God deserve that from you?

1 Samuel 2:30 – Those who honor Me I will honor, but those who despise Me will be disdained.

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