Christians & Religion: Render unto Caesar.

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( Brethren,

The books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have an account of the religious leaders sending spies to trap Jesus with His Words in order to have Him brought before the Roman authorities. They attempted to play to Jesus’ ego and said:

“Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and that You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth.” ? Luke 20:21

I would liken the spirit of their words to that of Eddie Haskell, a sneaky character who routinely appeared to be good-natured and cooperative; yet he was always disingenuously complimentary of June Cleaver on the late 1950’s black-and-white American television sitcom Leave it to Beaver.

But in this Biblical account, it was the follow-up question from the religious spies that everyone remembers most:

“Is it lawful for us to pay (tribute) taxes to Caesar, or not?” ? Luke 20:22

Jesus perceived their trickery (verse 23), but He didn’t answer their question. Those who fish for information are in control of the conversation as long as they have you thinking and talking according to their line of thinking and questioning. So Jesus very wisely took control of the conversation, asked them a question, put them on the defense, and caused them to think.

Then Jesus had someone present the tribute coin and He asked them the question:

“Whose image and inscription are on it?” To which they answered, “Caesar’s.” And Jesus responded, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s.” ? Luke 20:24-25

So the conversation immediately switched from “Should we pay taxes to Caesar?” to “Whose image and inscription are on this coin?” and then He said, “Render…”

Jesus - Render unto Caesar.

This is very important for you to see how ingenious it is the way Jesus handled this conversation. He didn’t beat them over the head with the Scriptures. He didn’t rebuke them and threaten to cast the devil out of them, and He didn’t physically whip them like He did the moneychangers in the Temple. He simply met the religious folks where they were.

Now let’s see if we can simplify this interaction a bit. The religious people didn’t care to have a conversation about taxes, because their motivation was to catch Jesus saying something that was against the Roman Government. But Jesus simply turned their trap into a very wise way to preach the Word unbeknownst to the hearers.

If those who were questioning Jesus would have asked another question or two, that might have been helpful in providing a little bit more insight into the message Jesus actually meant to convey. Again, Jesus’ final response was “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s.” To get clarity, those questioning Jesus should have asked, “Render what things to Caesar and what things to God?” The context of the exchange would bring us back to Jesus’ previous question for clarity: Whose image and inscription does (this coin) have on it?”

Are you following this line of thinking? Again, Jesus switched the topic of the conversation from taxes to the image that appeared on the coin; so it’s the “image and its inscription” that became the subject, not the coin. Let’s focus on the image and ask, “What should be rendered to Caesar?” The answer is in Jesus’ original response: Render to Caesar that which has or was created in Caesar’s image. Did you catch that? Again, the answer has to do with the image and the inscription of the coin, not the coin itself.

Now, what is supposed to be rendered to God? Again, the answer is in Jesus’ original question; and remember that the image is the subject, not the coin. So if we include the context of Jesus’ question the answer will sound like this: render to God that which has or was created in God’s image.

So let’s make sure that we are consistent and clear. The tribute coin was made bearing Caesar’s image. Is there any part of God’s creation that bears God’s image?

God’s Word states:

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” And God created Man in his image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” ? Genesis 1:26-27

So according to Genesis, humans bear God’s image.

For many years, I was always taught that Jesus was using this exchange to teach a lesson about bringing the tithe to God, our Earthly duty to pay our taxes, and to be good citizens. But when the Scriptures are thoroughly examined, that is not what Jesus is talking about to these religious spies; and we can’t force these Scriptures to teach anything other than that which the Lord intended.

Jesus used His parabolic teaching style to hide a great truth in plain sight. Until now, you might not have ever heard this account taught from this perspective, but that’s how parables work; they hide the truth and the seeker has to discover truth of the teaching by revelation when the student is ready to receive it.

“I have much to say to you, but you are not able to grasp it now.” ? John 16:12

Now let’s drive the point home and amplify the Scripture with a few more words to see if that makes things even clearer.

Render therefore unto Caesar the things which possess Caesar’s image, and render unto God the things which possess God’s image.” ? Luke 20:25

Remember that Genesis taught us that humans were created in and bear God’s image. So Jesus was telling the religious crowd to continue to pay your tribute (taxes) to Caesar and to follow your obligatory secular laws. But that was only half of the message. The other half of the message was that you also have an obligation to submit yourself as a bearer of God’s image, to God. Jesus confounded the religious people with a coin and He taught them the Kingdom message without them even knowing what hit them.

Folks, you don’t have to have a Master’s of Divinity degree to understand the Bible. You just have to be open to what the Lord is saying, and don’t read the Scriptures with your mental filters, emotion, preconceived notions, opinion, or biases. You’ll miss God every time!

And to be clear, formal Bible training at a school, university, or Bible study is a good thing if the Holy Spirit is the Source of the teaching.

And it was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for works of ministry and to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, as we mature to the full measure of the stature of Christ. ? Ephesians 4:11-13

You, however, have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I have not written to you because you lack knowledge of the truth, but because you have it, and because no lie comes from the truth…And as for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But just as His true and genuine anointing teaches you about all things, so remain in Him as you have been taught. ? 1 John 2:20-21, 27

Breaking down this division of Scripture was a simple exercise that yielded a fresh and usable revelation for you. It required a little bit of investigation, a few questions, a little bit of understanding literary devices, and connecting the dots. Your favorite preacher might not have taught you this story in the same manner, and there certainly can be some other items gleaned from these Scriptures. But the traditional way that I was taught these Scriptures was not correct.

As I have grown in Christ and have been walking with Him for nearly 30 years, I discovered that I was taught a lot of Bible lessons in error or in very shallow form, at the very least. I’m not taking a shot at any preacher or ministry; it’s just my experience of where I started and where I am currently with the Lord.

Feel free to study Luke 20 for yourself and share it with others to see if the things that I taught are aligned with the context of Scripture. Everyone doesn’t teach like me, and I believe that it is a good thing that everyone’s gift is unique. But Jesus, and the Holy Spirit who lives in each of us, will always bear witness to the truth.

For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world — to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” ? John 18:37(b)

So always be open to the leading and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to reveal His Kingdom to you.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! ? Matthew 7:7-11

Think on these things.

Staff Writer; Brian Ganges

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