Until the Prince of Peace (Is 9:6) takes His throne there will always be tension between the political and the spiritual. Every believer faces the question of where do I draw the line between my responsibility to submit to human authority and to Gods authority. And that question becomes particularly painful when the government in control is unrighteous or even hostile to our faith. This was the situation several faced in the first century. Jews had willingly died for their faith in such numbers Rome lost its stomach to keep killing them, finally giving up and declaring Judaism a legal religion. But of course there was no way it would stop taxing them. A poll-tax was imposed on every family forcing them to acknowledge Caesar as their king. Even the money they were forced to use when they paid this tax had his image stamped on it beside the inscription, Tiberias Caesar Augustus, son of the divine Augustus. The title was foolish and blasphemous yet Israel was forced in this way to acknowledge him as king. Many devout people resented paying this tax and the subject was highly controversial. So with Roman guards watching and listening in the distance, the religious leaders asked Jesus a question intended to trap Him into choosing sides. If He sided with Israel He would offend the Romans, if He sided with Rome He would alienate the multitudes. It appeared He was caught in a hopeless dilemma, but the answer He gave was so profound it still guides us two millenia later.
A. What did He say? (Mt 22:15-22; Mk 12:13-17; Lk 20:19-26)
Jesus stood surrounded by a large crowd in the Temple courtyard. Roman guards watched from the walls of the Antonia Fortress. The question posed by a spy was carefully crafted to trap Jesus to choose from one of two possible answers, either of which would lead to His death. One would alienate the Romans, the other the multitude. His answer was an example of the word of wisdom (1Co 12:8) and left everyone speechless.
(v 24) Caesars image is on the denarius
(v 25) Gods image is on you (Gn 1:26, 27).
(v 25) Give him back what belongs to him.
(v 25) Give Him back what belongs to Him.
B. Underlying Principles
1) This is Gods season for saving, not ruling.
- Lk 4:18-20 (Is 61:2) To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God
- Jn 18:33-36 If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting
My kingdom is not of this realm.
2) Submission to God requires submission to human government when possible because God established it.
- God has granted human government authority just as He has granted leaders in His church, families and workplaces authority.
- Ro 13:1-7
- Titus 3:1, 2
- 1Pe 2:12-17 (note 2:18)
3) Violence or shows of force evoke a vicious response from the ungodly, unrestrained by ethical character.
- Mt 26:52
All those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.
- Mt 10:16
Be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.
4) By suffering and serving we are being prepared to rule with Christ in the future.
- 1Pe 2:19-23; Mt 19:27-29; 1Co 6:1-3; 15:23-28
- Da 7:18, 22, 26, 27; Micah 4:1-7
C. When must we resist human government?
Since Gods authority is supreme over all human government, when there is conflict we must choose to obey God rather than man.
- Da 2:21; 4:17 - Mt 22:21
- Act 4:18-20
We must be prepared to disobey when human authorities:
1) Demand things that prevent our salvation or the salvation of others.
2) Require us to break the clear commands of God.
3) Deny justice to those without power to defend themselves.
We must also be prepared to speak out and live prophetically. Examples: Nelson Mandela/So Africa; Gandhi/India, Britain; Wilberforce/Britain;
Harriet Beecher Stowe/USA; Florence Nightingale/USA; General William Booth/Britain; Abraham Lincoln/USA; George Washington/Britain;
Martin Luther/Catholic Church; Martin Luther King Jr./USA; Womens sufferage/USA, Britain; Mother Teresa/India
D. How can we change America?
We are blessed to be part of a nation which has a strong biblical heritage and still retains some vestige of a conscience. As citizens of this country we have the opportunity to influence for righteousness beyond believers who live in more hostile societies. Because of this we must not fail to use that influence where possible.
1) We submit where possible and show ourselves to be peaceable people.
2) We model Christs character in our private lives and through the missions of our church.
3) We pray for our government leader at all levels (1Ti 2:1-6).
4) We stand and resist and speak out when we must.
5) We focus on making disciples above all else because people who think biblically will do more to change our nation than all else.
6) We serve in all levels of human government as a calling of the Lord (Pr 29:2) (committees, elected office, school board)
7) We vote every time we can, seeking the mind of Christ rather than our own personal advantage.
1) Some people argue that Christians shouldnt have to pay taxes. What does the Bible say? (Read: Lk 20:21-25; Mt 17:24-27; Ro 13:6, 7)
2) Name an issue America faces today against which Christians must prophesy. Can you name someone who is speaking prophetically in this matter? Can you name a person or group who is living prophetically concerning this matter?
3) With all the candidates on a ballot its hard to know who to vote for. Where do you turn to find information about candidates?