Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25 record the familiar phrase “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” The fact that all three of the Synoptic Gospels record this saying is an indication to me that it is very important. There is something here that I am supposed to get.
Hearing this taught while growing up in the church and reading the Gospels for myself, I never encountered any idea that this passage might be saying anything more than it is right to pay taxes.
The government has the authority to demand taxes and we are called to be obedient and pay them. Recently, when reflecting on this verse, it seems to met that In addition to taxes, the government, or world system, can demand our time, our effort and our intellectual power. In short, Caesar, as representative of the world system can demand our resources from us.
The world can demand our resources but what are we to render to God?
1 Corinthians 6:20 tells us that we, as believers, have been purchased for God, therefore we belong to God. The thing that we need to render to God is us. To render myself to God is to acknowledge that he is in the ownership position and I am to do his bidding. We get a sense of this from openings verses of Paul’s letters where he refers to himself as a bond slave of Jesus Christ. Paul had that sense of ownership that we are to have.
We are to render our resources to the world and our selves to God. This seems very straight forward and should be easy, right?
it is not so easy. I have observed in myself and others that the opposite often takes place. It is too easy to have a punch-the-clock mentality with regard to our Christianity. Put in the time, give our tithe, perform that ministry, and we satisfied our obligation. I sometimes get it backwards and give myself to pursuit of what the world tells me I should value while being content to give a small portion of my resources to God. It is to easy to get this entirely backwards.
Jesus, quoting from Isaiah 29:13, said of the Israelites of his day, “this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. (Matthew 15:8). There are times when I’m going through the motions and my heart is not wholly devoted to God, even when participating in church or ministry.
Perhaps the beginning of revival is for us to examine ourselves for misplaced affections, repent and give to God what is his. He bought us at a very high price.