Luke 20:19-26 – The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.  So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.  So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God.  Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?”  But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them,  “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.”  He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent
Render to God
1. The reason we render to Caesar is because we render to God. Our obedience to Caesar is because we love God and love for God is marked by obedience to God. We do not render to Caesar because we believe that he is always right. We do not render to him because he is always right. We do not render to him because we voted for him. We do not render to him because we believe he will bring us back to being a moral nation. We render to Him because God has ordained him into power and God tells us to be subject to the ruling powers.
2. All governments are ordained of God. Romans 13 and I Peter 3 are not only valid for social democracies. Chinese Christians, and Indonesian Christians and Saudi Christians have the same Bible that we do. They have the same Bible that Christians in the first century Roman Empire had and that was not a liberal social democracy either.
3. Everything is God’s. When we say “render to Caesar” we are not saying that there are some things that are God’s and some things that are not. We are saying that God has given certain responsibilities to Caesar. He should do them and we should submit to them.
4. The Scriptures tell us what to do when the laws of the land conflict with the laws of God.
a. Acts 5:29 – The verse we always gravitate to. “We must obey God rather than men.”
b. Joseph was in charge of all of Potiphar’s house. He was climbing up the political ladder. But when tempted to violate the will of God he endured prison instead of disobeying.
c. Daniel was a from the upper crust of his society. He had lived in relative luxury for all of his life. But he would not keep that lifestyle at the expense of violating the food laws that God had given him. Some 70 years later he prayed at his window in open view of all when such prayer had been made illegal. In fact, prayer was made illegal because his enemies knew that the only way to get rid of Daniel was to make righteousness a crime. Do we live such lives that the only way to get us guilty of a crime is to make righteousness illegal?
5. So where does this leave us? How should the church conduct itself in the 21st century in the face of godless rulers, godless laws and godless behaviour? Can we first of all remind ourselves that the church was founded in the midst of one of the most godless empires the world has ever known? It was not always openly hostile to the church, but it was not friends of it either. The church that began with 3000 souls in the year 35 grew to become over 3,000,000 by the time of the first conversion of an emperor 300 years later. The church grew, not through having Christians elected to the senate or to being a governor. It grew, not through petitioning the governing authorities for laws sympathetic to the faith. It grew, not by having prayers in the schools, or having Bibles distributed in the schools, or through blue laws or banning gay parades … . It grew through the obedience of the church, despite all its problems and sins, to the commands of Christ. It grew because the church loved God and loved its neighbour. It grew because they lived differently from the world they lived in. It grew because they submitted themselves to the governing authorities and were citizens who did not foment rebellion, because they had a higher agenda – the worship of Jesus Christ and the conversion of their neighbours.