A Christian's Duty to God and Government (Matthew Sermon 109 of 151)
January 03, 2010 | Andrew Davis
Exaltation of Christ, The Kingdom of Christ, Government & Authority
Turn in your Bibles, if you would, to Matthew chapter 22. We resume our series in the gospel of Matthew. As I was growing up, one of my favorite movies - I love adventure movies and war movies, if they're done in a certain way. And this old movie, Sergeant York, was probably one of my favorites, a black and white film with Gary Cooper. Perhaps some of you've seen it. Sergeant York, a true hero, a military hero in World War I, captured 132 Germans in one day, almost single-handedly, amazing achievement. And they made a movie about his life a number of years later and Gary Cooper starred in it. In that film, Cooper portrays Alvin York as kind of a hell-raising mountain man before he became a Christian, riding through town and firing off guns and causing trouble. But the Lord got hold of his life, he came to faith in Christ, and he renounced all forms of wickedness, and all aggression, and fighting, and all the things that he'd done, and he walked with Christ, and he was a Sunday school teacher and he was growing.
And then World War I came around for the United States in 1917, and the draft was enacted and he was drafted. And this threw him into a crisis of conscience. He didn't know whether he could go and fight, he might be a conscientious objector. He wasn't sure what to do, and so he went along in the process, and I think it was a sergeant that said, “You really just need to go and get it settled in your heart, whether you can even do this.” And so he took some time and he went off into the mountains there of Tennessee, and he wandered around with his Bible, and he sat down overlooking a beautiful valley, and he opened up to the passage of Scripture that we're going to study today.
Matthew 22:21, and there he read, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.” And in this way, he resolved his own struggling conscience. He felt that he was able to serve in the military and rendered to Caesar those things that were Caesar's, and he could do it as an act of worship to God. Now, whether you accept his particular interpretation of that passage or not, this passage talks about a Christian's proper relationship to government. And if you know anything about church history, you know that Christians have struggled with that question and continue to struggle. And I predict we're going to continue to struggle and even more in this nation.
And therefore, we have to return to the Scriptures and find out what God expects from us in terms of our relationship with government. From the very beginning of the Christian church this has been a struggle, after all, it was Caesar's governor, Pontius Pilate, that put our Lord to death, unjustly at the human level. Who ordered the crucifixion of Christ, and it was Roman soldiers who nailed Jesus to the cross.
But on the other hand, it was a godly Roman centurion, Cornelius, who was the first Gentile convert to Christ. A man of faith. The greatest apostle of them all, the Apostle Paul was both a quintessential Jewish Christian and a Roman citizen, both. And Paul frequently claimed the benefits of Roman citizenship and used the transportation and commerce abilities of the Roman Empire to spread the gospel. And yet it was Caesar who ordered the Apostle Paul's execution, as well.
The New Testament constantly commands willing submission to the government. And yet, it was the government that viciously persecuted Christians on and off for the first three centuries of church history. The Emperor Constantine declared himself to be a Christian in the year 325 A.D., but that declaration brought a wedding of church and state, which was in some ways for a long time, ruinous to the Christian church. And required a massive reformation twelve centuries later to bring it out of some of the false understandings that happened at that time.
In many nations around the world, it is government that is viciously persecuting our brothers and sisters in Christ. Godless governments or governments dominated by other religions, world religions, that are persecuting our brothers and sisters, hunting down godly pastors, arresting them, persecuting them, torturing them and killing them.
And yet here in America, there has been for over 200 years, somewhat of a comfortable relationship between Christianity and the state government. Many godly Christians have had a massive influence on the governmental life of our nation. Christians have as much right to vote in this country and set policy as non-Christians do, to influence as any other group. Some have even gone so far, many times, there are many statements in history that America is a Christian nation because of the pervasive influence of Christians on the history of government in this country.
Barack Obama recently distanced himself from that statement, said America is not a Christian nation. And some have been debating that statement as well. And so, we see in recent history, the comfortable relationship between the Christian faith and the surrounding secular government, decaying a bit, fraying around the edges, even becoming more and more corrupt.
I think we all acknowledge that with the legalization of abortion over a quarter century ago, the Roe v. Wade decision, that the relationship between the Christian faith and the secular government turned for the worse, and in many ways corruption has entered this relationship and we stand in uncertain times. And we don't really know what the future holds in terms of our relationship with the government of our country.
And so, the question stands before us as it has before, every generation of Christians: “How should a faithful Christian deal well with the government of the land in which they live?” Now, Sergeant York found an answer in the text that we're gonna study today, I think we can find an answer, too. I don't know that we're gonna find the exact same applications that he did, but this is a text that we should turn to and attend to. And it begins with an attack on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that was plotted out and executed by his enemies.
An Attack Plotted and Executed
Look at verses 15 through 17, “Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘We know that you're a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, since you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’”
The Final Week of Jesus’ Life … One Conflict After Another
So this is, as we've mentioned in context, the final week of Jesus' life. What a tumultuous week. One conflict after another. His enemies are mobilized. They're moving out and they're plotting against him.
Jesus’ Enemies Plot Against Him
Look at verse 15 again, “The Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words.” They took counsel together, as in Psalm 2. They assembled together and took counsel how they might trap him. And the idea here is to trap him by his speech. Ordinarily, people who speak a lot are vulnerable to making an occasional gaffe. “Where words are many, sin is inevitable,” the Bible says. I actually pray, as one whose ministry involves a lot of speaking, that I might avoid saying something that will bring shame to the Savior, say something that's doctrinally not true.
In our day and age of YouTube and electronic devices that can capture the moment immediately, you can say something you wish you hadn't said, and a million people can see it over the next week. And political campaigns have been scuttled by that kind of thing. An off-color remark, an off-hand remark, and there it goes up on YouTube and you're finished. Your dreams of being president are now over. Such an off-hand comment can torpedo a presidential campaign, but in Jesus' day, it could get you killed. And so they were looking for something by which they could trap him and - can we say it - right to the end, kill him. They want to kill him. That's their goal.
And so they're trying to get rid of Jesus. And there are two ways, I think, if you look at it logically that they could have gotten rid of Jesus, they can get rid of him by law or they can get rid of him by force. Either way, I think it was okay, they would have attempted either one, but they had problems on each side. Now, if they wanted to get rid of Jesus by law, legally they had to work with the Romans because they were in charge.
And according to Roman law at the time, the Jews could not have put Jesus to death. The Romans had no interest whatsoever in any religious controversy between Jesus and the Pharisees or Sadducees, would not have been interesting to them at all. The claim that Jesus was the Son of God was blasphemy to the Sanhedrin, but Pilate would not have been interested in such a thing. So Jesus had to somehow be made a criminal in the eyes of Rome. If Jesus was heard to be espousing rebellion against Rome, then the Romans would take an interest in that and they would take care of executing Jesus themselves. They have no problem putting the people to death. Hence, the question about taxation.
On the other hand, the Jewish leaders could simply rise up and attack Jesus. Just kill him by force, as they tried to do several times in his ministry. But the problem there, as it says again and again in Matthew's gospel, was the people. They were afraid of the people. They all loved Jesus and held that Jesus was a prophet of God. And so, if they had managed to rise up and kill Jesus, then the crowd in rage would have turned and killed them. And they were afraid of that, they were afraid of the people.
So in order to strip this protection away, Jesus had to be made repulsive in the eyes of the people. Hence, the question about taxation. If Jesus said that they didn't have to pay taxes to Caesar, then he would be made repulsive at least in the eyes of patriotic Jews who could then foment negative feelings about Jesus and it would be easier to put Him to death.
Strange Bedfellows: The Pharisees and Herodians
And so this whole issue brings together two strange bedfellows, if you can look at it that way: the Pharisees and the Herodians. Ordinarily, they wouldn't have agreed about much of anything. The Pharisees were orchestrating this whole thing. Verse 16, “The Pharisees sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians.”
Interesting, they didn't go themselves. They had no problems confronting Jesus but the approach here is one of subtlety, they're trying to trap Jesus. And so, I think they might have felt that Jesus would let his guard down, if these young disciples came along and asked this question that they'd been fed by their masters. And so they send the disciples but they're organizing this.
The Pharisees, you know, they were zealots for the law of Moses, sought to keep ritual purity at all costs. Their adamant desire to follow the laws of Moses and they absolutely despised the Romans, and the occupying forces, the Roman legions. Some Pharisees were even zealots who would have taken up arms against the Romans, and did at many times, would have favored armed rebellion against Rome. They would have absolutely repudiated paying any taxes to Caesar at all if they could.
On the other hand, the Herodians were disciples or followers of King Herod, who was a collaborator with Rome. He was really a puppet king. His whole power was based on Roman consent, and he personally benefited from the taxes paid to Caesar. The Herodians would have instantly reported Jesus to the Romans if Jesus had said, “You don't have to pay Roman taxes.”
So these are strange bedfellows. How in the world do they agree to get together? Well, there's an old adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” That's how it works. It happened in World War II. You remember how the Western countries like Great Britain and the United States worked together with a communist, totalitarian, dictator, genocidal maniac like Joseph Stalin, because they were all fighting against Hitler. And so these two groups that are ordinarily enemies, they got together, they represent opposite sides of the question on taxation. They didn't agree with each other in this question. But they did agree about one thing, they wanted Jesus dead.
And so they're willing to get together and come and ask him this question about taxation. And they come subtly. They come like a snake. They come with flattery. Look at verse 16, “‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘We know that you're a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men since you pay no attention to who they are.’” Well, that's just flattery, is all that is.
Flattery is insincere praise given for selfish reasons. It's an ancient technique. It's been around a long time. Dale Carnegie in his famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, said this about flattery, “Flattery is telling the other person exactly what he thinks about himself.” So in other words, the more prideful you are, the more susceptible you are to flattery. If you keep getting flattered and somebody uses flattery with you, could it be you have a pride problem?
In Aesop’s Fable, “The Fox and the Crow,” the wily fox sees an ugly crow sitting up high in a branch with a piece of cheese in his beak, remember this story. And he persuades the crow that it has the most beautiful voice of any bird. And how much he would love to hear the crow sing another song. The crow believes this, and opens his mouth and begins to squawk some hideous song, and the precious piece of cheese flutters down to the ground and the fox gobbles it up. Do not trust flatterers is the moral of that story.
Scripture has its own warning on flattery. Proverbs 29:5 says, “Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet,” isn't that what these folks were doing with Jesus, spreading a net for his feet? If I can just pause and urge, never use flattery. If you're going to encourage somebody, be sure your motives are pure. You wanna build them up in their faith. You wanna see them glorify God more. Don't give compliments or encouragement to get something back from somebody.
And so they come with flattery. And the flattery, interesting that they use, actually is true. The things they said about Jesus are all true. The problem is they didn't believe they were true, and therefore, it's flattery. Jesus was in fact a man of integrity. NIV gives just “a man of truth,” he was true, literally. Honest through and through, perfectly free from any deception or corruption. Actually, Jesus was far more than that, he wasn't just merely a truthful man, he was the truth, himself. He was truth embodied. But they didn't believe this, the Pharisees actually believed he was a deceiver teaching false doctrines.
Secondly, He actually did teach the way of God truthfully. He perfectly spoke the words of his Heavenly Father. He said nothing except what the father had told him to say. And he accurately portrayed the way of God. This is all true. But again, he's far more than this, he didn't just merely proclaim the way, he was the way to God and still is. For Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” But again, they didn't believe this. They actually believed he was a deceiver leading the people astray.
And thirdly, Jesus was truly no respecter of persons. He didn't respect a man's face, he wasn't concerned with his appearance or his position, it meant nothing to him. Not swayed at all by public opinion. I believe never in human history has any man been so freed from concern about other people's opinions.
Have you not noticed how many times Jesus puts out the fire by pouring a bucket of kerosene on it? He is willing to say the truth. They come at him in John 5, because he's healing on a Sabbath. He said, “Well, you asked me about healing,” He said, “Actually, my Father is always at his work to this very day and I too am working.” So he went to the next level. “I'm not merely just doing things on the Sabbath, I'm following my Father. God is my Father.” Don't imagine for a moment, Jesus didn't know the effect that his words would have. He was just utterly fearless when it came to dealing with people. The fact of the matter is, every leader, every king, every ruler, every judge, every great man or great woman that has ever lived, will stand some day before Jesus and be judged by him. He's the judge of all the earth. He has no fear before people. None whatsoever. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
Now, I actually think Jesus' enemies did believe that he was free in his speech, that he spoke his convictions and let the chips fall where they may. I think they believed that, they were actually counting on it. They wanted Jesus to speak forth his own destruction. And so they were counting on him to say what his opinion was.
The Trap Sprung
Now, having laid the flattery on thickly, Jesus' predators then spring the trap, verse 17, “Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” The word “tax” here is “census” from which we get “census”. This was the tax that was set up, the poll tax set up by Caesar Augustus, and then renewed again and again by these Caesars. And it was the most offensive tax. It was basically a tax for having a head. If you had a head, you had to pay a tax. And so they would count your heads and then you would pay the tax.
Either Way … Jesus is Stuck
And so Jesus has to answer this question, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” They believe this, either way. Either way, he's stuck. If he had said, “No. It is not lawful or it is not right for us to pay taxes to Caesar. This is the promised land, promised to Abraham. These Romans are usurpers. They ought not to be here.” Then they've got him. Because the Romans are gonna come after a great powerful leader like that and Jesus was, with multitudes of people following him, they would have shut him down, they would have killed him, he would have been instantly arrested by Pilate and put to death as an insurrectionist. And their problem would be solved.
But if on the other hand, he said, “It is right to pay taxes to Caesar,” then he alienates the zealots and patriotic Jews, all of that harkening back to 2,000 years before that, when God had promised this land to Abraham and to his descendants forever. And they looked at these Romans as coming in and usurping their rightful place in the Promised Land.
It was a brilliant ploy. They're playing chess with Jesus, and they feel like they have Him trapped, and there's nothing he can do, no matter what he does, he loses. But they forgot one thing, they didn't understand one thing. They were playing chess with the God who created the universe. They were crossing intellectual swords with the mind who is presently sustaining our atoms and molecules, together. You can't get ahead of Jesus mentally or intellectually. All praise be to God, for the mental powers of Jesus. You can't get ahead of him, you don't catch him with his guard down, it never happens. The mind of Christ.
Jesus Exposes their Hypocrisy
And so Jesus immediately goes to the heart of the matter and he doesn't immediately deal with the issue. He immediately deals with their hearts in bringing him the issue. Verse 18, he says “You hypocrites. Why are you trying to trap me?” The Scripture says “Jesus, knowing their evil intent.” He studied their hearts.
The Omniscience of Christ
It is one thing, and we can do this, to sense flattery and hypocrisy. Jesus didn't sense anything, He knew it. He knew their hearts, he knew their hearts perfectly. He studies our hearts and our minds, as it says in the Book of Revelation. He knew their evil intent and he called them hypocrites. A hypocrite literally, it's an actor, it's somebody who puts on a mask to cover up his true intentions, his true person. And so, they were pretending to be fawning kind of fans of Jesus. But actually they wanted him dead.
Jesus Evades their Trap
And so Jesus exposes their hypocrisy, and then he evades their trap. Look at verses 19-22. Jesus' enemies underestimated his infinite mind. And so do you, and so do I. There's not a single person here that rightly esteems Jesus' thinking power. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,” says the Lord “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my thoughts higher than your thoughts, and my ways higher than your ways."
So as they're trying to play chess with Jesus, they didn't know who they were dealing with. I love stories in which somebody incognito gets into a certain situation and people don't know who they're dealing with. I read some time ago, a story about Dr. Emanuel Lasker, who is one of the greatest chess players in history.
And he was Chess Champion, he was German and Chess Champion for 27 years, the longest chess reign in history. And he had a little hobby. He used to like to go around to coffee shops and little places in different towns, and just play chess with people. And he would gauge the ability, and just make it fun for himself. And he could dial his ability at whatever the level, and he just loved to do this.
One day, he came to a village where there was this old blind man, who was a chess expert, who had almost never lost. This man was an expert chess player. Though he was blind, he was able to play the whole game in his mind, didn't have to see the pieces. And so they were playing and as the game unfolded, Lasker played a certain move and the blind man just smiled. And he said, “Dr. Lasker, I presume?” And he could tell just from the move, and he said, “I'm undone, I'm uncovered.” The blind man could see, but no one else could see, this was the greatest chess player in the world.
I love those kind of stories because Jesus really was God incognito. In “Hark The Herald Angels Sing,” we say “Mild, he laid his glory by.” Why do they underestimate Jesus? Because Jesus wasn't fully on display in all of his glory there. He looked like just an ordinary Jew. And so, they underestimated his mind, they thought of him in a fleshly way, and so they thought they had trapped him.
But let me tell you something, Jesus cannot be trapped. And this is a fundamental principle concerning Jesus' death. “No man takes my life from me, but I lay it down freely of my own accord. I have the authority to lay it down and I have the authority to take it back up again.” John 10:18. You can't trap Jesus into dying, you can't surround him with a force too great for him to handle. If he doesn't wanna die, he is not going to die.
Then why did he die? Well, He died for you and me, because we're sinners, he died under the wrath of God, to take away the penalty for our sins. He chose to die, he wasn't trapped into death. He wasn't a victim, he died because sinners like you and me cannot stand before God and hope to avoid hell, except that Jesus saves us. I just have to appeal to you now and say, do you know him as a savior? Don't be amazed at his intellectual abilities, yes, be amazed, but that's not enough. Jesus laid down his life for you, if you'll only trust in him.
I ask you to simply repent. You don't need a bunch of religion, you don't need a bunch of insights you don't need all of this, you need to know that Jesus was God, became man, shed his blood on the cross for your sins and all of your sins will be forgiven, God will see you as righteous as Jesus if you simply believe in him. It's all you need to do.
An Object Lesson: “Show Me the Coin”
So Jesus couldn't be taken by accident, his guard isn't down, no one takes his life from him. And so he decides to become a teacher and he uses an object lesson, you know an object lesson? You use an object to teach something. He says, bring me the coin. “Show me the coin used for paying the poll tax.” Apparently, they had to go get one, none of the Jews had one of those hateful things.
Whose Portrait, Whose Inscription?
So they managed to go get it. And he asked the question, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” Well, on the coin would have been at that point, a portrait of Tiberius Caesar. But, and very offensive to the Jews, was an inscription which proclaimed the divinity of Tiberius Caesar, that he was a God. Now, it is an axiom of ancient governments and probably of governments today, whosoever face is on the money is ruling that country. And so, that was Caesar's country because his face was on the money.
So Jesus is focusing attention on the coin itself and on the ruler. And that offensive coin would have been brutally offensive to the Jews, because it had an image, a graven image on it, of someone who was claiming to be god, the son of the divine Augustus, literally the son of a god. And it would have been a violation, therefore, of the Ten Commandments against graven images. As a matter of fact, if you go to Israel today, you can meet some Jews, Orthodox Jews, who will not allow their photo to be taken, even in the 21st century, because they believe it's a violation of the Ten Commandments.
Secondly, on the other side, this coin would have shown Tiberius Caesar in priestly robe as though he was a high priest of God. It was a very offensive coin.
And so Jesus' enemies are only happy to produce this coin and show it to him, because they imagine that Jesus is about to speak the words that will end his life. So go ahead, Jesus here it is. What do you wanna say? Is it lawful to pay tax to Caesar or not? And then Jesus says this: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”
Now, it's amazing, Jesus changed the word. They ask. “Is it lawful to give the poll tax to Caesar?” He changes the word to, what we would have to say in English, “Render” or “give back.” Something like giving someone their due. He changes and intensifies the word. It is Caesar's by right, render it to him, it is right to give it to him. It is his. So give it to him.
And so, he asserts here, that it is in fact, lawful to support governments even wicked pagan idolatrous governments with tax money. It is their due, we must render it to them. And it is astonishing if you meditate on it, that Jesus is upholding the right of this pagan government that in a few days' time, will execute him, and he knows it. He's already predicted it, they're gonna hand him over to the Gentiles, to be mocked and flogged and crucified. And on the third day, he'll be raised to life. He's predicted it multiple times in Matthew's Gospel, he knows exactly what Pontius Pilate is going to do to him. And yet, for all of that, He says, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's.” But he doesn't stop there, he extends it beyond, infinitely beyond. “Render to God those things that are God's.”
What We Must Render to Caesar
The Simple Answer on Taxes: YES!
Well, let's look at the first one. What is Caesar's? What should we render to Caesar? Well, let's start with taxes. The simple answer on taxes is, yes, you must pay them. So the federal government is not gonna come in and arrest me as an insurrectionist, I'm gonna say, “You need to pay taxes to the federal government.” I would urge that you not pay them a penny more than they deserve. That's a different matter. Okay, get a good tax attorney, or somebody, don't pay them a penny more. We're not looking to give charity to the federal government. I'm starting to show my political leanings here, but at any rate, we're not looking to give extra. Donating money to the federal government, I don't think we need to do that. I recently received my 10-40 in the mail. Boy, they're right on it, aren't they? And they get it out to you just in case you might wanna pay on January 4, just get it right in the mail. So at any rate. We must pay taxes. The answer is yes.
Now, what does it mean when we talk about authority? Jesus basically is saying the authorities that exist have been established by God, He will say that through His apostle Paul. What is authority? It is the right to command obedience. It is the right to command obedience. Therefore, in our family, we talk about God-ordained authorities. There are authorities that have been instituted by God, and they have the right to give commands, not merely suggestions. Friends give suggestions, authorities give commands.
And so, authority that exists has been established by God. It says again in Daniel 4:17, “The Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.” And so God sovereignly sets up kings.
The Benefits of Caesar in Jesus’ Day
Now, there were benefits of Caesar in Jesus' day, the Romans conquest of the Mediterranean had united that part of the world in a system and infrastructure that made the gospel able to travel very easily there. It meant that as long as a country accepted Roman rule, they could live under the Pax Romana, the Roman Peace, free of war, which is a great benefit.
And the Romans were generally enlightened leaders, they used local leaders like Herod and others to rule over their own people and made it worth everyone's while to be peaceful, under the Roman yoke. And so, they were excellent at long-term stability, they gave a basic modicum of Roman justice, they punished the evildoers, as best as they could, although it wasn't perfect, because both Jesus and Paul were executed wrongly, at the human level. But at the same time, it was a better system of justice than many that existed.
And as with any reasonable government, they protected the people from rampant crime, from anarchy, from armed mobs roaming the streets and brought stability and order to daily life. That's what you've got from the Roman government.
The Benefits of Government Today
Well, what are the benefits of government today? Well, in Romans 13:4, Paul says “The ruler is God's servant to do you good.” And again in Romans 13:6. “This also is why you pay taxes, because the authorities are God's servants who give their full time to governing.” Twice in that passage, it calls rulers God's servants who are doing you good.
And so God's servants do you good by promoting peace, and public order, establishing and upholding systems of justice, punishing evildoers, protecting people from external military threats, promoting health and prosperity by roads, infrastructures and other things, etcetera, etcetera. Now, the debates on the etcetera could go on forever on the proper role of government, but at least governments do this.
And if you wanna see the effect of no government, look at Somalia. And if you have any idea what's going on or has been going on in Somalia, from 1991 to 2006, there has been no permanent national government in Somalia. Armed bands of military thugs under different gangland warlords are trying to control the streets. It was might makes right, enforcing their wills on common people. No national laws governing commerce. And there were, in short, no taxes. So if you want a place where there are no taxes, go live in Somalia. That didn't mean you weren't going to be paying money out of pocket every time you stepped on the street, at some armed kid that came up with a gun. That was going on, but there were no taxes 'cause there was no government.
The level of daily violence in Somalia has been called catastrophic. In 2000, statistics stated that only 21% of the population had clean drinking water. 79% of the people in Somalia did not have water to drink. No such thing as safe travel in the country, at any moment armed gangs could hit you with highway robbery. 10% infant mortality rate. 25% of the babies that are born in that country die by age five. Adult literacy declined from 24% in 1989 to 17% in 2001. So that's what anarchy looks like.
Believe it or not, there's some people that kind of love Somalia and are studying it. They're in western universities that really love no government, they're watching to see if something good will come of that. Dear friends, good government is a blessing from God. Rulers are God's servants who do you good and why is that? Because sin is lawlessness, and if there is no restraining force, then there'll be lawlessness in the streets, and you know it. And so we ought to pay our taxes to Caesar, to government with grateful hearts for the benefits that we get.
We Owe More than Taxes
But we owe more than taxes, dear friends. We also all honor, 1 Peter 2:17 says “Show proper respect to everyone, love the brotherhood of believers, fear God and honor the king.” Honor is a hard attitude of respect. We don't do it grudgingly, we do it with respect, a sense of respect and gratefulness for what they do.
We also owe obedience, we must submit ourselves for the Lord's sake, to every authority instituted among men, Romans 13. We must obey, 1 Peter 2:13-14.
And as we're able, we must participate wisely as stewards of gracious gifts given to us. We are part of a representative democracy here. A republic. And so we are able to participate, nine times in the book of Acts, it is recorded that the Apostle Paul was a citizen of Rome. If that were some corrupt thing or some evil thing, it wouldn't have been mentioned like that, but it was usually a benefit to Paul. And that kind of citizenship is a stewardship that's entrusted to us. And we must make the best of it. So that involves such things as voting wisely, jury duty, and other things like that. The key example of proper participation with a secular even godless government is Daniel in the book of Daniel.
Daniel, in Daniel 6:3, “Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.” He was a great magistrate. Servant of the state. And he was able to use his position as a wise counselor to give frank advice to a tyrant like Nebuchadnezzar. In Daniel 4:27, he says, “Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: renounce your sins by doing what is right and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.” Boy, that's some bold, frank advice-giving there.
And so, I think that Christians can get involved in government at many levels, as salt and light to prevent the spread of corruption by making those kinds of messages. If in fact we don't lose our saltiness
We also owe government prayer, we ought to pray. It says in 1 Timothy 2, “I urge, first of all, that requests and prayers and intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings, and for all of those in authority, so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” That's the province of government, to enable us to live peaceful and quiet lives.
But more than that, we have to pray for the salvation of government officials. Because Paul goes on to say “This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” And so we ought to be praying for presidents and senators and representatives for their personal salvation, That they would come to faith in Christ. Because frankly, some day God is going to call them to give an account. For the way that they carried themselves when they're in positions of power. And they will give an account to Christ.
The Limits of Our Obedience
And so, therefore, dear friends, there are limits to our obedience to Caesar. There's only so much Caesar can command us to do. In Acts 4, Peter and John said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God.” So whenever that comes, where the government is forcing something that causes us that compels us to disobey God, we must disobey government.
Daniel, again, our example of that, he was commanded to pray to no one but the king for 30 days. And so what does he do, he goes up to his room, and opens the window for everyone to see and prays toward Jerusalem three times a day just like he always had done. And they came and got him. Because there was no way that that secular government was going to compel him to stop praying.
By the way, what are you willing to suffer for your quiet time? What kind of suffering are you willing to go through so that you can carry on your personal prayer life? Well, that was Daniel, and he was thrown into that lions’ den. But notice that Daniel still had a respectful attitude toward King Darius. And when Darius came and got him, he who had consigned him unjustly into the lions' den. The next day, Daniel has God been able to keep you alive, He said, “O king, live forever.” There was a respectful attitude that he had. And also Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego toward Nebuchadnezzar. A respectful attitude. “I will obey you as much as I can. But if you command me to do something that I cannot do, then I will not do it.”
The ultimate end of that, dear friends comes when Antichrist rules the world. When the beast of Revelation 13 comes, and when he commands people all over the world to get a mark on their foreheads, or on their hands. And if they don't get that mark, they cannot buy or sell. No true Christian will receive that mark.
For in Revelation 14, it says, “If anyone receives the mark of the beast, they are consigned to hell and the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever.” And so, that's Christian civil disobedience to the final degree there, and many Christians will lose their lives for that form of civil disobedience.
What We Must Render to God
Love God Above All Else
So we have discussed what we must render to Caesar, what must we render to God? Everything. At the end of this chapter we will learn that the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. So you render to God the utmost devotion and love and effort you have in your life. He should be uppermost in your affections, above all things, give him love.
Render to God Worship Above All Else
And render to God worship. Above all else. Jesus said to Satan, who said, “fall down and worship me, and I'll give you all the kingdoms of the world.” Jesus said, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” So can I say to you there are two things you must not give to government?
Do not give them your worship, I don't care what they print on their coins. Men are men and they're not gods, and so this is really a warning to Tiberius Caesar, give to God the things that are God's. You ought to repent, soon, if you think you're a God. In Acts chapter 12, Herod thought he was a God and God struck him dead on the spot and he was eaten by worms and died, because he would not give glory to God. And so this is a warning to tyrants all over the world. If you get arrogant and egotistical and think that you are gods and you're only men, be warned, beware.
But there are two things you must only give to God and certainly not to government: Worship and hope. Don't put your hope in the government, dear friends. It bothered me when Obama had a sticker that said hope in it. Don't hope in Obama. He might end up being some great president. I pray that he repents on his views on abortion. But don't put your hope in him even still, dear friends. Psalm 1:46 says, “Do not trust in princes, but put your trust in the Lord.” So do not give your hope to the federal government, it's not coming by ways of programs. The kingdom of heaven comes in by the power of the Spirit of God.
So don't give to government worship and hope, give it to God. Ascribe to the Lord, give to him what is his rightful due. Ascribe to the Lord. Psalm 92, “Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.”
From Him, through Him, to Him Are All Things
And render means give back what is his. Well what is his actually then? Well, it says in Romans 11:36. “From him and through him, and to him are all things. To him be glory forever and ever!” So render to God everything, so that means rendering to Caesar is a subset of rendering to God. You render to God when you render to Caesar as a Christian, it's an act of worship to God.
Pay Taxes and Serve Government as an Act of Worship to God
So give him all things. As one statesman, and theologian put it, “There is not a square inch in all this universe that our Lord and Savior does not claim as his and say ‘mine!’” Everything is his. And so whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. So pay taxes and serve government as acts of worship to God, and submit to God thereby.
Recognize that God is in Charge of Government and World Events
And recognize that God is sovereignly in charge of governments. God rules through governments. I know that there are difficult questions about that. Let's say one of those warlords in Somalia, just gets a little more powerful than every other warlord and then he becomes the dictator of the country, is he God-ordained authority? It's an interesting question.
But I know that in general, it's the business of Christians to submit when they can and go about the business of the kingdom, and not worry that much about the warlord and get involved in rebellion in that regard. We should therefore pay taxes as an act of worship to the God who gave us government.
We should serve jury duty as an act of worship to the God who gave us the right to participate in the judicial process. We should vote as an act of worship to God, who gives us representative government. Some of us may be called on to serve secular government in even higher ways. In the police, law enforcement, as federal judges, in the military. And if you're able to serve and that's your calling, and you serve with a clear conscience, then serve in that way, also as an act of worship to God.
Look Forward to a Future Perfect Government
And one final thing: Look forward to the future government. The coming government. We celebrated it already, at Christmas time. Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born, and to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.” Amen? “And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will rule on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
That's the coming government. Be sure you're in a right relationship with the coming king, and serve him and wait for his time, when he will establish not just a thousand years of his reign, but an eternal kingdom where we'll bow knee to him. Let's close in prayer.