Render Unto Caesar
Well, it’s April 15th, and unless the 15th falls on a Saturday, Sunday or federal legal holiday, it is Tax Day – when our tax returns are due. But oddly, this year, none of the above situations has occurred, yet Tax Day is not until Monday, April 18th. Why? Because today, normally the filing deadline for all federal tax returns, is a holiday in Washington, D.C. It is Emancipation Day. Ever hear of it? It’s the anniversary of the date when Abraham Lincoln signed a bill that freed 3100 slaves in the District of Columbia. Normally, the celebrated date is April 16, but since that falls on a Saturday, it was moved up a day. That means the 15th is a legal holiday and so, taxes are now due on April 18th, as they never come due on a week-end.
And that brings up the whole idea of governments and taxes. In the Roman Empire, Caesar was a self proclaimed king, and even Lord. And to drive the point home, Caesar had his image stamped on the coins of the Empire, and since Rome was the center of the world at that time, it was assumed that Caesar was the king of kings.
Well, God had other plans. And after all, God put the wheels in motion for us to have governments. And He admonished us to respect our government officials and to abide by the laws. So government is not in opposition to God’s laws. And even more compelling, when the Israelites wanted a king, God tried to dissuade them. Because Israel was different and He did not want them to be bound by the earthly kingdoms that other nations had. And, God even had Moses appoint judges to help him administer the laws and help make decisions. He did this through the urging of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, who advised Moses to appoint judges – and that Moses would be in the will of God by doing this. In this way, Moses could teach the judges all the laws and they could help deal with and facilitate the disputes in the land; to ease the load on Moses himself.
And, finally, Jesus was approached and asked a question about whether the people should pay taxes to Caesar. We find the story in Mark 12:13-17, “Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription? “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.
And so Jesus escaped yet another trap that had been set for Him by the Pharisees and Herodians. So my encouragement tonight is that you know that God wants you to pay your taxes and comply with the man-made laws we have created – as long as they are not in opposition to God’s laws. If there is ever a conflict, make no mistake, God’s law wins out – always. And my prayer is that you will continue to obey the laws of God. They were put in place for our benefit. But do not confuse God’s laws with the Law of the Old Testament. Following the Law does not get you into heaven – neither does being a good person, or doing good things – because we are now under God’s grace. Only accepting the free gift of salvation gets that job done, and then you will spend eternity with God, and as we are told by Paul in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen.
And, by the way, tomorrow may be a Sabbath day of rest for me – but stay tuned for Monday! Grace and Peace; and have a great week-end.