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. Mark 12:17 (NIV)
Very few verses in the Bible pertain to our government and what our response should be to governing authorities. Mark 12:17 is one of the few that does, so it is a verse I often hear in that context.
Christian, do you pay your taxes on time? Do you honestly weigh your income and pay the full amount owed; or, do you fudge a little, cheat here and there, and keep as much for yourself as possible?
Those are the applications I am accustomed to hearing. My response to these questions is predictable, as well. Cheat on my taxes? Despicable! I would never consider doing such a thing! Why, Mark 12:17 says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s...”
As I consider today what this verse is saying, however, another question comes to mind –a question based on the second part of this verse: What is God’s? It is fairly obvious to all of us what belongs to “Caesar,” but what, exactly, belongs to God? To borrow a phrase from Dr. Seuss, I puzzled on this until my puzzler was sore. The result was another question: What isn’t God’s?
Just two chapters earlier, in Mark 10:17-22 (The Message), we find this little encounter between Jesus and a rich young man.
As he went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, "Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?"
Jesus said, "Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, don't cheat, honor your father and mother."
He said, "Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!"
Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, "There's one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me."
The man's face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.
God isn’t interested in my piddling offerings, if I continue to hold tightly to the things I want to keep for myself. I owe Him everything. Anything less is not enough.
“All things are thine; no gift have we,
Lord of all gifts, to offer thee:
and hence with grateful hearts today
thine own before thy feet we lay.”
~John Greenleaf Whittier
Lord of all gifts, help me to see that nothing is mine to hold. Unclench my greedy fists; melt my heart of stone. Take all that I have, all that I am, and do with it as You please. Let me do the one thing that You want most of all –give back to You everything that is Yours.
For links to more discussions on this verse, please visit Joanne at An Open Book.