Render Unto Caesar

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6 Nov 2020
Render Unto Caesar

"Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s." (Luke 20:25)

While the whole world is waiting on edge for finality in the US elections, this is a good time to address the question of why so many Christians are still reluctant to engage in the political process.

It is true that politics can be a turnoff, and election campaigns are outrageously expensive and can often bring out the worst in us. It also is true that, as Christians, we belong to a Kingdom which is “not of this world.” (John 18:36)

Yet, I find it indefensible for Christians not to at least vote.

One of the odd flaws of American democracy is that voter turnout rates are much lower than in many other Western democracies, generally ranging in the low to mid-60s. Voting rates among Christians in the United States are slightly higher, most notably ever since Evangelicals became more involved in the pro-life movement and other moral causes in the 1980s.

But there are still far too many Christians who are fatalistic about the way things are going. Others misconstrue the separation of church and state, believing the mantra of our detractors that Christians should keep our religious views to ourselves. Thus, they voluntarily muzzle their own voice. But this is wrong!

The whole concept of separation of church and state can be traced back to the incisive words of Jesus in Luke 20:25… “render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

In context, Jesus had just told the Parable of the Wicked Vinedresser, which upset some of the religious rulers of his day. So they sent in spies posing as followers to trick him into saying something which might get him in trouble with the Roman authorities. “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” they inquired. But Jesus was up to their game, and responded with an incredibly wise answer that has had a lasting impact in the shaping of Western culture.

Taking a Roman coin with the emperor’s face on it, Jesus said: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Luke 20:25)

The Bible teaches that God sets up rulers and authorities, who need to be respected (see for example: Daniel 4:17; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-4). Yet Jesus also set forth the great truth that there are things about our lives and persons which belong to God alone, and no ruler can take them from us. And we must walk out our life and faith within the tension between those two competing ‘masters.’

Much of this biblical wisdom was forged in ages past when kings and rulers tended to be ruthless, and the righteous often had to suffer and endure and overcome their cruelty and evil.

Today, however, so many of us live in relatively free, democratic societies where we can actually tell Caesar just how much we must render unto him. We can limit the powers of government and hold our leaders accountable. And it is inexcusable for Christians not to exercise our individual rights and defend our religious freedoms. We should not cede our ground and thereby leave it to those seeking ungodly aims.

Most modern democracies are built on one of two historic models which arose at the same time – the French and American revolutions. Both uprisings were sparked in the late 18th century by peoples who stood up to the tyranny of their respective kings.

In France, the royals plundered the people and lived lavishly, abetted by a church bent on maintaining its own privileged status. But the masses eventually rose up and overthrew them both in a bloody revolution empowered by cries for “liberty, equality and fraternity.”

Meantime in America, the courageous subjects of King George settling the new world demanded a real say in their own lives and took up arms to repel his attempt to keep them under his heel.

Building on the Magna Carta, the Reformation and other developments, these revolutions greatly furthered the concept that rulers themselves are subject to a higher law, which led to nations adopting constitutional limits on government. However, there is a key difference between the resulting French and American models for democracy. The French Revolution eventually gave rise to the modern secular state which has left no room for God in the public square. The American model, on the other hand, called for a healthy separation of church and state even while preserving and guaranteeing a place for God in public life.

I truly believe the election battle being waged in the US right now is a struggle over whether America will abandon the model established by its founding fathers and opt instead for the vision of a totally secular, socialist state ruled by an unaccountable elite.

So while we still have the power, we need to be speaking out to tell Caesar just how far he can go and what he can and cannot take from us. We should be seeking out leaders who can turn our nations in a more godly direction. We must demand rulers who will defend our religious liberties and individual freedoms, and especially the life of the unborn. We must back those who will stand for the traditional family and biblical values. And we must insist that our leaders support Israel and treat her fairly in the international arena. 

— David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and senior spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem