“Now, I know that every election people say, ‘This is the most important election of our lifetime.’ But this time, it actually is.”
How many times have you heard that? I’m guessing your answer corresponds with the number of elections you’ve lived through. And I understand why. We really care about our country in the present and the future. We’re besieged by the pressing needs around us as well as the pivotal issues ahead of us. We’re panicked by the prospect of what will happen if this or that candidate gets elected, or this or that party gains power.
But what if there’s another way to look at an election? What if there’s a way to be free from worry about its outcome? What if there’s a way to have true peace and total confidence no matter what takes place in our government? Is that possible?
A Different Perspective
I think about Fatima and Yaseen, friends of mine who live under a totalitarian Muslim regime that has outlawed conversion to Christianity. When Fatima placed her faith in Jesus, she knew she was risking her life and the loss of her family. Yaseen is a pastor of a secret church in a community not far from Fatima, and his house has been both raided and bombed. Yaseen and his family live under constant threat of governmental persecution.
Needless to say, Fatima and Yaseen have never considered putting their hope in their government. Similarly, their peace, joy, and confidence do not hinge on political leaders, platforms, or policies. Could we learn something from them?
Now some might say, “But Fatima and Yaseen would benefit greatly from the freedoms and protections we have as followers of Jesus in the United States.” And I would agree. Still, others might say, “We’re in danger of losing some of these freedoms and protections in the United States.” That may also be true. But these comments miss the point. Even if we lose every freedom and protection we have as followers of Jesus in the United States, and even if our government were to become a completely totalitarian regime, we could still live an abundant life as long as we didn’t look to political leaders, platforms, or policies for our ultimate security and satisfaction. We can still have hope, peace, joy, and confidence regardless of what happens in our government, as long as, like Fatima and Yaseen, we look to Jesus alone for these things, and all of our hope hinges on him.
Before we vote, then, we need to honestly ask, “Who has my heart?” The answer to this question affects not only the way we use our vote but also the way we view our lives.
The Marvelous Response
The most prominent teaching from Jesus about government comes in the midst of an exchange he had with religious leaders who were trying to trap him. Those leaders approached him with a question: “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God.” It was nothing short of flattery, lavishing insincere praise on Jesus for selfish reasons. Still, Jesus waited for their question.
“Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” The religious leaders knew that if Jesus said not to pay taxes to Caesar, it would be an act of rebellion against the government. On the other hand, if Jesus said taxes should be paid to Caesar, he might appear to be compromising his devotion to God.
Seeing through their hypocrisy, Jesus said, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”
They brought him this coin, which was worth about a day’s wage. Jesus held it in his hand, looked them in the eye, and asked, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?”
They answered, “Caesar’s.”
Jesus replied, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
In response, the people who heard Jesus’s words “marveled” at what he said (Mark 12:13–17).
Worthy of Our Hearts
Why were Jesus’s words marvel-worthy? Because in addition to wisely avoiding the trap set before him, Jesus provided a revolutionary picture of how people should relate to government. Since Caesar’s image was on a coin, then in a sense, that coin belonged to Caesar. Jesus affirmed what we’ve already seen in Scripture: God ordains government as an institution under his authority for the good of people. Therefore, we should “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” including taxes.
But what does it mean to render to God the things that are God’s? Think of it this way. Caesar’s image may have been stamped on a coin, but where is God’s image stamped? The answer to that question is breathtaking, and we’ve seen it already in Genesis 1. God’s image is stamped on every human heart. In other words, though Caesar may be worthy of a coin, God is worthy of our hearts.
This excerpt is adapted from David Platt’s most recent book, Before You Vote: Seven Questions Every Christian Should Ask. Go here to order on Amazon.