Rendering to Caesar and to God (Mark 12:13–17) - Radical

Rendering to Caesar and to God (Mark 12:13–17)

“And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians to trap him in his talk and they came and said to him, ‘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.”
-Mark 12:13-17

This is pure flattery here, insincere praise for selfish purposes. Then they ask him, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them or should we not?” “But knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, ‘Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.’ And they brought one and he said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ They said to him, ‘Caesars,’ and Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,’ and they marveled at him.”

Jesus explains how we are to view God and government. We obey the government as submissive citizens but ultimately we belong to and give our worship to God alone.

I love these exchanges all throughout the gospels between Jesus and people who are trying to trick or trap him and then he just turns it around on them. So, what’s so marvelous about what Jesus said we could spend like a long time talking about this but let’s just picture this way. They are trying to trick Jesus into saying if you say don’t pay taxes then that’s going to be traitorous in a sense toward the Roman Empire, towards Caesar. If you say do pay taxes then that could be perceived as compromising devotion to God. So, what is Jesus going to say? Here is Jesus’ response, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” And he says, “Look at this coin, whose image is on this coin?” And they say, “Well, it’s Caesars.” And Jesus said, “All right well if this has his image on it then in a sense it belongs to him.”

So, Jesus is saying what we see in different places in scripture it is glorifying to God to pay taxes to the government. I know that’s not always the thing we love to do but April 15th in the United States is a day of worship. We worship God by obedience to him by supporting the government that he is instituted over us. That’s Romans 13, First Peter two. But so, we pay taxes to Caesar Jesus says because this is where his images so yeah it makes sense to. But then he says, “Render to God the things that are God’s.”

So let’s ask the question, okay where is God’s image? And the answer to that question is breathtaking because God’s image is on every single human heart. You and I bear the image of God. We are made in the image of God which means you and I belong to God. And in that simple statement, Jesus totally transforms the way we think about government. Government is well instituted by God for the promotion of people’s good, it’s good deserves honor in that way but the government is definitively not God. Our allegiance does not belong to government our allegiance belongs to God. Our trust is not in government our trust is in God. Our hope is not in government our hope…

So we pray our hope is in you oh God we praise you for your image in us. Even just that thought right now is overwhelming in a fresh way. Thank you for making us in your image with the capacity to relate to you, to pray to you, to talk with you, to hear from you, to learn from you, and to share this even with one another that we might together pray right now. This is such an awesome thought that our hearts bear your image. And so we say, “Yes, we belong to you. Yes, we trust you. Yes, we hope in you. Yes, our allegiance is yours.” We want to be loyal to you. We want to give you not just a coin here or there. We want to give you our lives, every facet of them. To lead us today. You own us. You possess us. You are Lord of our lives and we are so glad you are. We’re so glad you own us, you possess us, you lead us, you called us your people through trust in Jesus.

Obviously your image in every single person regardless of whether or not they have trusted in Jesus but all the more so. The way Jesus you have saved us from our sins and cleansed us and give us a new heart and made us new creations. Conform us more and more and more we pray into your image. God, we pray that even just the simple verse today render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and render to God the things that God’s would soak into our hearts and minds today that everything we would do we would see ourselves almost like a coin bearing your image. And in this way that we would render to you what is yours and that is everything we have. Our hearts, our minds, our words, our actions, our possessions, all of our coins, our plans, our schedule, our dreams, everything we have, our relationships, we render it to you. We lay our lives before you and we render to you the things that are yours which is everything we are and everything we have. In Jesus’ name, we pray amen.

David Platt serves as pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. He is the founder and chairman of Radical. He is the author of several books, including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me, Counter Culture, and Something Needs to Change.

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