And He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
In a vain attempt to trap Jesus, the religious leaders sent people to Him on the sly with questions and challenges designed to catch Him saying something untoward. In context, these folks came and asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay taxes to Rome. Obviously, they did not mean to ask if it was permissible under Roman law — these were taxes being paid to Rome, after all — but under The Law; the Torah. Somehow, the religious leaders had found a verse that they had mangled to mean that taxes should not be paid to secular governments — they still wanted people to pay the temple tax, let’s not get crazy — and knew that Jesus would have to speak contrary to that teaching in order to say that paying Roman taxes was lawful. On the other hand, Jesus could agree with their teaching and they could scarper off to some Roman official or another and say that Jesus was teaching people not to pay their due to Rome and have Him arrested for that. It seemed like a Catch-22. But Jesus knew. More, Jesus had an answer that called them out for their hypocrisy while maintaining civil authority. This morning’s verse is that answer.
Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. Give what is due to whom it is due in the physical world. Caesar could easily be replaced with terms like “the government” or “your spouse” or any person or entity that has a place in the physical world. My wife is due certain things — I owe these things to her. The physical world is replete with those to whom something is due. Jesus’ instruction to me is to give them their due. This, as an aside, does not preclude God having claims on my physical life, only points out the limits of the claims of others.
Render … to God the things that are God’s. Give what is due to Whom it is due in the spiritual world. My wife is not the One I should worship. My government is not worthy of my prayers. While there are those who have very real claims on me and my resources in the physical realm, the spiritual is another matter entirely. God alone claims my all in that realm and He is the only One Who has any right so to do.
“To each his own.” is a phrase most often applied to people having preferences or interests. This morning, it occurs to me that I ought to render to each his own — to God what is rightfully His and to those to whom I owe something in the physical world what is rightfully theirs.