Caesar vs. God

“Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

Separation of Church and state, right? Easy. God wants us to be good citizens, and good Christians. Everyone knows this, right?

Everyone is wrong

This isn’t about the entirely modern idea of the separation of Church and state, or the need to be good citizens. It’s about false gods.

“Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.”

The image is of Tiberius Caesar, and the inscription reads, “Ti[berivs] Caesar Divi Avg[vsti] F[ilivs] Avgvstvs”, i.e. “Caesar Augustus Tiberius, son of the Divine Augustus”. Now that Jesus has drawn attention to the claim that Caesar is the son of a god, is He really going to be immediately encouraging secularism and citizenship?

Or, is He saying to give back what is false to the false god? Let Caesar have his riches, not because he deserves them, but because they are no good any way. St Augustine said we must give Caesar money, that bears his image, and give God ourselves, because we bear His image. The Christian doesn’t live by wealth or power, but by love and lowliness.

I have been told that in Jesus’ day, the question of tax was extremely controversial: If Jesus accepted paying tax, the people would stone him, but if He opposed it, the state would kill Him. Jesus managed to not only avoid being killed, but also to accuse the emperor as a false god, in such a way that no religious leader could rat Him out to the authorities without being forced to agree with Him.

When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

God bless you!

P.S. here’s some more background, if you’re interested

Jesus‘ economics

Jesus, as you probably know, didn’t talk much about economics. He was more into the way we use our own resources, rather than how they are allocated nationally and internationally.
But he does say a few significant things.

‘to him who is asking of thee be giving, and him who is willing to borrow from thee thou mayest not turn away.’
Matthew 5:42(Young’s Literal Translation)

That’s two pretty radical commands. There are said to be two billion Christians alive today. Imagine the impact on the world economy if we lent to whoever was willing.
First thing I‘d expect is the rapid and egalitarian growth of “developing economies“. Poverty would soon only be relative.
The rich or crafty could theoretically take advantage and also borrow. I think this would be small though, because of self-respect, hatred of debt, and the awkwardness of getting money from many Christians. When those in need ask for help, we spread the word, but there’s no desire to share the request of the rich or crafty.
And (unless we‘re willing to render Jesus‘ words pointless) we must assume that, in accordance with Jewish law, it is lent without interest.
And giving clearly helps people, and simplifies Christian life.

‘And forgive us our debts, as also we forgive our debtors.‘
Matthew 6:12

We forgive our debtors now. This is wonderful liberation. Did you know that 16,000 people commit suicide in the USA each year because of debt problems? Our forgiveness is just a fraction of God‘s, and our debts to each other are nothing compared to our debt to God, but it can still save lives.
So if there’s easy forgiveness, and zero interest, where’s the deterrent to borrowing? None (apart from pride). So, many Christians would have to simplify their lives and live with less.

‘Give back the things of Caesar to Caesar, and the things of God to God’
Mark 12:17

Before this, Jesus was asked whether they should pay tax to their Roman occupiers; Jesus asked who‘s inscription and image are upon the coin (a denarius); They answer Caesar‘s.
Caesar was worshipped under the state religion as a god. His image was an idol. The inscription Jesus looked at, proclaimed Caesar as son of a god. So to Jesus, this was a matter of false god vs true God.
So, in asking about the image and inscription, he points to their idolatry. In saying to give back to each, he questions which god owns what, and whether we are indebted to either.
If you are in bed with Caesar and that is how you have his money, you should give it back. He is not the lord of the righteous. If you have taken anything from God (and everything is God’s), you should return it to His service.

‘and I say to you, Make to yourselves friends out of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye may fail, they may receive you to the age-during tabernacles.’
Luke 16:9 (follows the parable of the unrighteous steward, Luke 16:1-8)

Jesus said that we‘ll be received into age-during tabernacles because of making friends from “the mammon of unrighteousness”. Is the mammon of unrighteousness all money? I do not know. What friends are we to make, who can receive us to age-during tabernacles? I would assume the poor and needy, as Jesus says that our treatment of them is our treatment of the King (Matthew 25:40, 45), and links that to judgment.

Now, my last two points are not directly from Jesus, so have somewhat less authority. But, I believe they followed him vigorously, and were taught by the Holy Spirit, so they’re certainly worth our attention.

and all those believing were at the same place, and had all things common, and the possessions and the goods they were selling, and were parting them to all, according as any one had need.
Acts 2:43

In the spirit of brotherly love, the early assembly in Jerusalem, led by the apostles, shared all things, ignoring their private property, and supporting all the needy.
And it was all voluntary. This is the image of Christian love expressed through all our belongings, for His service and glory.

To no one owe anything, except to love one another.
Romans 13:8

Should this be taken as a general command to pay off our debts then take no more?

The rich over the poor ruleth, And a servant is the borrower to the lender.
Proverbs 22:7

a servant—wast thou called? be not anxious; but if also thou art able to become free—use it rather;
1Corinthians 7:21

with a price ye were bought, become not servants of men;
1Corinthians 7:23

In the freedom, then, with which Christ did make you free—stand ye, and be not held fast again by a yoke of servitude
Galatians 5:1

[The last quote is about legalism, but I believe it applies elsewhere too]

If you know any other passages on being free from all bondage if possible, please share them with me.

In summary, Jesus taught us to be free and free others economically, and use our wealth in love.
God bless you.