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GIVE TO CAESAR WHAT IS CAESAR’S AND TO GOD WHAT IS GOD’S

Luke 20:20-20:26
Key Verse: 20:25b

Thank God for granting us a new year, 2016. Through the last lesson we learned that we should overcome our own men mentality having a right relationship with God in repentance and faith in his Son Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, and become faithful stewards of God’s vineyard. Today’s passage, though short, conveys a big idea of Bible teaching. Let’s study this passage entitled, “Give to Caesar to what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

First, Jesus’ wisdom. It was during the Passion Week. On Sunday Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding on a donkey’s colt. The people welcomed him with a loud praise to God. The next day Jesus cleared the temple and then taught in the temple. The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people felt greatly offended and were trying to kill him, but they could not because all the people hung on his words (19:47-48). The following day they questioned Jesus’ authority. He went on to tell the people the parable of the tenants, exposing the religious leaders’ terrible rebellion against God in their "own men" mentality. Jesus really wanted to help them to find themselves in this parable. However, the teachers of the law and the chief priests did not acknowledge their wickedness. Rather, they looked for a way to arrest him immediately, but they were afraid of the people.

So they now decided to use quite a different method. That is the spy-sending strategy. Look at verse 20. “Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest…” When we refer to Matthew (22:16) and Mark (12:13), the group of spies consisted of Pharisees and Herodians. They hoped to catch Jesus in his spoken words and hand him over right away to the power and authority of the governor, Pilate, who was ruling Judea. We see that they were still blind to see the power and authority of Jesus that was from above, and so relied on the transitory power and authority of the governor. Most people fear and depend on the visible human power and authority, not being able to see the invisible power and authority of God. They get into human struggle and become ugly and miserable. We all should deeply acknowledge the power and authority of God and learn to rely on the true power and authority. Thank God that Ian and M. James have the same 2016 key verse of Matthew 28:19-20 and want to depend on the authority of the risen Jesus and engage in disciple-raising in obedience to his command.

Look at verse 21. “So the spies questioned him: ‘Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.’” What the spies said about Jesus is true, but they spoke such words with flattery to disarm Jesus. And then they put forth a question they thought would be a trap: “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” If Jesus said, “Yes,” Jesus would betray his own chosen people of God. If “No,” then it would be a rebellion to Rome and he would be arrested right away. They were sure that Jesus would be cornered by this closed tricky question.

How did Jesus react at this? Look at verse 23. “He saw through their duplicity and said to them, ‘Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?’” Probably Jesus and his disciples were too poor to have a denarius coin on them. Anyway, Jesus let the spies bring and show a denarius coin to him. Thus he wisely took the initiative, and asked back, “Whose portrait and inscription are on it?” That was an easy question to them, and seemed to have nothing to do with reversing the satiation. So they quickly and assuredly replied, “Caesar’s.” Hearing their sure reply, Jesus said to them, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” When they asked, “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” they certainly never expected such an answer as this. Verse 26 says, “They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.” Although they used think tank, they were totally defeated by Jesus’ wisdom.

Here we cannot help thinking about Jesus’ wisdom. This was not human wisdom. As we studied in Isaiah 11:2, the Spirit of wisdom rested on him. In other words his wisdom was from God as well as his power from God. In fact, according to Isaiah 11:2, the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, and the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD rested on him. Interestingly the Spirit of wisdom was mentioned first and the Spirit of the fear of the LORD last. In truth his wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge and the fear of the LORD are all in one set from the Spirit of the LORD.

The more we live a life of faith, the more we realize we need wisdom. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” We should ask God for his wisdom in every area of life. Particularly, in the spiritual realm the devil is real and we really need wisdom to defeat the devil, all his lies and evil scheme and to help God’s flock of sheep timely and properly and build up God’s ministry. What we need is the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit. That’s why the Bible commands us, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18) and “Live by the Spirit.” (Gal 5:14). Also, when we think of Jesus, he was always aware of God living before God, while the spies and those who sent them lived in the eyes of men. Their minds must have been occupied with Caesar and tax matter and ultimately trapping Jesus. So God was not in their minds. They were living in a two dimensional world. But Jesus was living on three dimensional level, loving God with reverent submission (Heb 5:7). Here we are reminded of the words of the Bible. Proverb 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” and 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” Also, Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” There is an interesting passage in Job. Job questions, “…where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell? Man does not comprehend its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living. The deep says, ‘It is not in me’; the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’ It cannot be bought with the finest gold, nor can its price be weighed in silver.” Again Job questions, “Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell? It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing…Destruction and Death say, ‘Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.’ God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells…When he established the force of the wind and measured out the waters, when he made a decree for the rain and a path for the thunderstorm, then he looked at wisdom and appraised it. And he said to man, ‘The fear of the LORD—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding” (Job 28:12-28).

When we read the book of Daniel, in his youth he resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine (Da 1:8). It was rejecting the king’s special care and generous offer. How could he do that? If he feared the king he would not be able to make such a resolution. But when he feared God he had no fear of the king and could make such a decision. When he feared God, he not only won a victory of faith, but also God gave him knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. Later the king found that he was ten times better than all the wise men in his whole kingdom (Da 1:17, 20-21). May we have the fear of God and gain wisdom at each time of need, and furthermore may we grow in the fear of the Lord and become men and women of wisdom to serve God’s flock of sheep and do his work in the world.

Second, “Give to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is God’s.” Look at verse 25b again. “He said to them, ‘Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” People should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. They should pay taxes and bear human responsibilities as citizens of a nation. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” is a biblical constant. Honouring God does not mean dishonouring the emperor or any human authority. Bible teaches that we should submit human authorities. Jesus said clearly here, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Apostle Paul also said in Romans 13:1, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” Apostle Peter also said in 1 Peter 2:13, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men.”

However, as an answer to their question, “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Jesus did not stop at , “Give to Caesar what is Caesar.” He spoke further, “Give to God what is God’s.” What astonished the spies was this part, which they could never have thought of in connection with giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s. The mistake of those who sent the spies with the question, “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” was that they did not give to God what is God’s. All things came from God beginning with our very life. Our existence is due to him. One’s position and wealth and everything he possesses are from God. But the chief priests and the teachers of the law wanted to keep, their status quo, their position and wealth and all they had, not giving due honour and respect to God. Rather, in order to be their own king, they wanted to get rid of Jesus who truly feared God and obeyed God to serve his will of the salvation of mankind. As a result, they turned to be enemies of God against their wishes

Human beings in whom the image of God is inscribed are to give to God what is God’s. Then they are truly happy and have satisfaction in their souls. The Magi were the ones who gave to God what is God, their heart’s adoration and in fact their all. When they gave to God what is God’s fully, their souls were fully satisfied. No authority can demand the worship of our whole being. Only God is worthy of our wholehearted worship and devotion. This is the reason Deuteronomy 6:5 says “Love the Lord our God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” He not only created us but also redeemed us by giving his one and only Son as a ransom sacrifice for our sins. So in Revelation the four living creatures and twenty-four elders worshiped God laying their crowns before the throne and saying, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (4:9-11). They also fell before the Lamb and sang a new song: “You are worthy…because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (5:8-9).

When any human authorities demand us to give what is God’s to them, the people of God cannot do that. The excellent example was Daniel’s three friends. They refused to bow down before the visible image of King Nebuchadnezzar while all others did so, although they knew they would be thrown into a blazing furnace. They were brought to the king, who gracious offered the second chance to save their lives. But their attitude could not be altered. They said to the king unambiguously, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you set up” (Da 4:16-18). When they refused to worship any other than God to the end, they were indeed thrown into a blazing furnace. But God rescued them without fail. This was also the case of Daniel. His enemies made a decree that anyone who prays to any god or man except the king, shall be thrown down into lions’ den. Their purpose was to destroy Daniel. Then “now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Da 6:7-10). Obviously the enemies saw this and Daniel was thrown into lions’ den. But God rescued him perfectly. In the New Testament when the Jewish authorities threatened the apostles not to preach the name of Jesus, Peter and John said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God” (Acts 4:19).

When the US Supreme Court passed the legalization of same-sex marriage, John MacArthur preached a sermon with the title, “We will bow.” According to the sermon, the two greatest attacks of terror on America were perpetrated by the Supreme Court: the first one, the legalizing of abortion; the second, the legalization of same-sex marriage. He says in the sermon that the country is being terrorized by the people most responsible to protect it—those who are to uphold the law. But he reminds God’s people that homosexuality, homosexual marriage, gender transition—these are not the real battlegrounds. The real battle ground is against God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and the Bible, and the church, and the gospel. And there is Satan behind the battle. His conclusion is that: We don’t bow down to Caesar. We bow to our King. Unfaithful people bowed down before idols and godless kings. But faithful people did not bow down. Mordecai did not bow down. Daniel did not bow down. His friends did not bow down. Jesus did not bow down. Paul did not bow down. There will be a barrage of persecution. These are going to be very challenging days. But we will not now. We will render to God what is God’s.

Jesus was during the Passion Week and going to die on the cross as the Lamb of God in obedience to God’s will. In this event Jesus revealed who God is and what is to be done to him and how God’s people should live. We are living in a generation that demands us to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but not to God what is God’s. We should know “what is due to Caesar” and “what is due to God.” When we give to Caesar what is Caesar’s neglecting giving to God what is God’s, we become slaves to human authorities or system. But when we give to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s not compromising at all with giving to God what is God’s, we are free and live as true citizens of the physical kingdom and of the spiritual kingdom. Thank Jesus who is full of wisdom and truth. May keep Jesus’ words in our hearts, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s and live accordingly even if it is costly. Then we can be a blessing to our nation and God’s kingdom can be expanded through us.

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