Give to God what belongs to God

Give to God what belongs to God

In Matthew 22:21, Jesus said something incredible when asked about paying tax to the Romans:

Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matt. 22:21 ESV)

In the past few years, as Christians have grappled with all kinds of government decisions and restrictions, much ink has been spilt on the first half of Jesus’ saying. It is a good and valid debate to consider what being good citizens of secular countries looks like. Jesus is clearly supportive of paying tax and honouring governments as much as we are able to, but that is not the main point of his saying.

The emphasis in this saying of Jesus is on the second half, not the first. He noted that the likeness of Caesar was on the coin used to pay the tax. That word “likeness” should make us think. According to Genesis 1, we are made in the image and likeness of God. So, while it is right to pay tax to the government, it is right to give God everything: all of our soul, life and strength.

Jesus called those who questioned him “hypocrites” in v18. They claimed to serve and honour God yet they did not because they rejected Jesus. They paid their taxes – albeit reluctantly – but they were not coming to God in repentance and faith. They were not rendering to God the things that were God’s.

I think we often compartmentalise our lives. We think that things like obeying laws and paying taxes is in the “government” or “society” part, going to church and praying is in the “God” part, and watching Netflix and relaxing is in the “personal” part. But Jesus’ saying won’t let us do that. In reality, all of our lives are in the “God” part. God made us and bought us. When we pay tax, that is part of our service to God. When we sing in church, that is part of our service to God. When we are at home, that is part of our service to God. We need to think carefully about how we are going in serving God in all aspects of our lives that belong to Him.

God made us in his likeness and is conforming us to the likeness of His Son. Let’s work in such a way that is distinctive and improves the culture of our workplaces. Let’s treat our family members with such grace as we have been shown grace. Let’s serve our church family with joy because we know God loves his people. Let’s actively plan to give to God what belongs to God.