September 22, 2015
THE GEORGIA CAPITOL DEVOTIONAL - 22 September 2015
The Lord Jesus spoke a plethora of the most significant words in history. One such assertion has had such an impact upon Western Civilization that it is properly regarded as colossal: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” In response to those words, the crowds “were amazed at Him” (Mark 12:17). They absolutely marveled!
For this Capitol devotional, we will focus upon the second proposition of Jesus, which is “Render . . . to God the things that are God’s.” Jesus refused to be trapped by an either/or proposition, and instead provided a third option that none of them considered, and for which, they all “were amazed.” Once more, Jesus astonished the people with his teachings.
If the coin has Caesar’s image upon it, then it belongs to him, so he should receive what is rightfully his. Human beings, however, bear a different image. We bear the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). The Creator’s God image is stamped upon you and me, so we must give to God what is rightfully his, our entire life.
We have a duty to the government but we have an ever greater responsibility to God, who has created us, and redeems us by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. As 1 Corinthians 10:31 states, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” We see that principle lived in the lives of the apostles when, in Acts 4:19-20, Peter and John said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Again, in Acts 5:29, “But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’”
If Romans 13 calls Christians to obey government, then Revelation 13 illustrates what occurs when government commands Christians to do something God tells us not to do. No government commands the Christian’s unqualified support. Friends, this is one of the problems with referring to any country as a “Christian nation.” Simply because the principles of Christianity definitely influenced our nation’s founders, and some of them were themselves evangelical Christians, and even the Supreme Court has recognized the long history of significant Christian influence in our nation, that does not mean that most Americans are Christians or that a Christian worldview dominates our public culture or our government today, or that one needs to be a Christian to be an American citizen.
Confusion regarding the gospel ensues when the church wields the sword that belongs to the state. Moreover, the state is but a temporary institution. We worship God alone and must not put our entire trust in legislators, who retire and die. All the state can offer is but a fleeting glory, as John Wesley observed:
I was in the robe-chamber, adjoining the House of Lords, when the King put on his robes. His brow was much furrowed with age and quite clouded with care. And is this all the world can give even to a king? All the grandeur it can afford? A blanket of ermine round his shoulders, so heavy and cumbersome he can scarcely move under it! A huge heap of borrowed hair, with a few plates of gold and glittering stones upon his head! Alas, what a bauble is human greatness! And even this will not endure.
The Lord’s statement was not only astounding the moment it was uttered, but is even today universally acclaimed to be the single most influential political statement ever made in the history of the world. With one simple maxim, Jesus affirmed everything in proper perspective. He identified Caesar in his proper position, and he affirmed wherein God rightfully belongs in our lives also. All the people could do was stand and look with amazement. May we also be properly astonished; yet, also as Jesus instructed, let us worship God as long as we live.
Missionary Pastor to Georgia's Leaders,
Ron J. Bigalke, Ph.D.
Capitol Commission Georgia