“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Luke 20:25
Caesar was revered as a god by the Romans. All of the people, including the Jews, were obligated to pay heavy taxes to him. This was a highly controversial topic, and some Jews felt that it was wrong to pay taxes to a pagan ruler who had set himself up as a god. In an attempt to trap him, the Pharisees ask Jesus whether it is lawful for the Jews to pay taxes to Caesar – if he says ‘no’, he will be accused of rebellion against Caesar, which could incur a death penalty; if he says ‘yes’, they know that the people will resent his apparent allegiance with Rome.
Jesus’ response takes them entirely by surprise and stuns them into silence – Caesar can have his taxes, he can be given what he is owed, but give back to God what belongs to him! In one sense, this includes all material ‘stuff’, since God ‘owns’ it all anyway. So in reality, no-one can really claim any permanent ownership of wealth or power. But in a deeper sense, God demands back that which bears his image (like the coin bears Caesar’s image) – i.e. ourselves.
We belong to God – created in his image and likeness. We cannot hold onto any part of our life and try to keep it back from God. In sending Jesus to die for us, in our place, he has paid the highest possible price for us.
God instructs us to submit to human authority (which is bestowed by him), obey the law, pay our taxes, etc, but above all of that, He is our highest authority. All that we have and all that we are is from God and belongs to him. How are we honouring God with our ‘stuff’ and ourselves?