A Caesar Rendering Due
By Al Gray
All Americans should acquaint themselves with Andrew Jackson's Farewell Address. The unabridged version, distributed as a pamphlet, stands as a clear warning and prophesy. In it “Old Hickory” wrote:
You will yet find there is a constant effort to induce the General Government to go beyond the limits of its taxing power and to impose unnecessary burdens upon the people. Many powerful interests are continually at work to procure heavy duties on commerce and to swell the revenue beyond the real necessities of the public service…. They succeeded in obtaining a tariff …. extravagant schemes of internal improvement were got up in various quarters to squander the money ... But, rely upon it, the design to collect an extravagant revenue and to burden you with taxes beyond the economical wants of the Government is not yet abandoned. …efforts will be made to seduce and mislead the citizens of the several States by holding out to them the deceitful prospect of benefits to be derived from a surplus revenue collected by the General Government and annually divided among the States….Do not allow yourselves, my fellow-citizens, to be misled on this subject. ... It is, moreover, a system of injustice, and if persisted in will inevitably lead to corruption, and must end in ruin.
Don’t these words paint a hauntingly familiar picture in this election season when we are asked to vote ourselves a new tax for transportation improvement? There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to predatory government, is there?
Christians live with a dilemma in evaluating such things, for in Matthew 22:15-22 we find the duties of paying taxes in the context of perplexing instructions:
Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. 16 And they *sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. 17 Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites?19 Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. 20 And He *said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They *said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He *said to them, “ Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away.
What was ‘money’ then and now was whatever was branded as legal tender granted the privilege of being accepted in payment of the government’s taxes. The denarius coin was stamped with Caesar’s image, so Jesus responded simply “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (legal tender money); and to God the things that are God’s (ourselves and wealth that stands beyond legal tender money).
When government strains the limits of the consent of the governed and the sheer mathematics of debt, the things it demands as “money” become debased. Indeed, the fall of Rome came when the denarius became so debased by the government’s own abuse, that other “things” assumed one of the two essential attributes of money – that of a Store of Value. When some other “things” become stores of value - be they gold, silver, produce, grain, oil, or fertilizer – then they command more and more of the government’s legal tender required as units of exchange. At some point the valuables assume both store-of-value and unit-of-exchange functions because the government’s money has gone worthless. Then governments get very hostile to the people.
Indeed, at the time of the Fall of Rome, it was said that the Roman farmers were so infuriated by the government’s raids of the stored value represented by their granaries, that they invited and implored that the barbarians’ invade to relieve them of tyranny from Rome.
We are at the same point here in our “modernity.” Our money is debased, so government is increasing its demands upon us – now wanting to tax our previously taxed savings when we spend them - and will continue to do this until the people rise up and put a stop to it.
Giving the government its due has to be limited to what the government needs to serve us, as Andrew Jackson intoned. As it moves beyond that, it gets into the realm of what is ours and interferes with our ability to give the Lord that which is his – support of church, charities, and our fellow men, women and children in need. Worst of all it grows its demands so as to enslave man and to deny him the time to devote to the Lord and to others.
Let’s spend no more time on that conundrum. Men halt the advancement of government power at some point, if there be patriots still drawing breath (there are). Let us turn to rendering to God that which is His.
What is His?
We are His along with everything that we have and are able to store value into. We are charged to tithe, so as to support the church in its service to the broader community and that must be a central aspect of Christian life and practice.
Matthew 10, Verse 28 makes it clear for us:
28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in [a] hell.
Pretty simple, isn’t it? We should be fearless toward government and fearful of God. We must love the Lord, not government. Government is just another Pharisee, trying to trip you up. Be not deceived. Look beyond their power to harm. Look to heaven. All else is false pretense.
Come thou Fount of Every Blessing and that isn't the latest Caesar or his government.