Friday, May 14, 2010
Bearing the Image
It was such a simple sentence: "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (Luke 20:25, ESV)
The Jewish religious leaders set a trap for Jesus and that was His answer. They asked Him if it were lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. On one hand, if He said yes, then He might lose some of His popularity with the average Isralite, for they held Him in high esteem. However, Rome taxed Israel heavily and unceasingly, so most Israelites might find a positive answer reason enough to reject Jesus.
If Jesus said no, then the Jewish religious leaders could charge Him with treason against the Roman Empire before Pilate. That answer would suit these leaders even better. Crucifixion was the penalty for treason. Death would absolutely resolve the possibility that Jesus would take their power and wealth away from them.
Jesus, however, was smarter then these crafty men. He asked them to bring Him a Roman coin, a denarius. In my imagination, I can see Him taking the coin and turning it over in His hand as He looked down at it. Then holding it up for His questioners to see He said, "Whose image is on it?" Caesar's, they replied. "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
For these Jewish religious leaders, who were also knowledgeable about the Jewish Torah – their version of the Old Testament – they recognized what Jesus was saying. The Romans stamped their denarius with the image of Caesar. The religious rulers knew that Genesis 1:27 (ESV) says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him..." While Jesus acknowledged Caesar's right to levy taxes, He also threw down God's claim for the hearts and souls for humanity; God made us in His image. The religious leaders did not want to hear that answer. They were more interested in political power and gathering wealth than in responding to God's constraints.
Do we respond to God's declaration of this fact as the Jewish religious leaders did? We also, must recognize that we, who were created in His image, belong to Him. When Jesus told the Jews "to render," He was saying to return or to yield the taxes to Caesar and likewise to return or to yield ourselves to God.
The apostle Paul expanded on this idea when he said (in Romans 12:1, ESV), "…present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" and (in Ephesians 4:24, ESV) "…put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." What was true for these Jewish religious leaders is even truer for us.
The next time you see me trying to get my own way, would you remind me of this? And the next time you don't want to obey God, pull out a quarter and look at it. Remember that God has a much higher, prior claim to our lives than anything else in this world, because He made us in His image.