Jesus separated church and state

According to tradition, Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea, a territory occupied at the time by the Roman Empire. In Matthew’s gospel (Chapter 22), Jesus is presented with a denarius (a Roman coin with Caesar’s head on it). The Pharisees and Herodians, attempting to trap him, inquire of Jesus: “Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” Jesus responds, to their surprise, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”

This phrase has become a widely quoted summary of the relationship between Christianity, secular government and society. The officials expected Jesus to encourage the people to defy the government and withhold tax payments. Instead, he established a guideline for the separation of church and state. If we expect to enjoy the rights and privileges of government, then we should expect to pay the government something in return for its protection.

Just as important (if not more), is our rendering to God what is God’s. We should share our first fruits with God, for we live under God’s protective grace.

As Ecclesiastes says: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Sadly, we live in a bitterly divided country. But we continue to enjoy the rights of democracy, established by the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution over 200 years ago.

No one enjoys paying taxes, but they are necessary to the consistent and proper running of the country. We can only hope and pray that our leaders will, in time, find ways to compromise and set our nation on more solid fiscal ground.

— Robert Fowler, St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Jacksonville

Obeying the law is for our protection

Even though the governmental policies of Rome were oppressive to the citizens of Israel after it had been conquered, Jesus did not encourage resistance, revolt or revolution.

As demonstrated when He sent Peter to find the gold coin in the fish’s mouth in Matthew 17:24-27, Jesus was clear that the proper attitude was to pay the tax, lest the governing bodies were offended.

In Matthew 22:21, Jesus stated, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”

Romans 13:1-7 continues to encourage believers to follow the mandates of governmental policy: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.”

Biblically speaking, obeying governmental laws is for our protection.

— Beverly Mattox, Word Alive International Outreach