As we’re in tax season, the account of when the Pharisees and some Herodians tried to trap Jesus with the question on whether or not to pay taxes to Caesar comes to mind. They came to him saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” And our discerning Lord asks them why they put him to the test and asks for a denarius, which was a coin with the value of a day’s wage for a laborer, and asks them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” to which they responded that it was Caesar’s. Jesus wisely replies, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”. (Mark 12:13-17)
As these Pharisees seek to butter Jesus up in stating that He is true, they actually end up uttering falsehoods in their ignorance of Jesus’ character and who He actually is. While the English translation here says “do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances”, the original Greek text actually implies that they’re saying Jesus doesn’t care or take concern towards others because He doesn’t show a partiality on the basis of outward appearance. This shows their hearts, probably more than they realized, because they were upset that He didn’t show them the reverence that other people did, and by this they assumed He just didn’t concern Himself with others. This couldn’t be farther from the truth and could be a whole other devotional, but the point isn’t necessarily to focus on this accusation, but to point out the state of their hearts and minds. They were outward focused on both appearances and actions, such as paying taxes.
The big question, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” This actually isn’t even the main point of focus in this devotional either, but it brings about a question of where our focus is. You see, in light of all this pandemic, the question has been, “Is it legal to meet as a church body, or not? Should we meet in person, or should we not?” But is that really the question or focus we should have?
Jesus responded wisely, and in proper focus that while yes, render to Caesar the things that are Caesars, we should be rendering to God the things that are God’s. If we get so focused on rendering to Caesar that we neglect to render to God the things that are His, where does that leave us? Definitely not in a place He wants us to be.
What if we instead focused on asking, “What does God want us to do and render to Him?” We don’t even need a second should or should we not follow up question to that because the answer to God telling us what to do should always be “Yes, Lord, Your will be done!”
While the question “What does God want us to do?” is rather general and in some areas of specifics cannot be easily answered in one bible verse, there are things that scripture does tell us what He wants us to do, such as going into all nations and making disciples, praying without ceasing, giving thanks, stirring one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet, praising His Name, loving Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors. In the specifics, He is faithful to answer us when we seek Him, knowing that as we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us and that as we make our plans, He guides our steps when we allow Him to direct us and follow the promptings of His Spirit over our feelings or opinions on things. (Matthew, 28:16-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18; Colossians 3:17; Hebrews 10:24-25; Mark 12:29-31; James 4:8; Proverbs 16:9; Proverbs 16:3)
How do we render to God the things that are His? Well, in the very foundation, He created us, formed us, redeemed us, and called us by name, so we are His. Therefore we should render ourselves wholly to Him as living sacrifices. (Isaiah 43:1; John 17:8-10; Romans 12:1-2)
If we had a servant, which can be hard to imagine in our culture today, so instead let’s say our child who is an employee in the family business. If our child is working in our family business, they as our employee and child should want to do their job to the best of their ability, seeking to please us as their boss and parent, working for the growth of the family business. If we have placed our faith in Jesus, receiving Him as our salvation, we are choosing to become His bondservant and have become children of God adopted into His family (Galatians 4:5). God’s family business is redemption and reconciliation in which we are to be ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:17-20). Our best is to be daily being filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit in order to be poured out, doing the works He has prepared for us, all for the glory of God and to grow the Kingdom of Heaven because it’s the Father’s will that none should perish but that all would come to repentance (Luke 11:13; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Peter 3:9).
Yes, tithing can be part of this as well, offering and sacrificing monetarily to God to use as He wills, but I’m not going to go into that in particular area right now. If you’re interested in how God feels about tithing, which is the one area He even says to test Him in, you can read and study about that in Malachi 3:6-12.
So yes, pay your taxes in accordance with the laws of the land, but most importantly, render yourself to God. Live with open hands for Him to pour into and take from, being a vessel of honor in which He is free to use however He chooses. That abundant life comes from abiding in Him, crucifying your flesh daily, and letting Him carve out the things in you that are not of Him and filling it with Himself in order that you may be a cup that runs over, pouring out and touching others.
So today, purpose in your heart to render to God the things that are God’s. Render yourself to Him daily.