Devotion for October 24-26, 2017

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are
Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:21

We live in a confusing world. It seems that everyday people are told
what they can and can’t believe. They’re told that things that were always
true are no longer true, that what people have known is no longer known—
perhaps not even knowable. Pressures in society have led to the government
trying to dictate what must be believed. If anyone crosses the decrees of our
modern-day Caesars, there will be a price to pay.

For some, the solution is to seek earthly power. Their hope is that if they
have someone in control who believes what they believe, then they will be on
the winning side. For others, the answer is to continually withdraw from
anything in the public square. But are either of those the solution that our
Lord would have us seek?

Jesus was confronted with a similar issue. The Pharisees wanted to
entrap Jesus. They asked Him if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. It was a
trap because if Jesus said that it wasn’t lawful to pay taxes, He would making
Himself an enemy of Caesar. If He said that it was lawful, they could claim
that He was an enemy of that nation of Israel and a supporter of Rome’s sinful
activities.

Jesus doesn’t fall into the trap, though. He shows us a clearer view of
the world. He asks them whose image is on the coin that’s paid as tax. They
answered that it was Caesar. Jesus then tells them, “Therefore render to
Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Jesus is here telling us that the worldly authorities are to receive what is
theirs (that is, earthly wealth, respect, honor, and the like), while God is be
given what is properly His (which is faith).

We give our faith to God. We don’t render it to the worldly Caesars, no
matter who they will be. They cannot save us. They can’t keep death away.
They can’t forgive sins. They can’t give anything eternal. Instead, the worldly
authorities have been established to keep order and peace. They are to punish
the wicked and to reward the good. Their kingdom operates by laws and the
enforcement of those laws.

God’s kingdom, however, operates differently. He rules His kingdom by
grace. He forgives sins. He causes His rain to fall upon the just and the unjust
alike. He does all of this because of the salvation that Jesus won upon the
cross. That’s why we put our faith in God alone. We don’t trust any worldly
leader or authority to bring about heaven on earth. That’s not what they’re
given to do. We put our faith in God alone to give us salvation and bring us to
eternal life.

Earthly rulers will fail us, no matter who they are or what their agenda
or ideology is. It’s just what happens with sinful mortals. But we don’t put our
faith in them. We give the respect due to them, as God says we should. We
render to them the earthly things that are proper. But to God alone do we
render our faith and our hope for the world to come.

Prayer: O God, the protector of all who trust in You, have mercy on us
that with You as our ruler and guide we may so pass through things
temporal that we lose not the things eternal. In Jesus’ name we pray,
Amen.