April 15, 2019 ● 19-23
Mark 12:17 And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him.
Phil. 3:20: for our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Pet. 2:17. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.
Taxes; it’s a sore subject. We don’t like to pay taxes, we drag our feet every year the closer we get to April 15. We always have this fear that we will wind up owing more than we paid.
Before I got married I used to simply take the 1040ez form, sign the bottom, and send it in with my pay information and it always worked out – except for one year. One year I signed the form and sent it in. About three weeks or so later I received a letter from the IRS that simply stated they had completed my taxes and I owed them thousands of dollars! Of course I almost fell over! I called the IRS immediately, and through several phone conversations it was discovered my tax forms had been incorrectly prepared. Can I just say this: duh!
Yes, taxes can be a sore subject for many people. Taxes are nothing new, even in Jesus’ day there were taxes and tax collectors. One of the twelve disciples, Matthew, was found by Jesus at the tax collector’s booth when Jesus called him to follow (Matt. 9:9). Matthew was in a tough spot—the Romans did not like him because he was a Jew, the Jews did not like him because he was doing Rome’s work.
In Mark 12, there is a series of conversations between various groups of religious leaders and Jesus. Their main purpose in all these conversations was to find something they could charge Jesus with and have Him arrested because they disliked Him so. In Mark 12:13-17 these religious leaders asked Jesus about the legality of paying taxes. Very simply stated, if Christ legitimized the payment of taxes, He would have seemed to abandon Israel’s hope; but if He had denied Rome the right to collect taxes, He would have been guilty of treason1. Jesus’ solution was simple: because Caesar’s image was on the coin, give the coin to Caesar, and what belonged to God was to be given to God. It is this last statement the religious leaders may have missed, or refused to acknowledge. Just as Caesar’s image was on the coin, God’s image is on us as His special creation (Gen. 1:26-27).
The moment God saves us, He adopts us into His family of faith. And because we are part of God’s family of faith, we are also citizens of the kingdom of God, so all Christians have a dual citizenship. Being a good citizen means we follow the rules and laws of the place, country, city, or state where we are a citizen. Being a good citizen of the kingdom of God means we have the Word of God as our guide in how to be a good citizen of our heavenly kingdom. Our actions reflect on both kingdoms; if we break the laws of our earthly kingdom we give a poor testimony as children of God who are supposed to be models of obedience. If we don’t follow God’s Word as His children, we call our testimony into question as obedient children of our heavenly Father.
Taxes make us mad, give us fits, and are always good fodder for dinnertime conversations. However, taxes are part of our lives, part of what the government can legally do. The 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives the government the right to impose taxes on us. We may not agree with taxes but we have a legal obligation as citizens to pay them. We also have obligations as citizens of God’s kingdom by faith in Jesus Christ. Our obligations in this kingdom are far greater than paying taxes; for in this kingdom we are to give what is most precious to God – ourselves – for His glory.
I want to encourage you to allow God’s Word to equip you to understand the importance of being both a citizen of this world and a citizen of the kingdom of God. Use the following scriptures to help you understand your dual citizenship and how God is honored in both:
Romans 13:1-14 / Col. 3:22-25 / 1 Pet. 3:16
A man’s Christianity should make him a better citizen than any other man2.
1 J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, 1981), 388.
2 William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, The Daily Study Bible Series, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), 288.