Give to God What is God’s

by Joe Johns

Today, Americans all across our country are casting their ballots. As a disciple of Jesus in America, how do we vote in a way that it is faithful to Him?

This is a challenging question, in part, because Jesus did not live in a democracy like ours. Jesus’ relationship to the Jewish and Roman governing authorities of his day was very different. For starters, he never rendered a vote.

But that doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t give us an example to follow.

Jesus was once asked where he stood on a particular hot button political issue—taxes. The question put to him was:

…Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” (Mark 12:14-15)

The question was loaded. Jesus was going to be in trouble with one ruling group or another regardless if his answer was “yes” or “no.” But Jesus’ answer was brilliant. He said,

…“Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. 17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him. (Mark 12:15-17)
Much truth can be mined from Jesus’ response, but let me simplify by just noting how Jesus answers the question by distinguishing between earthly and eternal rulers.

Our eternal God has ordained earthly kings, rulers, and empires to play important, specified roles in his sovereign plan for the world. He directs them as he sees fit and we are instructed to submit to their authority because they are under God’s authority (Proverbs 21:1, Rom 13:1-7).

So, ironically, even Caesar and what belongs to Caesar actually belongs to God.

The point that is helpful to us is this: respect earthly governing authorities without forgetting who is really in charge.

Let’s apply this to our voting.

As a citizen of America, I have a right and responsibility to vote and advocate for just laws in what is (arguably) the best conceived form of government the world has yet known. This is right and good and could be understood as what I “owe Caesar” or the earthly governmental rulership I have been placed under.

But as citizens of His Kingdom, Jesus wants us to realize that while we give “Caesar” our vote, we must distinguish between earthly and eternal rules and rulers. God’s kingdom does not ultimately depend on votes in the earthly realm. We give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but also realize Caesar and his earthly system is not the true King.

One day (soon!) King Jesus will come to rule and our votes will no longer matter. Jesus’ reign will not be dependent on votes or legislation but on hearts and transformation. Votes are, however, important in the here and now. But we don’t cast them as if King Jesus’ reign is ultimately dependent on them here and now, much less there and then.

American democracy is not eternal. But Christ’s rule is. May we not short-change God by ascribing power to Caesar that is not his to receive.
So, what does it mean to vote and give God what is God’s? Perhaps it means to cast our ballot with this Biblical prayer on our lips… the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! …to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Jude 1:25, Ephesians 3:21)

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1 Comment

Steve spreng - November 4th, 2020 at 4:09pm