Today’s Lectio Divina: Luke 20: 20-26 (MsgB)
Watching for a chance to get Him (Jesus), they sent spies who posed as honest inquirers, hoping to trick Him into saying something that would get Him in trouble with the law. So they asked Him, “Teacher, we know that you’re honest and straightforward when You teach, that You don’t pander to anyone but teach the way of God accurately. Tell us: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” He knew they were laying for Him and said, “Show Me a coin. Now, this engraving, who does it look like and what does it say?” “Caesar,” they said. Jesus said, “Then give Caesar what is his and give God what is His.” Try as they might, they couldn’t trap Him into saying anything incriminating. His answer caught them off guard and left them speechless.
Is there anything or anyone more hideous on earth than a person who dishonestly ‘poses as an honest inquirer?’
Just how does that work, anyway?
Dishonesty posing as honesty?
Isn’t that what they call an oxymoron?
Thank goodness, Jesus is able to see right through this guise and in the process, gives us an amazing overview of how we people who desire to live honest lives in a very dishonest world ought to live.
Apparently, from Jesus’ point of view, step one in right living involves us placing a clear defining line in the sand, separating the rule and reign of Caesar from the rule and reign of God. This is a vital component that often gets ignored in Christian circles, especially in America. While the concept of separation of church and state is now used in our country primarily by secular folks to push any form of spirituality off into some far-removed corner, the original intent by our founding fathers was that separation of church and state would be vital in keeping religion free from the invading powers of government and the many rules and regulations set up by the state.
In truth, when religion is mixed with politics, the end result is a gooey paste that tastes awful to most anyone who tries it. It’s too bad that Christians have done so poorly in recent decades in dirtying up our spirituality by bringing religion lock, stock, and barrel into the political arenas of America. Not only has it proven to be divisive, it really hasn’t done all that much good in making a positive change in our culture of America.
So when Jesus separates Caesar from God, He is calling attention to the fact that God’s Kingdom is not of this world. Never has been. Never will be. The idea that we Christians will advance God’s Kingdom in this world to the degree that the world and its politics change is ludicrous at best and a complete heresy at its worst.
Now don’t get me wrong. Jesus is not suggesting that our culture will not change for the positive when godly men and women live out our faith in this fallen world. Undoubtedly, history shows us that there is always a positive upward lift in society when God-fearing people live out their faith in a broken and hurting world. But, as I see it, upward social lift is a secondary blessing that comes from our spirituality, not a primary goal given to us by God.
Jesus makes it clear here that when we mingle world government systems with God’s Kingdom, embracing them in ways that treat them as equals, we will end up with a dangerous combination that, quite honestly, reduces the effectiveness of both entities.
William Penn, Quaker and founding father of what we today call Pennsylvania, understood it this way. Government has no character. We don’t pray, for example, for good government. Government will only be as good or bad as the people who form that government. If we have a bad government, it’s only because we have people running it who have no moral compass or who fail to be godly in their personal lives. Likewise, when we have good government, we only have that blessing because good people are running it.
As I see it, the reason so many Americans are so frustrated with our government today is because most of us are running around trying to fix our government. If William Penn was right, we’d spend much less time working to fix ‘Caesar’ and his system of government and much more time focusing on God and His advancing Kingdom. As a by-product of that right order, I’m guessing we’d be amazed at the positive changes we’d begin to see in our society as God is allowed to ‘fix’ us instead of fixing our government.
Maybe that’s why Jesus seems so adamant when He so boldly draws the line in the sand, commanding us to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.
My prayer: Father, give me a better perspective on this separation of church and state thing. Holy Spirit, clarify for me the boundaries between ‘Caesar’ and ‘God’ so that I can truly live in this world, for the cause of Christ, yet not be of it. For Your name’s sake.
My questions to ponder: Where have I been removing boundaries between the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of God? Where have lines become grey? Or where might I have become so exclusive in my spirituality that I fail to involve myself with this world at all? What balance does God want to bring to my life so that I ‘pay to Caesar what is his’ and ‘pay to God that which is His’?
So, what are you experiencing today as we are journeying through this Lenten Adventure?
Over a 48-day period (from Ash Wednesday through the Monday after Easter), you and I will be taking a deeper look at the stories surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus (especially the last week known as Holy Week) as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Our Lenten Journey home page for ease of use.
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