Summary: To live as citizens of 2 worlds, give the government back some of its money, but give yourself to God: know Him and love Him with the totality of your being.
A man and a woman found themselves standing at the pearly gates very disappointed to be getting into heaven. They were on their way to get married and ended up at the entrance to heaven instead of arriving at their wedding. The bride was in tears and she asked Saint Peter, “Could you find us a pastor, so we can get married?”
“I’m sorry”, said Peter. “There is no marriage in heaven; it is just not done”. At this, the bride melted into a pool of tears and was inconsolable. Finally, Peter could not take it anymore and told the bride, “Ok, ok, ok. I think this is a big mistake, but I will do my best to find a pastor and see if we can arrange a wedding.” The bride calmed down and the couple entered into heaven through the pearly gates.
Three months went by and they hadn’t heard anything, so they walked back to the pearly gates to see if Peter forgot about them. “No, I haven’t forgot about you,” he said. “I am still looking. I will get this done. Don’t come back. I will get a hold of you. Things like this just takes some time here in heaven.” Assured by Peter’s promise, the couple went back into heaven.
Six months went by, then nine, then eighteen months – the couple was not happy. Finally, they received a call – Peter had found a Pastor. “Are you sure you want to go through with this?” he asked them.
“Yes, we are so ready”, squealed the couple. All went well at the wedding, and the couple entered heaven as the first, and only, married couple in heaven.
A few months later, the married couple appeared again at the pearly gates. Both were quite upset. “You were right”, steamed the wife, “there is no marriage in heaven!”
“We want a divorce!” spit the husband. At this Saint Peter doubled over with laughter. He could hardly catch his breath
“What is so funny?” exclaimed the bride, “This is serious.”
“You bet it is serious”, said Peter “If you think it took me a long time to find a pastor in heaven, how long do you think it is going to take to find a lawyer?” (Peter Loughman, from his sermon Choosing Between Two Evils; www.sermoncentral.com)
Heaven is a very different place than this planet. Yet we as believers in Christ, find ourselves citizens of both worlds, and that’s hard sometimes. Our world is becoming increasingly hostile to our Christian values these days; and here in the United States, we find ourselves often disagreeing with our own government.
So how do we live on this earth as citizens of heaven? How do we conduct ourselves as those who are first of all citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven and yet have citizenship in one of the earthly Kingdoms? How do we live as citizens of two kingdoms – a heavenly one and an earthly one?
Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Mark 12, Mark 12, where Jesus addresses this very question. Actually it’s a trick question, because fellow citizens were hostile towards Him and trying to trap Him with His own words. Even so, Jesus’ answer is profound and gives us real guidance today.
Mark 12:13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. (ESV)
They want to trap him like a caged animal. Now, the Pharisees and the Herodians were polar opposites. The only thing they agreed on was that they didn’t like Jesus. The Herodians were pro-Rome and accepted Herod, a Roman appointee, as their rightful ruler. The Pharisees barely tolerated Herod, whom they considered a usurper, because they had no other choice. So when these two groups come together, you know something is up.
Mark 12:14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? (ESV)
Now, the tax they are asking about is an annual poll tax (or head tax) which the Roman emperor had imposed on all the Jews since A.D. 6. That was the year Judea became a Roman province. The tax was particularly odious to the Jews, because it made them feel like slaves to Rome. They didn’t mind paying the Temple tax, because that represented their submission to God as their heavenly King. But to pay taxes to Rome meant that they were also in submission to an evil earthly king, and that grated against their conscience. Messiah was supposed to deliver them against such tyranny.