Summary: What does it mean top be a Christian Patriot?
“I Pledge Allegiance”
It’s been said that the best way to avoid conflict in any relationship is to avoid talking about religion and politics. There are marriages, in fact, functioning on that premise. And if that is true, I’m in big trouble this morning because this sermon will deal with both politics and religion. But on a weekend when we remember those who died fighting for our freedom and celebrate the firm foundation upon which our nation has been built, it‘s only appropriate that I do so. There is no better opportunity than this to raise the question, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A CHRISTIAN PATRIOT? Just how do we put our faith and our politics together? We get some guidance from the 22nd chapter of Matthew.
To set the stage we need to understand the context. This whole scene is nothing but A TRICKY CONFRONTATION. It was Holy Week – Jesus was soon be crucified. The opposition to Jesus was mounting and reaching new heights. Even the religious Jews wanted to do away with Him. So, verse 15: “Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap (Jesus) in his words.” It’s really humorous. Listen again to what they say; "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" They acknowledge His wisdom and integrity and then proceed with a plan which ignored His wisdom and integrity! It would be their undoing. By their own admission THEY RAISED AN ISSUE TO TRAP JESUS, not to get a serious answer. The Jews lived in Palestine but Palestine was under the control and rule of the Roman Empire. So the Jews could legitimately ask if they, as a nation loyal only to God, should pay this particular tax to a pagan, foreign government and ruler. It was an issue which divided even the Jews. The Pharisees were zealous in defending God and believed they should resist this support of the foreign, pagan ruler. If Jesus said to pay the tax they would go after Him for failure to uphold loyalty to their God. The Herodians, on the other hand, were zealous in defending the right to levy taxes and if Jesus would say not to pay the tax they would report him to the authorities who would arrest him as a revolutionary and charge Him for treason. It was like the proverbial question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” A yes or no answer will lose. So they had him trapped – one way or another He would get in trouble. Or would He?
(18) “But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." JESUS RAISED AN ISSUE TO CONFRONT THEM. Jesus raised their question of trickery to an issue of greater importance: How is a devout worshipper of God – today it is, how is a devout Christian - supposed to relate to the governing authorities? HOW CAN ONE BE A PATRIOT AND A CHRISTIAN? Jesus was giving them a warning that they were to give back to each – Caesar and God – what rightfully belonged to them. If Caesar’s name was on the money, then give it back to him. But do not give to him what belongs to God. And, continued Matthew, “When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.” Why this reaction of amazement?
Because JESUS DID NOT COMPLETELY ANSWER THE QUESTION OR SETTLE THE ISSUE. Since the Jews were insincere and simply trying to lay a trap for Jesus, He refused to give them a full answer. He put the ball back in their court. He wanted them to wrestle with the greater issues of what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God! Jesus still wants us to wrestle with this issue as it is always before us. He gave no complete answer, only a basic principle: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." How do we know what’s what and what belongs to whom? The church has always struggled with that question – we just ask it differently. Should our faith mix with our politics, and if so, how? What is the relationship between our faith and our government? How do we "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's?"