Summary: In order to live as citizens of heaven on this earth, we must give back to the government the things that belong to it (i.e., taxes), and give ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, knowing Him and loving Him with the totality of our being.
In the summer of 2004, Warren Beamer, a missionary from San Antonio, Texas, visited an orphanage in Nigeria. Beamer was startled when one of the children at the orphanage spoke to him with a southern accent. The girl quickly shared that she was from Houston, Texas. To convince the missionary that this was true, she recited her social security number. Then the girl led Beamer to six other children in the orphanage, whom she described as her brothers and sisters.
The children, who ranged from eight to sixteen years-of-age, had been sent to a Nigerian boarding school by their adoptive American mother. When the woman stopped making tuition payments, the children were sent to the orphanage, living in squalid conditions. Gradually the children gave up hope of ever returning home.
When the children saw Beamer, they began singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” in an effort to convince him of the truth of their claim. With the assistance of Beamer’s pastor and a U.S. congressman, the children were back in America within eight days. (Hugh Poland, Kingwood, Texas; www.PreachingToday. com)
They were back in the place where they belonged as citizens of the Unites States of America. But before they came back, their condition describes the state of all who are citizens of Heaven through faith in Jesus Christ, but must live as citizens of this earth for the time being. Compared to heaven, we are living in squalid conditions, but we are citizens of a far better land, and soon our Lord will take us home.
The question is: Until then, 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?
It’s an important question, because we as Believers don’t always agree with what our government is doing. & It’s becoming a more important question these days, because we often find ourselves living in places which are becoming increasingly hostile to Christians and to Christian values.
So 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 His country’s leaders 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 - or to trap him like an animal – in his words. (NIV)
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 12:14-15a 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? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” (NIV)
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.
Well, for Jesus to say, “Yes, pay taxes to Caesar,” that would make Him unpopular with the people. But if He says, “No, don’t pay taxes to Caesar,” then he would be in trouble with the Roman authorities. It was a trick question, because no matter how Jesus answers, He is in trouble! So how DOES He answer?
Mark 12:15b-17 But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him. (NIV)