The Book of Mark
RENDERING TO CAESAR AND TO GOD
Text: MARK 12:13-17
1. Tonight’s text touches upon some very important and practical matters. First of all, it deals with religious hypocrisy and insincerity (12:13).
2. Mark 12:15 says, “But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me?”
3. Matthew 22:18 says, “But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?”
4. You may recall that we left off last time at Mark 12:12, “And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people…”
5. The hypocritical religious leaders wanted to kill our Lord, but they were afraid of the people.
6. So in order to destroy our Lord, they sought to discredit Him (Mark 12:13). Their question was designed to trap Him (Mark 12:13).
7. If our Lord were to say, “Yes” (to pay tribute to Caesar), then the Pharisees would have claimed He favored subjection to Rome and therefore could not be the Messiah.
8. If He should answer, “No” (not to pay the tribute to Caesar) then they would accuse Him of treason against Rome.
9. Once again, our Lord outsmarted them (Mark 12:17; cf. Luke 20:26), and in doing so He laid down a principle that has guided Christians for 2,000 years (Mark 12:17).
10. Only text not only deals with religious hypocrisy, it also touches upon the important subject of taxation.
11. Furthermore, it reminds us that we have a responsibility to give to God’s work – “and to God the things that are God’s” (12:17).
12. By distinguishing between Caesar and God, our Lord affirmed the doctrine of the separation of church and state (12:17).
I. WE HAVE TO RENDER TO CAESAR (12:17).
1. No one (in their right mind) likes having to pay taxes, and most of us feel we are over-taxed. Knowledgeable, well-informed people are aware that our government wastes our tax money.
2. Things have gotten out of hand this past year. The Gross National Debt is now over $8 trillion and climbing every day.
3. The politicians spend our money like there is no tomorrow. Nevertheless, as Christians we must obey the law and pay our taxes.
4. Governmental authority is instituted by God and must be respected (Pro. 8:15, 16; Dan. 2:20, 21, 37, 38; Rom. 13:1; I Peter 2:13, 14).
5. Our Lord told the religious leaders that they did indeed owe something to Caesar. He said in Matthew 20:25, “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.”
6. This plainly teaches us that our government exercises authority over us. Therefore, Christians should pay taxes.
7. The government protects us with police and an army and a navy. We use government roads, etc.
8. The government (police, sanitation, parks department, fire department, military, etc.) cannot function without collecting taxes.
9. Therefore, Christians are obligated to pay their taxes. Working “off the books” and cheating on taxes is dishonest, illegal, and goes against God’s Word.
10. Many people (even some Christians) collect workman’s compensation or unemployment insurance while working off the books. That is dishonest. “Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15).
11. Our Lord said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17; cf. Rom. 13:6, 7).
12. “Tribute” (Mark 12:14; cf. Rom. 13:6, 7) refers to regular (property and income) taxes, and “custom” (Rom. 13:7) refers to taxes on import and export (and sales taxes). People smuggle things into the country and think they are “getting over,” but God says they are bringing judgment upon themselves (Rom. 13:2).
13. Christians have a dual citizenship: our citizenship is here on earth, and our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). We have earthly responsibilities as well as heavenly responsibilities.
14. We must pay our taxes here, and we must also lay up treasure in heaven (cf. Matt. 6:19, 20).
15. Referring to Mark 12:17, PB Fitzwater said, “In this reply the Lord escapes their trap and enunciates a principle which applies to all time and conditions as to the Christian’s responsibility to civil government. Those who accept the protection and blessing of civil government should support that government. There is no conflict between being a citizen and a Christian. Being a loyal citizen is not enough; there is a duty to God. To render to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar is all right, but there is even a higher obligation – render ‘to God the things that are God’s.’ Just as the one who acknowledges the benefits of civil government should support it, so being the recipients of God’s favors, all should render unto Him that which is His due.”
II. CAESAR TAKES WITHOUT ASKING.
1. Caesar’s face was engraved on the penny – a constant reminder that all Roman citizens had to pay tribute to him (Mark 12:16).
2. Today it may be George Washington or Abraham Lincoln’s face on the money, but the principle is the same.
3. Our government forcibly taxes us. And if you do not pay your taxes you could go to jail. The tax money is deducted automatically from your paycheck.
4. God, however, does not forcibly take our tithes and offerings from us. He challenges us; He does not force us (Malachi 3:10; Luke 6:38).
5. The government just wants our money, but God says, “My son, give me thine heart” (Pro. 23:26). God knows that once He has your heart He will soon have your money (cf. II Cor. 8:1-5).
6. Caesar’s image was stamped on the coin; therefore they had to give their coins to Caesar. God’s image is stamped on us, therefore we must give ourselves to Him.
7. Great is our responsibility to human government, but even greater is our responsibility to God.
III. GOD ALLOWS US THE PRIVILEGE OF GIVING.
1. “The things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17) includes everything (cf. Psalm 24:1; 50:10-12; Job 41:11).
2. “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:8).
3. Your financial situation, and my financial situation is ultimately determined by God (I Sam. 2:7).
4. God gives us the power (or ability) to acquire wealth (Deut. 8:18).
5. The government (Caesar) takes our money. The government determines how much we are to give them. But God gives us the privilege of giving freely to Him out of a heart of love and gratitude. The Bible says, it is “tithes and offerings.”
6. In the OT, Israel was a theocracy. Therefore, giving was a legal obligation. However, in this dispensation, giving is not a legal but a moral and a spiritual obligation.
7. Under the law, the tithe was a legal obligation. However, it should be emphasized that the principle of tithing goes back way before the law (cf. Genesis 14:20; 28:22).
8. When we come into the NT, we see giving is not a legal matter – it is not “of necessity” (II Cor. 9:7).
9. It is from the heart (II Cor. 9:7). If it does not come from the heart than it is not something God can bless.
10. There was a fellow who meant to throw a dollar in the offering plate, but he accidentally put in a $20 bill. He told his wife, “God’s going to really bless me now.” She replied, “No, He’s not going to bless you at all, because it was your intention to just give $1 and God knows you can do a whole lot better than that.”
11. Beloved, God allows us the privilege of giving so we can lay up treasure in heaven (cf. Matt. 6:19, 20).
12. We need to understand what the Bible says about giving. Our Lord spoke often about giving. Many of his parables were about giving. The Bible has much to say on this very practical subject.
13. When we study what the Bible says about this important matter, our faith increases. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). We are trusting God to supply our needs (cf. Matt. 6:25-34).
1. My invitation is twofold: lost sinners need to get saved.
2. Christians need to pray for our church’s financial situation.