Mark 12:17-34. Catch the full message HERE.
In a political climate such as ours, and especially in the midst of an election year, undoubtedly, “Caesar” is getting what belongs to Caesar. This is the question that remains: Is God getting what belongs to God?
We are God’s own coinage: humanity made in God’s image. “So we spend ourselves as God’s own currency for that which is incomparably valuable.” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture II, 158)
The matter at stake in Jesus’ mind was not whether Caesar was getting what belonged to Caesar. Knowing the hearts of the pharisees and why they had come, Jesus was wondering whether God was getting what belonged to him.
This passage is a passage on the question of allegiance.
The Pharisees and Herodians believed they had Jesus trapped – either he was a Roman sympathizer and traitor to the kingship of the one true God, or a rebel who opposed Roman taxes. Either way, they were tainting his reputation.
At least in American politics, we tend to fall to one side or the other of the chart below. No one fits neatly into one or the other, and which side we fall in, may depend on whether our candidate or party is in power.
Jesus evades the trap by rejecting the premise of the question itself. Jesus does not cave to the either/or mentality. Jesus is not binary.
This is not a matter of either/or, but a matter of level of allegiance.
At times our highest allegiance –allegiance to the character, morality and justice of God – requires us to be critical of a lower allegiance. By definition, if the two are in conflict and our higher devotion is to one, we must in some way challenge or oppose the other.
What do we do when our allegiance to one comes in conflict with the other?
The answer comes in the following passage, Mark 12:18-27. The question of where a woman’s allegiance lies in eternity, if she had been married to seven brothers and had children with none of them.
Jesus reply: earthly allegiances fade away in the presence of eternity.
Eternal allegiance transcends earthly allegiance. So, when it comes to our levels of allegiance, We qualify our allegiance in accordance with its eternal significance.
Here is a short diagnostic to help us determine if we have disordered allegiances:
1. What are you rendering to the government that ought to be rendered to God? Hope? Joy? Peace?
2. Do you find yourself avoiding others who share the same beliefs about Jesus but differ from you politically?
3. Do you conduct yourself in political conversations in ways that depart from the character of Christ? (attack people instead of focusing on the issues, call names, use uncharacteristically course or foul language to make our point)
The section concludes with a final question put to Jesus: Which commandment is the greatest? As is well known, Jesus responds by quoting the Shema (Deut. 6:4-5). It was an old testament law that became a daily prayer of faithful Jews. It was a reminder that they belong first to God, not to Caesar, because they bear God’s image, not Caesar’s.
Moreover, it was a reminder of who their ultimate allegiance belonged to – to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is a pledge of allegiance if there ever was one.
So, where does your allegiance lie? And, as one who bears the image of God, have you rendered to God what is wholly and entirely his?
Catch the full message HERE.