One time some religious leader types were trying to trap Jesus by presenting him a challenging question, “Should the Jews pay taxes?” If Jesus answers, “No,” then the Herodians (puppets of the Roman Empire) would arrest him for treason. If Jesus answers, “Yes,” then Jesus is discredited among the Jews by subjugating himself to the Romans, who were oppressing the Jews. (Clearly the religious hadn’t yet figured out that it’s really impossible to stump Jesus.)
Jesus responds, by asking for a coin. Upon receiving it, he holds it up asking, “Whose likeness is on this coin?” The answer was obvious: Caesar’s. Jesus then says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God that which is God.”
When this narrative is preached on, often Christians give each other’s virtual fist bumps because Jesus has one again outsmarted the religious leaders who never seem to learn their lesson. In reality, though, Jesus is saying the words also to us, we just don’t always get it.
He’s calling his followers not to separate themselves from the world but to live lives devoted to him even as we live and work in the world. He’s reminding us that his is a higher allegiance. He’s knows that we, like his first century followers, don’t always live under a government or in a culture that adheres to the same values as those of God. We’re not to conform to those values but stand firm in following him.
I’m starting Jesus for President, our new Teaching series this Sunday. It’s not a political series; it’s an obedience series–what does it mean to following Jesus in the midst of a culture that increasingly counter to his will and ways? Bring a friend and make a commitment to be with us all four weeks.