RENDER UNTO CAESAR....
Over the course of a lifetime, there are many scriptures in the Bible that are misused and misunderstood based usually on one's preconceived ideas. As an individual who was born a Baptist, raised a Baptist, called to be a Baptist preacher, and will most likely die a Baptist, I also have had to lay aside some preconceived ideas in order to truly know the meaning of scripture.
Many years ago a godly Nazarene preacher told me, "Greg, don't change your doctrine until you have to." Well, sometimes one has to in order to be honest with the truth. In my experience as a pastor, one of those misused and misunderstood scriptures is, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's..." The reason for this confusion is that we have not rightly divided the word of truth. We have, in our own minds and speech, intermingled four different scriptures and have come up with twisted truth about what "Render unto Caesar..." really means and who it was said to.
First of all, in Matthew 22:15-22, Mark 12:13-17 and Luke 20:19-16, Jesus had been accosted by the wicked Pharisees, chief priests, scribes and Herodians. Their wicked question about tribute or taxes paid to Caesar was not an honest question but for the purpose of making Jesus look bad. He perceived their wickedness and refused to give them a direct answer. So He said, "You determine what you owe Caesar and what you owe God." I believe it is ludicrous for anyone from this indirect answer to rationalize the unlimited submission to government in any age by any person. Jesus in His answer never said to pay the tax or not to pay the tax but was only trying to keep from falling into their wicked trap. I think it is interesting that the only place in the Bible where we find a question about a Roman tax was from hypocrites, and nowhere is it recorded that Jesus ever paid a Roman tax.
Now this brings us to one last scripture found in Matthew 17:24-27. This is the only scripture where Jesus personally addresses Peter about taxes. As one reads these verses, he will discover at least four truths.
1. The tax in this passage has to do with the Temple tax, not the Roman tax.
2. The Temple tax was a poll tax and was levied annually upon all Jewish males for the upkeep of the Temple.
3. Jesus commanded Peter to pay this Temple tax for them both.
4. Nowhere in this scripture or any other scripture did Jesus ever tell Peter or other believers to "Render unto Caesar..."
Now that we have rightly divided the word of truth, what should be our truthful conclusion?
First of all, let us recognize our scriptural errors and admit that Jesus' discussion with Peter and the verse "Render unto Caesar..." are totally unrelated. One was said to unbelievers and the other to a believer. Second, let's admit that the scripture, "Render unto Caesar...," has nothing to do with whether a church should pay taxes of any kind, whether they be F.I.C.A., property, income, withholding or user fees. Third, if an individual owes Caesar something, then pay it, but do not justify unlimited submission to government by twisting the scriptures to agree with one's personal practices. Fourth, in America our supreme law is the U.S. Constitution, not the I.R.S. tax code, and it is for the purpose of limiting government. Fifth, it is time for Christians especially to lay aside some of their preconceived ideas.
Greg A. Dixon
Indianapolis Baptist Temple