“Give to Ceasar what is Caesar’s. Give to God what is God’s.” – Jesus
Jesus said these words on the day of testing during His final week of life. Just like the lambs were to be tested for spots and blemishes before the Passover (Exodus 12), the religious leaders of the day were testing Jesus in much the same way (albeit unknowingly).
Different groups came to challenge Jesus that day (the accounts can be found in Matthew 21-22, Mark 11-12, and Luke 20). They challenged him about His authority, the resurrection, the Great Commandment, and paying taxes to Rome, which is the focus here.
Many people have heard this story, but get confused on how someone can give something to both Caesar and God. I know, I had this confusion in the past because although people tried to explain it well, they did not explain it contextually. Thus, the explanation was something like, “Well, everything we own is from God, and we are stewards, so we should give to God. But the government requires taxes, so we must also pay our taxes.”
Again, the sentiment is nice, but the issue was over one coin. So, my question was, “If we are to give all of the money with an image on it to the government, then what is left to give to God?”
Well, I was actually close to the answer with my question. But like most people in our world today, we do not have a grasp on the understanding of the Old Testament that the religious leaders of the 1st Century did. Granted, they misinterpreted and misapplied Scripture (just as we often do), but the words that Jesus used to respond to the trap they were trying to lay for Him, cut right to their core – and they knew it.
This post could be multiple pages to unpack the fullness of the text, but I want to cut to the point Jesus was making. The issue was that the coin had an image of someone imprinted on the coin (much like most money around the world does today). Therefore, if the money had that person’s image, it must belong to them (just like most money belongs to governments, or an approved government agency today). So, Jesus said if the person wants it back, it is rightfully his, so give it back.
But it is the next words that cut them to their core.
See, Genesis 1.26-27 tells us that we are made in God’s image. And God wants us.
The Pharisees (the specific group who asked this question, along with the Herodians, Mark 12.3) were “doing God’s work” (at least, in their minds), but they were not giving themselves to God. For, if they had, they would have recognized that Jesus was more than a man, He was the God-man, the Messiah, for whom they had been waiting. Therefore, Jesus was telling these people to give Caesar any coins he wanted back, but give back to God themselves, because God wanted them back!
As we conclude this three-plus month look at the development of a SYSTEM, we must remember that God wants us. We can do a lot of “stuff” for God, but miss out on being with God. As I have often said, “God doesn’t want your money; He wants you. If He gets your money, He might not get you. But if He gets you, He gets your money and everything else about you.”
I first said that quote about money years ago, but the same is true about our service, our time, our anything. And lest we think that God is being over-demanding, or even selfish, we must recognize the inverse of this statement. If we give ourselves to God, we get God in return.
And that is why a personal SYSTEM is so helpful, if we put it into practice. Of course, before we can practice any SYSTEM, we have to develop it. The development has been the goal of this series that began in June. But once it is developed, we have the opportunity to use our SYSTEM to guide us in making life’s decisions to ensure we are not just allowing life to happen to us; rather, we can take a bit of control of our life. (Of course, God is still ultimately in control, so any effort we wish to undertake, should honestly include the words, “Lord willing.” See Proverbs 16.9; James 4.15.)
Sure, circumstances such as COVID and other health matters, weather or other natural phenomenon, as well as our own desires and the desires of others, will cause us to lose focus on our SYSTEM at times. But if we do not have a SYSTEM, we cannot turn to it to find direction. Yes, we should turn to God for our direction, but a SYSTEM developed with God’s direction initially, can help us remember what He has intended for us to do (particularly if we develop our SYSTEM during the peaceful times in our lives, and not amidst the chaos).
So, whatever you call your SYSTEM, or whatever names you give the parts of it, I encourage you to find your WHY, do your WHAT, live by your HOW – whenever, wherever, and with whomever God brings into your path.
With that, this series on developing a SYSTEM comes to a close. Now, we must turn to living our SYSTEM. And that will be the focus of the posts in the weeks, and months, ahead as we learn to live fotonni.