That was the answer to a Catch-22 trick question posed to Christ by the Pharisees in an effort to embarrass him in front of his followers and others.
In this context Christ’s answer supported the idea of paying taxes.
That is the subject of today’s 10 minute episode.
This is a useful example of authorities trying to trick a leader of the people. Here is some context to bring this example to life. “Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘We know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay tax to Caesar or not?’ If Christ has said “Yes”, the Pharisees would have used that to turn the people against him. If he had answered “No” that would have been treason.
“But Jesus, knowing their intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.
“Then he said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’ When they heard this, they were stumped. So they left him and went away.” The Pharisees were the politically correct, self-righteous hypocrites of their day.
The message was to pay your taxes, and to give everything else to God. And that’s a good message for today. We, our children, our ambitions, freedoms, successes and failures, belong to God. Not the government.
The spenders in our government have not only gone from Tax and Spend to Spend first and then Tax, they want far more from us. They want to:
Today’s Key Point: We should give to Caesar what Caesar needs in taxes to provide the goods and services that he, Caesar, the government, provides uniquely well. And no more.
When we start the discussion of the proper size of government with, “How big should government be?” it is inevitable that we will wind up in a verbal brawl with some people pitching for a small government, and others arguing for a big government. And we’ll get nowhere. With apologies to Shakespeare, “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the answer, it lies in the question.”
An acquaintance of mine, a motivational speaker and author, is fond of saying, “If you want better answers, ask better questions.” When I first heard him say that, it made absolutely no sense. But I had enough respect for him that I experimented and, over time found that he is absolutely right. Let’s experiment a bit together and see if his recommendation works here.
New, better questions:
Answering Question 1. What are the tasks that need to be done, accomplished, in our community, state or country? And what is the priority? Laying out the tasks that need to be handled might take some amount of time–the list of tasks is long and getting longer–but that part will get done. Remember, this is a list of all the things that need to be done, whether by government, individuals, corporations, whatever. It’s a list of tasks that need to be done, regardless of by whom or by what. Prioritizing is much harder, but vital. We will always live in a world where the list of wants and needs is endless, and the resources are finite. The process is straightforward, and hard; make the list, prioritize it, then apply the known resources to the list until the resources are exhausted. When we can see that the resources are exhausted, that’s where we put a line under the last priority that we can afford. The lower priorities will need to wait until new resources are found. Perhaps the next budget year.
Answering Question 2. What are the tasks that government does uniquely well? And who would want government–or any other entity–to do something that another organization can do better? That’s why we emphasize the phrase “uniquely well.” For most people, defense, law enforcement, and firefighting, all fall comfortably into what the government does uniquely well zone. And for most, various forms of entertainment, from movies to water parks, would fall well outside that uniquely well zone. Education is somewhere in between. There will be people who argue that education falls in the uniquely well zone, and others will disagree. Education is like most items on the list of tasks in that it will generate disagreement and discussion. But at least we have defined the questions, and have created tools, a handle, for guiding the conversations as we disagree about education and so many other things, and learn from each other in the process. This gives us a debate structure, a format for the discussion. We have focused, defined questions. We can then bring in facts that pertain to those questions. Facts–the law calls them evidence–not biases or opinions. Then we apply non agenda-based logic to those facts to answer the question at hand. This process guides us. This process will lead us to vigorous, on-point-discussions, and reasonable conclusions. We will no longer be relegated to saying, then yelling, “Small government”, “Big government” at each other like rows of TVs; always on broadcast, and never on receive.
Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. And only what is Caesar’s.
Where do you stand? What are you going to do? Remember, it does not matter where you stand if you don’t do anything.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty. 1 Corinthians 16:14
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.