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March 14, 2021 12:01 am
Is it right for Christians to pay taxes to wicked rulers? Continuing his sermon series in the book of Mark, today R.C. Sproul unfolds Jesus' teaching about the responsibilities we have toward the state.
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This is seizures: this is Caesar's tax you pay your tax to Caesar, but you have even a higher responsibility that even Caesar has you render to God the things that are God's to them Renewing Your Mind God and Caesar Jesus that we have obligations to both his right to pay taxes to an unrighteous government was a question. The Jews argued over in Jesus day and they used to try entrapping as we were turned on Tracy's groceries from the Gospel of Mark. We will see the futility of their attempt will also see the great and higher calling you and I have as Christians. At this point in chapter 12 we have the getting of three narratives that involve attempts by three distinct groups among the Jews to trap Jesus to put them on the horns of a dilemma that would bring them either into conflict with the people or in conflict to the government. We read at the beginning of the text and they sent to him that they obviously refers to the ruling body of the Jews, the Sanhedrin, so we know that this group were sensed by the ruling body of the Jews in the word that is translated by the English word sent here is the same word that is used for the term apostle in the New Testament on an apostle is not simply a messenger but it is a messenger empowered with the authority to speak for the one who sent him. That's why the apostles carry with their authority. The authority of Jesus. In this case, the Sanhedrin is delegating this group that comes to Jesus to interrogate him with their own authority and so they sent to him. Some of the Pharisees and Herodian's that should raise some eyebrows. The Herodian party was that party of Jews who supported the ruling authority of the Hasmonean dynasty of the Harrods and if you know your biblical history you know that the Harrods were not your Jews and that they were pop at Kings under the authority of the Romans and so in many corners among the Jews.
They were completely despised and there was no group that despised the Herodian's more than the Pharisees. This is a strange alliance that would exist between the Pharisees and the Herodian's and the only thing that would provoke them to come together in a common cause was their mutual hatred of Jesus. And so now we see this unholy alliance between the Pharisees and the Herodian's who were sent, and the purpose of that mission quote is to catch him in his words of that word catch is really feeble and insipid by way of interpretation of the Greek, the Greek word that is used in the text. Here is what is known as a hotbox look, and we all know what a hotbox look, it's done hotbox the garment is a word that appears in the New Testament only once, so it is a rare occurrence makes it difficult to grasp the full measure of its meaning. If it's found so rarely in the context of Scripture, but the force of the verb that is used here and only here in the New Testament is to be involved in an attempt to catch by way of violent pursuit. It would be something like this.
If you were on a hunt for a man eating tiger and you dug a huge pit in the countryside and at the bottom of that pit you put sharply carved spikes on strong stakes so that if you could drive the Tiger into the pit. It would be impaled on these spikes.
That's the force of this word here. They're not just trying to play tag with Jesus and catch him there trying to destroy him with violence and so let's keep that in mind as the force of the text. Now when they had come. They said to him, teacher, we know that you are true, and care about no one. That's an awkward translation also for you. Do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth, I recently had to write an article for table talk magazine with the theme of that upcoming issue is on integrity and my article was on the meaning of the concept of integrity and so I looked in various sources including Webster's collegiate dictionary and I mentioned that the primary meaning of the term integrity is to be on compromising with respect to principles and ethics not uncompromising in personal negotiations for property and sales and that sort of thing.
But with respect to what is right, the person of integrity does not ever compromise principle for the sake of popularity and so when they say that Jesus is a man who doesn't care for anybody it doesn't mean that Jesus is hard in his art, and has no affection for people in this world. It means that Jesus will not be swayed from the truth because of his consideration of people with whom he may be on popular but public opinion will never cause Jesus the copper but this is a tremendous tribute that the Pharisees and the Herodian's are keeping upon Jesus before they sneak in their trick question. Of course, is the text shows there a claim of Jesus is uttered with total and complete hypocrisy. But in spite of themselves, they are speaking the truth about the character of Jesus, teacher, we know that you are true also that they would've known that if they would've known that he was true they wouldn't of been bringing these trap questions to him. You do not regard the person of men. But you teach the way of God in truth, so they set the stage for the big question we know that you're not can answer, according to public opinion. Here Jesus you not to give us an exercise in political correctness you're going to speak the on veiled word of so answer a question, is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not, but with this one the most controversial issues among the Jewish people of that they remember how any nation hates to be placed in subjection to a foreign conqueror and then to have to pay taxes and tribute to the occupying country is all the more loathsome to the local population.
Almost every Jew in Israel hated the thought of paying any tax whatsoever to Caesar and so they didn't want to pay them and many of them. Fact didn't pay and fact many from the Pharisees believed that there was a moral objection to paying taxes to Caesar, and that if Jesus were really a godly man, he would not pay taxes to an ungodly conquering government and so they put the question before Musee wife. He says it's okay to pay taxes to Caesar, then the people are going to rise up against Jesus. If he says publicly.
You shouldn't pay taxes to Caesar or worse the first place they're going to go there going to go to the Roman government say this man is out there propagating sedition rebellion and advising people not to pay their taxes. So you see now the horns of the dilemma. Shall we pay, or shall we not pay but he, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, why do you test me bring me a generics that I may see it. Obviously Jesus doesn't even have than Arius in his own pocket and so he asks his interrogators to produce than Arius and they do that and when they did, he said to them, whose image and inscription is this, and they said to him, C6 well since Caesar's images on it and his name is on it that indicates an Roman law, his possession, he is the one who owns the coin and so Jesus answers the trick question this way render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's. So what is he saying this is Caesar's coin. This is Caesar's tax you pay your tax to Caesar, but you have even a higher responsibility that even Caesar has you render to God the things that are God's will. This point of the paying of taxes to Caesar is appointed is expanded in the New Testament, particularly in the epistles look for example at the 13th chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans where the word of the Lord to the people of God is this pay taxes to whom taxes are due in the middle of the second century. The great apologists. Justin Martyr argued in his open letter to the Emperor Antoninus Pius that the Christians were scrupulous in their civil obedience and that they always paid their taxes. Paul also spells out in Romans 13 that the civil magistrate is a minister of God and that God creates two institutions in this world. The church and the state they have separate responsibilities they have separate missions to fulfill. It is not the responsibility of the church to wage war.
The power of the sword is never given to the church but it is given to the civil magistrate, as Paul teaches us in Romans 13 it is not the state's responsibility to administer the sacraments. It's the church's responsibility to administer the sacrament.
So we have different functions to perform but notice this that both church and state are under God and that God is sovereign in his rule over both the Bible know something of a separation of church and state in so far as there are two different missions assigned to these institution, but the Bible knows nothing of the separation of state from God and what happens in our day and age is that the phrase separation of church and state. Would you know was never in the Constitution is parroted almost every day to indicate the independence of the state from God several years ago I was in St. Louis I was riding in a taxicab with Francis Schaeffer. We were having a discussion about issues that the church faced at this time in American history and I said to him, what is your greatest concern for the future of America. He didn't hesitate said my greatest concern is. State-ism that-ism on the end of the work is a suffix that indicates a worldview where the state become supreme. It owns everything, it rules everything and is never answerable in any way to the church. That's what state is a myth that was his greatest fear. 20 years ago or so. I believe that that fear has been almost completely realized in the last couple of decades in such a degree that the people in America are almost completely blind to it.
They don't realize how much the church is surrendered to the state where the church is called to be the conscience of a nation we have been prohibitive from speaking in the public square. Also, I want you to notice that the concept of separation of state and church in America.
In our day is a one-way street.
The state feels no hesitancy to intrude into the matters of the church.
If you want to argue for the free exercise of religion do that the next time you go to a county meeting that determines whether your church can have a cross on it because it violates the height of signs and the cross is now considered a sign and so in many places the church is not allowed to display the central symbol of Christianity because the state won't permit it. That's the kind of thing you have to watch out for people because it's not getting any better. It's getting worse and worse by the day. Now what I'd like to do is to raise an ethical question that I have never heard in my life preached from any Christian pulpit. I'm sure it has been but not for many pulpit I'm aware I want to talk to you briefly about the ethics of taxation we've already seen that the Bible says that we are to pay our taxes and the context of that is that government that was loving them at the time was a corrupt godless government. The government of Rome, and Paul said matter how corrupt the government is your spouse to pay your taxes no matter how burdensome the taxes are, no matter how confiscatory they may be, no matter how oppressive they may be as Christians in our call to a special level of civil obedience were called to pay them. That doesn't mean we can't speak out against them, but in the meantime, we are called to pay them.
But here's the point.
I've never heard mentioned from the pulpit. Beloved, when you go into the voting booth and you cast a ballot. Think of the ethical implications you have when you cast your ballot. We hear every day in this country that people characteristically when election time rolls around, they vote their wallets they vote their pocketbooks. The closest I've ever come to being tarred and feathered in a public venue was when I was asked to address the state assembly of the statehouse of Indiana several years ago in Indianapolis and I spoke on the unethical assumptions present in the lobby system that is not only tolerated but encouraged in American government. What we've accepted in this practice is the presence of so-called vested interest groups who use their political power to gain favorable legislation to their private concerns in order to do that they have to take lady justices blindfold off here we have a system in this nation, which perfectly allows people to vote privileges for them self that are taken from other people. The American experiment was being discussed in Europe in the 18th century, we have the famous visit to our shores of Alexis de Tocqueville and the TOEFL was mightily impressed by this new experiment here in the New World, but he gave two warnings. He said there are two things that can destroy this noble experiment in the establishing of a republic which means rule by law and not rule by people he said.
The first is this than when people begin to understand that ballots are worth money, you're in trouble. What they mean by that the people who want to go to seats of political power can use their wealth to bribe and extort people of influence in the nation in order to become elected. He said that principal of bribery and corruption can destroy the specific righteousness of a nation we all understand that we see that every day but he said the worst thing that can happen is when the people come to realize that they can vote for themselves. Largess with is that me let me make it simple.
If I go to your house and go in your garage and steal your lawnmower and the police catch me.
I can be charged for committing a crime. On the other hand, if I hire somebody else to go into your garage and steal your lawnmower. I can still be charged with a crime because I've hired somebody to violate your personal property rights. However, if I use my vote to get the government to go into your garage and take your lawnmower and give it to me. I've just exercise my right as a free American and this happens every day with the politicization of our economic system.
Any time beloved that you can vote a tax on your neighbor that is not a tax on you your steel from your neighbor. We've seen the creation of a politics of envy and our nation a transfer society will people think nothing of taking property from one group and give it to another and when they do it. You know they call social justice when in fact it is a manifest injustice. It's theft to the 10 Commandments protect personal private property by the law of God. I realize that people every day. Go to the polls and think nothing have no pangs of conscience about voting for themselves benefits from the government, not thinking that they're asking the government to use all the power and best of them to take from somebody else and to give it to me and every day people vote for taxes on the other guy without voting for the same tax on themselves. That's unjust, it's immoral and if the whole world doesn't Christian must never resetting everybody else the world doesn't and if were exploited by and oppressed by we ought not to do it. You have to understand that your ballot is a bullet when you vote for something you're asking that the full power of government be behind it and what government is in the final analysis is legalized force and so I must never ask the government to force my neighbor to give me something that belongs to him is a clear is that simple. Though this portion of my sermon may be inflammatory, but I beg you to think about, and I beg you to think about the biblical ethic with the use of the tax. I must pay my tax even if it's correct, but I am not allowed to participate in the corruption of such a system. So when Jesus answered these people in this way, said render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's know me as he was in final conclusion whose image do you bear every person in this room is been stamped with an image by the supreme authority in heaven and earth. God himself has placed his image on you on me and on every person render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, but onto God the things that are God's. Caesar can own that the nares he doesn't own me.
God owns me and God owns you. And in that ownership comes God's supreme right to claim your life and everything in it for his own so that in all things, beloved, we should render to God the things that are his, which include our life or liberty are possession and are for the duty of every there's no greater: is there Jesus answered the question simply by asking whose image was on the coin and if we are followers of Jesus than his image is stamped on us. We belong to him. Dr. RC Spruill had such an ability to draw important implications from the text of Scripture. I hope you're enjoying your verse by verse journey through the gospel of Mark your on Renewing Your Mind. If you missed any of the Sunday programs that let me encourage you to request a resource offer today. It's the digital download of Dr. Sproles commentary on this gospel. This is an online offer only.
So we invite you to go to Renewing Your Mind.org to make your request and give your gift again. That's Renewing Your Mind.org next week. The Jews continue their attempts to trap Jesus with difficult legal and religious questions course they don't succeed, that we have some important lessons to learn on the way so I hope you join us next Sunday for Renewing Your Mind