Posted by Dr. Wade Smith on April 17, 2015
In a letter to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Leroy in November 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” With the passing of April 15 just a couple days ago, we can affirm this certainty.
When asked about paying taxes to Rome, Jesus replied, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesars’s.” In this statement Jesus affirmed the authority of the civil state to tax and place requirements upon its citizens. The word “render” implies a debt or obligation. We “render” to Caesar because Caesar provides services and structures for the people. In return, the people are obligated to “render” their taxes in support of these efforts.
While some are still feeling the pinch of “Render to Caesar” day in America, there is some good news. According to the Tax Foundation, April 14 was Tax Freedom Day 2015 for Oklahoma. Tax Freedom day is the day of the year that you have earned enough money to pay your taxes for the rest of the year. And yes, it could be worse. Tax Freedom day does not come in New Jersey and Connecticut until May 13.
It is interesting that Jesus’ response about paying taxes did not stop with our responsibility to Caesar. In continuing, Jesus taught that we were also to render to “God the things that are God’s.” Have you ever taken time to consider this? What does it mean to “Render to God?”
The answer to this question involves many layers of thought and understanding. But, for the sake of this devotion, let’s consider a couple. First, nature reveals and Scripture affirms a Creator. In response, the Old Testament instructs us to “love the Lord your God (Creator) with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” The depth and singleness of this love should naturally stir us to render acts of worship and thanksgiving to God. The New Testament reminds us that “love” goes beyond words and emotions to include actions. Jesus said that we demonstrate our love of God through our obedience to His commands. Thus, to “render” to God includes submission to and practice of His teachings with our whole person—our feelings, our minds, and our bodies. The Greatest Commandment is to “Love God.” The Second Great commandment offers a tangible way to express that love: “to love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
Second, it seems the height of arrogance (or futility) to think we can “repay” God any debt we might have toward Him. Exactly! We always fall short. We fall short in our relationship with Him and in our relationship with others (and ourselves). The religions of the world don’t offer much help either. They promise that if we work hard and do more good than bad that God will overlook our debt. So, it is radical when on the cross, Jesus cries out “Paid in Full.” It is Jesus who “renders” to God on our behalf. Then, by faith, whoever accepts His rendering finds favor with God. This is called grace. And the amazing thing about grace is that it sets us free to “render” to God, not out of debt and obligation, but out of love and gratitude. We are set free to love God and to love our neighbors. Today this world-shattering cry continues to baffle and transform the peoples of the world.
Yes, we have all had to “Render to Caesar” in these last days. But more importantly, how are you “Rendering to God?” Would you render time in these next days to visit a lonely widow or child? Would you render your talents to offer wisdom or instruction or expertise to help a neighbor? Would you render your money to meet the needs of the poor and hungry? For when we render to these, we render to God.
Tags: render to caesar, render to god, tax day