Scripture: Mark 12:13 Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? 15 Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” 16 And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.
Observation: Again, Jesus’ opponents tried to trap him with a difficult question, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor?” If he’d said no, he’d have been in trouble with the Romans by rejecting their laws. If he’d said yes, he’d have been in trouble with the Jews who hated Roman rule. However, Jesus refused to pick one or the other, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” In essence, he chose “both/and” over the “either/or” nature of the question.
Application: What are Christians to do when the laws of the land put us in conflict with the laws of God? Think slavery, or abortion, or the death penalty, or economic inequality. There are times when our Christian values compel us to oppose the values and norms of secular culture, which has always been risky business. This brings some questions to mind:
- Where are the values of secular culture in conflict with the values of my faith?
- Am I more aligned with culture or with God?
- What is the potential price of me choosing to follow God rather than culture?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, following after you often requires we oppose the ways of this world – which is a difficult and sometimes dangerous thing to do. Give us grace to follow after you first. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.