I can remember sitting in my homiletics, or preaching class, my first year at the Seminary. The professor in introducing us to the basics of preaching talked about the importance of the pericope, the lessons picked out for each Sunday. He explained how these lessons allow us to preach on various topics, so that we do not just pick out our “favorite” passages. The know-it-all first year Seminary student thought, “How could I never preach on a lesson? The idea seems so farfetched. I could preach on any text picked out for me.” Then this Sunday rolled around. I looked at the lessons, and I thought, “Do I really want to preach on this?” I wondered if I should just pick out a different part of the Bible to preach on.
It is not that do not understand these verses. I even wrote a sermon on these verses my Senior year at the Seminary. However, politics is such a divisive issue at the present time. People do not always see eye to eye. Words can be easily misunderstood or taken out of context. Maybe I should just preach on a topic that won’t upset or anger anyone. Professor Gurgel, you were right. Those times come up when thoughts arise to skip over verses for preaching. However, even those challenging verses need to be preached. They cannot be skipped over for the comfort of the preacher or the congregation. In this section God has much to say to us about our attitudes and thoughts concerning those in authority.
Even during the last week before his death, Jesus’ enemies could not leave him alone. They constantly looked for a way to trap Jesus in his words. They wanted to find evidence, of which none would ever be found, to bring before the governmental authorities in order to have Jesus killed. Numerous times they tried to find fault in Jesus, whether in his words or actions, only to come away empty handed.
Two sects came together for their chance to take Jesus down. They usually never saw eye to eye. The Pharisees were very nationalistic. They viewed the Roman Empire, which ruled over Israel, as an illegitimate power. Israel should be a free nation due to them being God’s chosen people. The Herodians on the other hand would be very pro-Rome. They saw nothing wrong with being under the authority of the Roman Emperor.
Even though they had differing views, they had a common goal. Jesus was a threat. Jesus had to be dealt with. Jesus had to die. They came up with what they believed to be the perfect trap for Jesus. “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and teach the way of God in accord with the truth. You are not concerned about gaining anyone’s approval because you are not swayed by appearances. So tell us, what do you think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not” (Matthew 22:16-17)?
Such flattery! They buttered Jesus up by paying him all sorts of compliments. They knew that Jesus would not lie. Jesus never looked for praise from men, but he would always speak what needed to be said.
They hoped Jesus would do exactly that. They wanted Jesus to speak the truth. They figured they had Jesus in their crosshairs. If Jesus answered that taxes were proper, the Pharisees would claim he was not a true Jew. He supported Rome. He most certainly could not be the Promised Savior. If Jesus said taxes were unlawful, the Herodians would march to the Romans saying this man spoke treason against the government. He needed to be dealt with. They stood back and smirked. No perfect answer could be given. They waited to pounce on his words to take Jesus down.
Jesus recognized the trap right away. He did not back away. Jesus jumped right into the trap. “Why are you testing me, hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax” (Matthew 22:18-19). Jesus knew their evil intent. He would provide an answer to avoid the trap and speak the truth. He asked for a coin. Someone brought him a denarius, the payment for a day’s wage. “Whose image and inscription is this” (Matthew 22:20)? They had to answer truthfully, “Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21).
“Therefore give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). It was not a choice of either or but both and. Honoring God meant honoring those in authority. God established representatives on earth. One of those representatives is the government. God’s people have to obey the government as they obeyed God.
This answer left the Pharisees and Herodians speechless. They had to pick up their egos and walk away. Jesus provided a perfect answer to their question. Jesus’ enemies had no evidence to bring against Jesus.
They say not to talk about two things with family and friends, politics and religion. These two topics can cause arguments and divisions even among the most passive individuals. Families avoid these topics. Friends cringe when those topics come up. We hope and pray those two topics will never come up. Well, today we are going to talk about both.
Politics easily become a divisive issue. If you do not believe me, all you have to do is turn on the radio or television. News anchors argue back and forth about the issues facing the American people. Political ads from both parties throw jabs at each other. Even Judge Amy Coney Barret cannot escape the political issues in her confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court.
We grow sick and tired of all these ads. We want to shut our ears at the constant attacks presented from both sides of the aisle against each other. Distrust grows as they pass blame from person to person, party to party.
As a result of all this, People think it is okay to attack the belief of others who do not agree with them. People use profane language to speak out against those in authority when they don’t agree with their ideology. Christians fall into the misunderstanding of when they can disobey government.
God has much to say about this issue in his Word. One whole commandment deals with this, the Fourth Commandment. Many people think this commandment speaks only about the home. We hear those words, “Honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” We apply it only to parents and children, and think we are good to go.
God intends for this commandment to go so much further. The Fourth Commandment deals with all of God’s representatives on earth. One of those representatives is the government. In Romans 13, Paul says through inspiration that all governments have been established by God. Notice that he says all governments. Not just governments aligning with our beliefs. Not only the government that is sinless, because there is no such thing. All authority. All government has been established by God.
When we understand this, we faithfully apply God’s Word and desire towards our attitudes for his representatives. God desires that we honor, respect, and obey those in authority over us. We can speak out on injustices. We must educate ourselves on the issues involved. We can disagree with our leaders on issues such as abortion and marriage. We must disobey when they tell us to go against God’s Word. However, we must show respect and honor to our elected leaders. They serve as God’s representatives on earth.
Honoring God means honoring those God has placed over us. The government is meant for our good. They provide protection for us. We receive many blessings through them. We need to pray for those officials. They have a difficult job. It is easy for us second guess. It is easier to put down. Just imagine if all of us would pray for those officials. We ask God to grant wisdom and guidance. We ask for blessings upon them as they rule for the good of the people. We pray for strength as they carry out their tasks. We pray that God would allow governments to be a blessing for the advancement of his Word and kingdom.
Our government, all governments in place, have been established by God. He did not fall asleep or somehow become surprised when some government rose to power. God uses governments to accomplish his good purposes throughout all of history. We need to recognize those in authority as God’s representatives over us. We need to show respect and honor and pray for them as they carry out their duties. It is a both and deal. Honoring God Means Honoring His Representatives. Amen.