If you’re not a Christian, turn back now. This blog isn’t for you. The following is for my brothers and sisters in Christ:
I do not pretend to be a good Christian. I try, and I fail badly, frequently. If you expect a Christian to be free of doubts or missteps, then I don’t qualify.
Even so, I’d love to speak to church groups all over the state because I’ve got more than just a nit to pick with my Christian family.
I believe that my “govern government” message is, essentially, to give back to God what is God’s. American churches have given waaaay too much to Caesar.
There was a time in this state and nation when moral instruction, health, education and welfare were the domain of the church and/or other local voluntary associations. Politicians had nothing to do with these critical social functions, and Americans were the better for it.
If your barn burnt down, the congregation would build it back up. If you needed healthcare, chances are you’d get it in a church-run hospital. Churches founded colleges, ran local schools, built parks, doled out charity (to those that actually needed it!), and cared for the elderly and alone.
And, critically, the church was a powerful social regulator in that their physical, social relevance also meant that excommunication was a big deal; not just a meaningless dismissal.
Well, we’ve delegated all this to Caesar, his bread and circuses, and his corruptions. See the results around you? Not so pretty.
I’m just about done with many Christians’ politician-friendly “interpretation” of the tribute penny story found in three books of the New Testament: “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.” (Luke 20: 26)
Some Christians think this means that the money isn’t all that important, or that, as in Luke 18:25, you’re much better off without it anyway. It’s true that you can’t serve two masters.
But Christ himself pointed us in an entirely different direction through Matthew 17:24-27. The key phrases are, ““Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him,” and “…so that we may not offend them…give it to them for my tax and yours.”
Why do I think that’s the key?
Because, first of all, Christ Himself says that the children of God are exempt from Caesar’s tax. Second, because they’re paying taxes in this case just for appearances sake.
And,according to just about everywhere in the Bible, human Kings represent our turn from god and toward human idols (see I Samuel: 8, Acts 12: 21-23), and everything and everyone, belongs to God!
So what belongs to Caesar if EVERYTHING belongs to God?
I’ll not write up a long description of proof texts, but if you get curious, consider Deut. 8:17-18, Deuteronomy 10:14, 1 Chronicles 29:11, 1 Chronicles 29: 14, Psalm 24:1, Job 41:11, Haggai 2:8, Psalm 50:10-12 and Psalm 100:3.
And with all the talk of money, we mustn’t forget what’s more important:
“You are not your own. You were bought at a price” – 1 Cor. 6:19-20 NIV.
And did we Christians somehow miss that the early Christians were killed in droves and in horrible ways for defying Caesar and spreading the Word of God?
I don’t believe Christians are called to be garnishes on Caesar’s dinner plate. We are to be beacons to God’s Covenant and Kingdom. We’re supposed to exemplify and point to the truth, not act like doormats.
Yes, some might say, but what about Romans 13?
Yes; about that.
I think we’ve been badly misinterpreting that one too.
The rest of Romans is obviously written to Jews living in Rome who (apparently) needed reminders about Temple discipline (remember, not only was the Word sharper than a two-edged sword, but there was also Temple Tax and punishment like lashings, stonings and such). Jews had a theocratic government, and Paul was exhorting them to remember that.
I understand people think that Paul suddenly interrupts the chapter to discuss civil government when the rest was about church/Temple/faith.
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers… ”
Is that just Nero, really?
The Roman ruler who burned Christians in his garden like tiki torches and killed all but one of the Apostles (who died opposing Caesar, remember) was not who who Paul referred to as “…the minister of God to thee for good!”
To read that any other way seems like a really odd interruption and jarring sidebar to what is otherwise a very cohesive argument.
And what about I Samuel 8:6-20?
Did God really intend for us to bow to human kings? Where in the Bible are the examples of Good Kings?
Anyway, today, this is the sovereign state of Indiana (Article 4, Section 16 of the Indiana Constitution), a member state of the United States of America, where we have the authority to choose our leaders, and by extension, our way of life. Christians have, like the ever-stiff-necked ancient Israelites, rejected God’s Word, His laws, His example and His Blessings. Do I need to remind you how nations are judged for such things?
There is a corollary to “In God We Trust.” It’s “In Politicians We Do NOT Trust.”
If I get my way, churches will stop fussing over their precious tax status, and start doing here in the USA what they know they must do in missions abroad: Spread the Good News, while rolling up shirt sleeves and serving their fellow sinners in ways that matter in every day life.
One way or another, by wise pre-planning, or by grim necessity with our economy collapsing around us, you’d better get ready…