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"Render unto Caesar" and civil obedience

Eddi

Agnostic
Premium Member
I think that "Render unto Caesar" betrays an attitude of civil obedience that I find rather uncomfortable. Yes, I know that paying your taxes is the right thing to do and that taxation is necessary. But it just sounds rather too pro-establishment to me. And I am a long, long, way from being an anarchist!

Are there any sayings of Jesus or New Testament teachings that can counter this general attitude?

I can't think of any

But I suppose having "Render unto Caesar" was a sensible survivals strategy for the early church - one that probably very much helped Christianity to be adopted as the official religion of Rome? As opposed to being stamped out by the powers that be?
 

eik

Active Member
Are there any sayings of Jesus or New Testament teachings that can counter this general attitude?

I can't think of any
The most obvious counter-example to supine deference to the authorities is when the Pharisees commanded the apostles to refrain from preaching the name of Jesus, in but Acts 5:29 "Peter and the other apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men."

Another aspect where this could apply is if you're in a jury, and someone is on trial for taking revenge e.g. against an adulterer. It would not be honoring to God to find guilt, given the prohibition on commiting adultery.

It's difficult to construe a case for not paying taxes, despite there being many gripes against the present rulers, especially where taxes revenues are publicly accounted. It's easier to make a case for not paying taxes in a corrupt country where tax revenues are misappropriated by officials.

Actually it's quite difficult to evade taxes for the average person. You'd have to be fairly well off to have the opportunity for tax avoidance schemes in a developed country.
 

exchemist

Veteran Member
I think that "Render unto Caesar" betrays an attitude of civil obedience that I find rather uncomfortable. Yes, I know that paying your taxes is the right thing to do and that taxation is necessary. But it just sounds rather too pro-establishment to me. And I am a long, long, way from being an anarchist!

Are there any sayings of Jesus or New Testament teachings that can counter this general attitude?

I can't think of any

But I suppose having "Render unto Caesar" was a sensible survivals strategy for the early church - one that probably very much helped Christianity to be adopted as the official religion of Rome? As opposed to being stamped out by the powers that be?
It seems to me that Jesus was concerned that people should not try to make him into a focus of rebellion against the Romans, or into a political figure, when his message was a spiritual one.

Also, as always, it pays to read the context. The "Render unto Caesar" passage comes when Jesus has just made a nuisance of himself in the temple, chucking out the moneylenders etc. The religious establishment is annoyed and looking for a way to entrap him into something that can get him arrested. Hence they concoct a question that they hope will get him into trouble. And he dodges it elegantly.
 

Hockeycowboy

Witness for Jehovah
Premium Member
There is none.
Romans 13:1-5 supports it.

However, Jesus added, “....but God’s things to God.”

So where they conflict, as in the authorities telling you to kill, God’s authority comes first. Matthew 5:44

Even the Apostles, when they were told to stop preaching, they said “we must obey God as ruler rather than men.” Acts 5:29.

So really, obedience is the norm....rarely would one disobey.

Sorry.
 

eik

Active Member
So where they conflict, as in the authorities telling you to kill....
Killing doesn't necessarily create conflict with God's commands, especially in defence of the realm. It's not every enemy that can be contained by prayer. Think of the Mongols (Gog & Magog), and of the woman who rides the beast in Revelation (drunk with the blood of the saints), and of Nazis & Japanese in WW2. There are many commands to kill in the Old Testament. Thus Saul was himself condemned for "not killing" Agag, the Amalekite king, and the animals that had belonged to the Amalekites.

1Sa 15:24 "And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice."
.
.
1Sa 15:33 "And Samuel said [to Agag king of the Amalekites], As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal."
 
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Hockeycowboy

Witness for Jehovah
Premium Member
Killing doesn't necessarily create conflict with God's commands, especially in defence of the realm. It's not every enemy that can be contained by prayer. Think of the Mongols (Gog & Magog), and of the woman who rides the beast in Revelation (drunk with the blood of the saints), and of Nazis & Japanese in WW2. There are many commands to kill in the Old Testament. Thus Saul was himself condemned for "not killing" Agag, the Amalekite king, and the animals that had belonged to the Amalekites.

1Sa 15:24 "And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice."
.
.
1Sa 15:33 "And Samuel said [to Agag king of the Amalekites], As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal."
Yes, it is (for Christians). Jesus said to be no part of the world, or not of the world , and because of that, the world would “hate” His followers (John 15). How would Christ’s disciples ever be ID’d (John 13:34-35) , if the love they showed was just like everyone else’s? It would need to transcend all barriers.
 

eik

Active Member
Yes, it is (for Christians). Jesus said to be no part of the world, or not of the world , and because of that, the world would “hate” His followers (John 15). How would Christ’s disciples ever be ID’d (John 13:34-35) , if the love they showed was just like everyone else’s? It would need to transcend all barriers.
Love was for "one another" not for the "world." (1 John 2:15). In early Christianity there was large distinction between the disciples of Christ and the world, which is not necessarily reflected in today's increasingly antinomian denominations founded on political allegiances, where often the "world"is admitted into the church.

However I agree that pacifism can be justifiable either by conscience or where an enemy comprises Christians. An example is WWI, where Christian nations waged war against one another. Then there was a legitimate case for refusing to obey a government's call to arms. Yet in other wars, the enemy is seen as distinctly non Christian. Then it is different. So I wouldn't preclude legal punishment for pacifism where not morally justified (per the example of Saul).
 
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Hockeycowboy

Witness for Jehovah
Premium Member
Love was for "one another" not for the "world." (1 John 2:15). In early Christianity there was large distinction between the disciples of Christ and the world, which is not necessarily reflected in today's increasingly antinomian denominations founded on political allegiances, where often the "world"is admitted into the church.

However I agree that pacifism can be justifiable either by conscience or where an enemy comprises Christians. An example is WWI, where Christian nations waged war against one another. Then there was a legitimate case for refusing to obey a government's call to arms. Yet in other wars, the enemy is seen as distinctly non Christian. Then it is different. So I wouldn't preclude legal punishment for pacifism where not morally justified (per the example of Saul).
We can't compare what the Israelites were commanded , w/ what Christians are commanded.

As a nation with distinct borders and which were going to produce the world's Messiah through it's tribe of Judah, they had to engage in warfare & protect themselves, which Jehovah mostly did for them.

But followers of Christ have no borders, as a worldwide group, and are under the Law of Christ.
And need to "follow" all of Christ's direction, which includes loving your enemy. I'm sorry but in no way does loving something allow for killing it.

And I know of no instance where a group professing Christianity, while willing to kill the opposing enemy, then refused because some on the other side were Christians also.
Do you?

A Christian should refuse any involvement! (Let the world have their wars.) That's where the world's hatred would come in.

JW's have experienced this time and again.
 

eik

Active Member
We can't compare what the Israelites were commanded , w/ what Christians are commanded.

As a nation with distinct borders and which were going to produce the world's Messiah through it's tribe of Judah, they had to engage in warfare & protect themselves, which Jehovah mostly did for them.

But followers of Christ have no borders, as a worldwide group, and are under the Law of Christ.
And need to "follow" all of Christ's direction, which includes loving your enemy. I'm sorry but in no way does loving something allow for killing it.
I disagree. It's very easy in a pacific state protected by the police and the rule of law to pretend that there can be no occasion to kill under the law of Christ. Yet the police kill people all the time. If it were not for the rule of law, then there would be many other occasions to kill the lawless. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:9 the law was made for law breakers, which includes the punishments of the law. 1 Tim 1:9 is the permission for the Christian to kill the lawless. Christ also instructed his disciples to take swords for defence,

And I know of no instance where a group professing Christianity, while willing to kill the opposing enemy, then refused because some on the other side were Christians also.
Do you?
Plenty of pacifists were locked up during WWI. Although I don't know their exact motives, it was absolutely the case that the Germans against whom the war was fought against proclaimed Christianity.

A Christian should refuse any involvement! (Let the world have their wars.) That's where the world's hatred would come in.

JW's have experienced this time and again.
I don't agree that hatred principally derives from war. JWs are not hated most for their pacifism but because they are seen to preach another gospel, if it is a gospel at all, which is seen as extremist in denying the fundamental tenets of the New Testament. If Christians had not resisted Islam by the sword down the ages, the whole world would be Islamic or given over to some brand of eastern religion. If South Korea had not been defended by the sword, Christianity would have disappeared from that country, just as it has disappeared from vast swathes of the middle east, Asia and Persia.
 

Saint Frankenstein

Wanderer From Afar
Premium Member
There's various interpretations of that saying.

I prefer these:

"Christian anarchists do not interpret Matthew 22:21 as advocating support for taxes but as further advice to free oneself from material attachment. Jacques Ellul believes the passage shows that Caesar may have rights over the fiat money he produces, but not things that are made by God, as he explains:[24]

"Render unto Caesar..." in no way divides the exercise of authority into two realms....They were said in response to another matter: the payment of taxes, and the coin. The mark on the coin is that of Caesar; it is the mark of his property. Therefore give Caesar this money; it is his. It is not a question of legitimizing taxes! It means that Caesar, having created money, is its master. That's all. Let us not forget that money, for Jesus, is the domain of Mammon, a satanic domain!"

"The less you have of Caesar's, the less you have to render to Caesar.
Dorothy Day, The Catholic Worker"

Render unto Caesar - Wikipedia
 

Samantha Rinne

Resident Genderfluid Writer/Artist
I think that "Render unto Caesar" betrays an attitude of civil obedience that I find rather uncomfortable. Yes, I know that paying your taxes is the right thing to do and that taxation is necessary. But it just sounds rather too pro-establishment to me. And I am a long, long, way from being an anarchist!

Are there any sayings of Jesus or New Testament teachings that can counter this general attitude?

I can't think of any

But I suppose having "Render unto Caesar" was a sensible survivals strategy for the early church - one that probably very much helped Christianity to be adopted as the official religion of Rome? As opposed to being stamped out by the powers that be?

That's because it's one of those things lost in historical context.

This is why I read Lew Rockwell. They're a blog that has their head on straight both politically and religiously.
Render Under Caesar? - LewRockwell LewRockwell.com
Render Unto Caesar: A Most Misunderstood New Testament Passage - LewRockwell LewRockwell.com

1. Governments should not be allowed control over the currency in the first place
2. The Jews understood that if their nation has any sovereignty, Caesar is owed nothing
3. But more important than the money is our not making an idol of it. It's not important. Caesar wants it back, give it to him. But learn how to live without obsessing about money.

That said, while we mustn't fixate on the money, the idea of civil obedience is such that ideally we make so little that we have to depend on God and other people. When many people don't make enough for taxes, you live in a community where big government isn't bloated, and towns become communities where people know each other and help each other. To live for Christ is to naturally meet resistance from the world.
 
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