On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 64: What is God's?

"Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (Matthew 21:21 RSV)

The above saying of Jesus from Matthew 21 is often quoted as a means to separate things of this world, like government and taxes, from the things of God. The holy Church Father St. John Chrysostom says: “But when you hear the command to render to Caesar the things of Caesar, know that such things only are intended which in no way are opposed to religion; if such there be, it is no longer Caesar’s but the Devil’s tribute.”

It seems that if what Chrysostom says is true, then there would be no rendering to Caesar at all. That is because decisions in our own government here in the United States of America, have often been opposed to religion or religious belief. For example, while trying to separate their decision from religion recently, the Supreme Court of our country has deliberately and, in opposition to religious belief, given a new meaning to the God-ordained state of marriage. Opposed to religion? Yes, at least in this case.

A closer look at what Jesus says may help. Jesus finds himself in the temple area in Jerusalem. He is being tested by His enemies. They ask Him if it is lawful to pay tribute (taxes) to Caesar. Jesus asks for a coin. Now the only coins that should be in the temple area are coins minted for giving as the temple tax. Roman coins were not permitted. The coin produced has the image of Caesar on it. It is a Roman coin.

Matthew tells us that Jesus was “aware of their malice” (Matthew 21:18 RSV). Jesus knew they were to trap Him into breaking the Law if He acknowledged the lawfulness of that coin. Jesus did not. He simply stated: "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

This saying proclaims a first principle of stewardship: everything is God’s. No matter what we have, whether in the realm of personal possession, or in the government’s possession, or anywhere: everything belongs to God. It is so easy for us in our present culture to separate things out: this is mine; this is theirs; this is God’s… We do it with our time: time for fun, time for work, time to eat, time to pray; each is put in its own little box. All of this separation shows a misunderstanding of stewardship.

Everything we do is with God and for Him at all times and in all places. God owns everything, and we are merely stewards of what is His. Jesus states it clearly: there is no Caesar or God – there is only God.


This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.

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"Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (Matthew 21:21 RSV)

 

          The above saying of Jesus from Matthew 21 is often quoted as a means to separate things of this world, like government and taxes, from the things of God. The holy Church Father St. John Chrysostom says: “But when you hear the command to render to Caesar the things of Caesar, know that such things only are intended which in no way are opposed to religion; if such there be, it is no longer Caesar’s but the Devil’s tribute.”

 

          It seems that if what Chrysostom says is true, then there would be no rendering to Caesar at all. That is because decisions in our own government here in the United States of America, have often been opposed to religion or religious belief. For example, while trying to separate their decision from religion recently, the Supreme Court of our country has deliberately and, in opposition to religious belief, given a new meaning to the God-ordained state of marriage. Opposed to religion? Yes, at least in this case.

 

          A closer look at what Jesus says may help. Jesus finds himself in the temple area in Jerusalem. He is being tested by His enemies. They ask Him if it is lawful to pay tribute (taxes) to Caesar. Jesus asks for a coin. Now the only coins that should be in the temple area are coins minted for giving as the temple tax. Roman coins were not permitted. The coin produced has the image of Caesar on it. It is a Roman coin.

 

          Matthew tells us that Jesus was “aware of their malice” (Matthew 21:18 RSV). Jesus knew they were to trap Him into breaking the Law if He acknowledged the lawfulness of that coin. Jesus did not. He simply stated: "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

 

          This saying proclaims a first principle of stewardship: everything is God’s. No matter what we have, whether in the realm of personal possession, or in the government’s possession, or anywhere: everything belongs to God. It is so easy for us in our present culture to separate things out: this is mine; this is theirs; this is God’s… We do it with our time: time for fun, time for work, time to eat, time to pray; each is put in its own little box. All of this separation shows a misunderstanding of stewardship.

 

          Everything we do is with God and for Him at all times and in all places. God owns everything, and we are merely stewards of what is His. Jesus states it clearly: there is no Caesar or God – there is only God.


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