After the question meant to entrap Jesus was asked, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17); Jesus responded with these words, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” (Matthew 22:21). To ‘render’ might be best understood with the phrase, ‘pay back,’ or even with the word, ‘owe.’ Yes, there are things that all people of a nation or country owe to those who are in governing authority (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Christians also owe them their prayers (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and their submission.
Is there a limit, however, to a Christian’s submission to governing authority? Perhaps not made as clear as needed (with sincere apologies) this last Lord’s Day, please examine some of what God’s word does teach to this point.
John the Baptist was not willing to have the commands of God broken by one even in the authority of a ruler. Herod had taken his brother’s wife to be his own and John was willing to tell him that God’s laws were being broken. His words were clear, “It is not lawful for you to have her,” (Matthew 14:4). Not lawful? According to whom? John was making it clear that the ruler was breaking God’s law –this law was above any law of man. This is important for us to understand!
n the early days of the Lord’s church, the Apostles, Peter and John, were arrested for teaching people about Jesus. The ruling authorities arrested them and warned them not to teach in the name of Jesus. These Jewish rulers did have authority –they had the authority even to have these men arrested. However, there was a limit to their authority as seen in the words of the Apostles, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard,” (Acts 4:19-20).
Christians should be the best citizens of the nation in which they live, but yes, there is a limit to how far God’s people can go in obeying the laws of that nation. If the law of a nation allows two men to be married, is the Christian supposed to ‘go along to get along?’ If a nation allows for the murder of innocent children in the mother’s womb, is the Christian supposed to ‘fall into line’ and have no opposition to that law? Clearly, we must understand that there is a limit to how far Christians can go in obedience to the laws of man. We must strive to increase the borders of Christ’s kingdom, no matter what laws of man might be in place.
Finally, let us ask this question –“Is there a limit to a Christian’s rendering to God?” Truly, we must bear in mind there is no limit to our submission to God. There is never a point that we reach the pentacle of submission. God is so gracious and His mercy is unending. There is nothing that can separate His love from us (Romans 8:31-39). Therefore, let us never be satisfied, but push ourselves to greater heights of loving submission to our great God who continually blesses us with every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Yes, the God who gives us the victory through His Son should see His people always abounding in the work of the Lord and making it their aim to be well pleasing to Him (1 Corinthians 15:57-58; 2 Corinthians 5:9).