As followers of Christ, we are dual citizens. We are subject to a heavenly Sovereign and an earthly sovereign. What is your responsibility to God and your earthly government or community? What would your community look like if you tried to be the best citizen of heaven and earth for Christ’s glory?
I. Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is owed to Him [Matt. 22:15-22]:
Jesus had entered Jerusalem four days before the Passover (and the Cross). Jesus came to the temple courtyard and turned over the tables of those who sold doves and exchanged currency who were extorting worshipers. Jesus was asserting authority to declare what was acceptable worship and faith. Jesus made clear that only those who receive Christ and are submitted to God’s authority are truly citizens of God’s kingdom. Jesus’ declaration of authority was contested by the religious leaders as they tried to trap Him with a question about taxes. Their question relates to whether it is right with God to pay taxes to Rome . The religious leaders hope to bring a charge against Jesus if He instructs the people not to pay taxes, or in the alternative alienate Jesus from the Jewish people who resent paying taxes to the Romans who occupied their land. a
Jesus asked for a coin and was given a denarius. A denarius was the daily salary for a soldier or laborer, and was the amount of the poll tax. Every earthly sovereign mint coin to show authority in the world. The image [20-21] was of Caesar Tiberius and the inscription was, “Tiberius Caesar, August Son of the Divine Augustsus.” To “render”  translated “give” means to give back or pay what is owed (i.e. settle a debt). Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is owed to Him . The wisdom of Jesus’ response was marvelous so they left (realizing they could not trap Him that way) .
And Jesus’ response is so profound that we should ponder the implications …
A. Jesus’ followers are citizens of a heavenly and earthly kingdom [Ph. 3:20]
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
- As dual citizens, there is a responsibility to God and earthly government: you need to realize that there is a duty to both God and an earthly government. The two realms are interconnected, and the proper discharge of your responsibilities advances God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom is distinct from this world but we are called to be good citizens of both.
- The proper discharge of our duty to government flows from yielding to God: The religious leaders were not submitted to God, and therefore struggled to discern and do what was right in regard to their responsibility as citizens in Israel under Roman authority. All earthly authority is imperfect, and tends to be abused. This makes yielding to authority challenging. Each of us has areas where we struggle to yield to authority. This is a result of our sin nature that cause us to rebel, our past experiences, and by abuses of authority. Nevertheless, being submitted to earthly authority generally, and government specifically flows from submission to Christ. A sense of patriotism, or a desire to avoid punishment by the government produces a skewed sense of responsibility.
B. A biblical perspective on being a good citizen of an earthly kingdom:
- All earthly authority is appointed by God and subject to His sovereignty [Rom. 13:1]: Our duty does not depend on whether the people in authority are the ones that we want.
- Obey the laws of the land because you obey God [Rom. 13:1-3]: Obeying the laws of the land is an expression of worship to God, and breaking the law is essentially rebellion against God. The exception is laws contrary to the gospel or prohibiting sharing the gospel [Ac. 5:29].
- Pay taxes [Mt. 22:21, Rom.13:6-7]: Governments are to receive taxes to provide services and protection of citizens.
- Pray for leaders and your community [1Tim. 2:1-3, Jer. 29:7]: God’s people are to pray for leaders and their community. As the community experiences peace, God’s people enjoy peace too.
- Respect leaders [Rom.13:7, 1Pet.2:17]: We are to honor or respect the office of government leaders even if the leader is not respectable in his or her behavior.
C. What is your responsibility to God?
- You belong to God [Matt. 22:20-21, Gen. 1:26-27]: The denarius has the image of Caesar and therefore belongs to Caesar. People have been uniquely created in the image of God [Gen.1:26-27]. Thus, you have been “pressed” with God’s image and belong to Him. Accordingly, you don’t belong to the government (regardless of the form of government), or even to yourself.
- Yield your life to God in gratitude of His grace [Rom. 12:1-2]: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” In light of God’s grace towards you (the gospel) it is only reasonable for you to yield your life to God. Your yielding is a response to grace and a result of grace. In essence, in light of all that God has done for us we owe a debt to God. You render to God what is His as you love Him supremely and love your neighbors as you love yourself.
- Love God supremely + love your neighbor as yourself [Matt. 22:37-39; Rom. 12:9-21]: The greatest heavenly kingdom responsibility is to love God as the master passion of your life. The second greatest responsibility is to love your neighbor as yourself. Since the gospel is the greatest expression of love, ultimately sharing the gospel with neighbors is a display of love. Just as Romans 13:1-7 helps us to understand our responsibility to earthly government, Romans 12:9-21 helps us to understand the responsibility as citizens of heaven:a. Be kind and put others before yourself [Rom. 12:10],
b. Serve God passionately [Rom. 12:11],
c. Persevere in prayer [Rom. 12:12],
d. Provide for the benevolence needs of other believers [Rom. 12:13],
e. Be hospitable [Rom. 12:13],
f. Be humble and united [Rom. 12:16,18],
g. Overcome enemies and evil with good Rom. 12:17, 19-21].
Being a good heavenly citizen make you a better earthly citizen. Imagine what your community would look like if Christ’s followers tried to be the best citizens of heaven and earth for Christ’s glory. Lonely widows and widowers in senior communities would be visited. Orphans and foster children would have loving parents. Struggling teens would have mentors. Opportunities would be created for job-training and employment for the unemployed and under-employed. Single moms would be helped with the struggles they uniquely carry. People would be given hope and support in overcoming life dominating sins. What our communities need more than projects or programs is for us to live the value of being the best citizens in our communities because we are truly citizens of heaven.