Then the Pharisees went out and plotted to trap Jesus in His words.
I. THE DUTY TO CAESAR IS NOT TO BE DENIED. The words and actions of Christ implied an affirmative answer to the question of the Herodians. But they went further, justifying his reply by deducing it from their conduct. The coinage of Caesar was accepted by the Jews. The image of the gloomy Tiberius was on the denarii that circulated in their metropolitan markets. This fact shows that the Jews were submitting to the Roman yoke. Then they must act accordingly.
1. We owe duties to the civil government. Religion, which makes us citizens of heaven, does not allow us to renounce our citizenship on earth. It is a duty for Christian men to take part in politics. To refuse to do so is to hand over public affairs to those who are not guided by Christian principles, i.e. to degrade the state. Those good people who are too holy to touch politics are not above profiting by the good laws and just government that other men have laboured to bring about. Under a tyranny the authorities claim tribute; in a free country the people claim self-sacrificing service.
2. Jesus Christ did not come to produce apolitical revolution. The fanatics expected this of the Messiah; the zealots tried to effect it; but Jesus always behaved as a law-abiding citizen. We cannot say that he would never sanction revolution, or the attempt of brave people to throw off the yoke of a cruel tyranny. There was no opportunity to do this in the days of Christ. Nor did our Lord come as a political agitator. He came to regenerate the state as well as the individual, but he wrought at this task from within and spiritually, by inspiring the principles on which good government must be carried on.
II. THE DUTY TO GOD IS NOT TO BE NEGLECTED. This was ignored by the Herodians in their "wickedness" (ver. 18).
1. God has claims upon us. If Caesar has his due, so - nay, much more - has God. His claim, like Caesar's, is one of rule and authority. He expects obedience. While Caesar also expects tribute, God too c]aims tribute - tribute he seeks from men; and this is nothing less than their hearts. What is due to God is the surrender of ourselves and all we have.
2. There is no collision between the secular and the religious. We can render Caesar's due while we are also rendering God's, and God's while we are rendering Caesar's. Politics do not exclude religion, any more than religion can dispense with politics. Each subject has its own function. Yet they are not coordinate, and if there were a conflict, the duty to God must prevail, as in the case of the Christian martyrs. But then Caesar required of the martyrs what was not his due.
3. Politics must not be substituted for religion. The best service rendered to Caesar will not free a man from his duty to serve God. There is a fascination in public life that threatens to absorb a man's total energy. This is a temptation that must be resisted. The great name of Caesar dominated the old world; other exacting influences go far to rule our own age. we need to be on our guard lest they crowd out the thought of God. - W.F.A.
Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?I. WHAT THOSE THINGS ARE WHICH WE SHOULD RENDER UNTO GOD.
1. Our time. Especially youth; and particularly the Sabbath.
2. Our substance.
3. Our children.
4. Our hearts.
5. Our whole selves.
6. The blessed fruits, and all the glory of His own grace, should: by the Christian, be rendered back to God.
II. How THIS IS TO BE PERFORMED. That it may be an acceptable service we must do it —
1. If hitherto neglected, without delay.
2. Freely, and without reluctance.
3. Thankfully, and without murmuring.
4. Humbly, and without ostentation.
5. Wholly, and without reserve.
6. For perpetuity, and without drawback.
7. In the whole of this, we should have an eye to Christ. He is the medium of all communication from God, and conveyance to Him.
(B. Beddome, M. A.)
I. IN REFERENCE TO WHAT IS IN MAN.
1. Here was a profession of great piety and holiness, conjoined with very inexcusable hatred. The Pharisees were the most pretentious religionists of the day; this no proof of genuine piety. They could not refute Christ, but hated Him.
2. We observe here also a very base design. They " took counsel how they might entangle Him in His talk."
3. We observe here a very iniquitous co-partnership. The Pharisees and Herodians were radical enemies.
4. We observe here also a glib, obsequious, but treacherous and lying flattery: "Master, we know that Thou art true." Their design was to throw Him off His guard.
5. Observe the devilish cunning of the plot. "Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, etc." They professed honest doubt in order to fasten Him on the horns of a dilemma.
II. WITH REFERENCE TO WHAT WAS IN CHRIST.
1. We are here shown that Christ was a very dignified man. He was poor; but imposing majesty went along with His humble simplicity.
2. We are here shown that our Saviour had the reputation of a truthful man.
3. He was also a man of acknowledged intelligence.
4. He was, moreover, a man of honest faithfulness. But the subsequent parts of the narrative attest still higher qualities in our blessed Lord.(1) With all the dissimulation of these men Jesus saw through the mask, and all their secret thoughts were open to Him. He "perceived their nakedness."(2) He found an easy way out of the net from which human trickery believed it impossible for Him to escape.
(J. A. Seiss, D. D.)I. THE GOSPEL OUGHT TO PENETRATE EVERYTHING. Human life in its most widely sundered spheres must submit to its action. That being said, I affirm —
II. THAT RELIGIOUS AND CIVIL SOCIETY ARE PROFOUNDLY DISTINCT. This will appear if we consider —
1. The nature of the dominion they exercise. The dominion of the State is that of the present life, and of purely temporal interests. It must guarantee to each citizen the free enjoyment of his rights and liberties. Its supreme ideal is justice. On this side it meets morals. There is a social morality which should not be considered as doing violence to the individual conscience, but which may claim submission from all, and sacrifice, if necessary. They are mistaken, therefore, who make of civil society a mere community of interests. It knows, and can form, the citizen; it ought not to have possession of the man. It must stop at the threshold of religious conscience.
2. Nor is it only by the sphere in which their authority is to be felt that the Church and the State differ; it is still more by the nature of the means which they employ. The arm of the State is force; the arm of the Church is the Word (2 Corinthians 10:4).
3. Differing thus, the Church and civil society should in their inevitable relations conserve, each for itself, their independence with zealous care. This independence may be compromised in two ways: by the theocracy which submits the State to the Church, and by the opposite systems, which submit the Church to the State. In the eyes of many representatives of modern democracy, a religious society should be considered as any other society would be. It is to be governed by the rule of the majority of its members. But Christianity is a revealed fact, and does not depend on the chances of majorities. The Church should not be associated with any political party; it suffers in such alliance. An analogy will illustrate my thought: Every modern nation has two fundamental institutions — the army and the school. Now, that is no wise head which does not understand that neither the one nor the other of these should be open to discussion concerning politics. An army in which the generals became judges would surrender the nation to all sorts of dangers and assaults; schools, in which masters introduced the burning questions which divide us, would become a thorough raid on the liberty of families. In demanding that our soldiers and professors shall not intermingle political debates with their duties, no one understands that they are required to abdicate their independence, their patriotism, and their dignity as citizens. Need I say that the Church is a sphere infinitely superior to the school and the army, and that it is folly to allow party passions and hatreds to penetrate it? The Church places us face to face with eternity; she does not look at questions from the standpoint of the day or the hour, but rules over time and our passing differences. The mere earthly life becomes enslaving — and when has it been more so than to-day? — the more necessary it is that, from above it, we should affirm the grand invisible realities which do not pass away. The absolute, which is only another aspect of the eternal — that is the thing which the Church should proclaim. She must see questions in their relation to God. The domain of politics, on the contrary, is relative, and often even less than that. Politics takes men as they are, and circumstances as they are. I do not ask that religion should remain silent before the immoralities of politics; quite the contrary. I wish that, in order to denounce them with the greater force, she should not descend into the political arena; for, if she is suspected of speaking, not in the name of conscience, but in the name of party, she becomes nothing more than one voice more amid the discordant clamours of the day. Let us take a celebrated example, to which it behoves us always to recur. There is not one of us who has not admired the conduct of John the Baptist at Herod's court, and the firm courage with which he said to the blameworthy king, "It is not lawful for thee to have her." But let John the Baptist, in place of being the prophet of conscience, become a popular judge, and all his authority crumbles: for, behind his denunciation, you discern a political end and the triumph of a party.. Well, then, I cannot cease saying to those whose honour and privilege it is to represent the Church, "Never compromise it in struggles to which it should remain a stranger. Its grandeur and its force are in being the voice of eternal right, and of justice toward all."
(E. Bersier, D. D.)
(T. Start King.)
(Bishop H. C. Potter.)
(Bishop H. C. Potter.)I. Notice the CLAIMS OF CAESAR, OR CIVIL GOVERNMENTS. The just claims of civil governments are limited to civil exactions, in opposition to religious or sacred claims. Civil governments rightly demand —
3. Thanksgiving and prayer to God on their behalf (1 Timothy 2:17, etc.). There are the claims of Caesar and civil governments. But civil governments may demand more than their rights; if they do so, they will be either in matters civil or ecclesiastical; if they levy unjust civil exactions, then, as citizens, they may be peacefully, yet firmly, resisted. This has been repeatedly done. By the three Hebrews, Daniel, Peter, and the apostles (Acts 4:18).
II. THE CLAIMS OF GOD. We are to render to God —
1. Religious belief and homage.
2. Religious awe and fear. "Fear before Him all the earth" (Psalm 96:4, 9).
3. Praise and thanksgiving.
4. Our highest love and delight.
5. Universal obedience.Learn —
1. That the Christian religion is favourable to order and obedience, but it limits the authority of the State to civil concerns.
2. It distinctly exhibits true liberty of conscience. Should not this be dear and sacred to every good man, especially when sanctioned by the spirit of our text?
(J. Burns, LL. D.)I. THAT THEY SHOULD HONOURABLY AND FULLY PAY ALL TAXES which are imposed upon them. The advantages of civil government are cosily, and means must be provided by the individuals of the nation. We must not defraud the government, or a neighbour, who will have to make good our default.
II. THAT CHRISTIANS SHOULD ACQUIESCE IN THAT FORM OF GOVERNMENT UNDER WHICH THEY LIVE, WHATEVER BE ITS CHARACTER AND ORIGIN. A nation has the right to secure its independence of a foreign nation; a nation has the right to amend its institutions; but the duty alleged is that of individuals. "Let every soul be subject to the higher powers." This is God's will. But if human government has its rights, God has His rights. As human governments depend on the authority of God, they must be subordinate to it. His rights are supreme, and the rights of the human government terminate where the rights of God begin. The contrast in "the things which are Caesar's."
1. It is the right of God to demand our worship.
2. General obedience to His laws.
3. That we should maintain that truth which He has revealed, by which He is glorified, and the world is to be blessed. How small a portion all this is of what we owe to God. Admire this feature of the law of Christ, which secures the order of states. Let us he good subjects.
(B. W. Noel, M. A.)I. We owe them honour inward, by a reverent conceit.
II. And outward, by an honourable testimony of the virtues in them, and the good we receive by them. And sure I am this we owe, "Not to speak evil of them that are in authority," and if there were some infirmity, not to blaze, but to conceal and cover it, for that the Apostle maketh a part of honour (1 Corinthians 12:28).
III. We owe them our prayers, and daily devout remembrances; "for all," saith St. Paul, "but, by special prerogative, for princes."
IV. "We owe them the service of our bodies, which if we refuse to come in person to do, the angel of the Lord will curse us, as he did Meroz (Judges 5:23).
(Bishop Andrewes.)I. Some particular rights and privileges belong to Caesars, or sovereign princes:
1. Honour to their persons.
2. Obedience to their laws.
II. Some peculiar rights and prerogatives belong to God only.
1. All religious worship.
2. Due reverence and regard to all sacred things, such as
(a) (b) (c) (d) III. The duty of all Christians with reference to both, and that is, to render the respective rights and dues to each. (Matthew Hole.)
(b) (c) (d) III. The duty of all Christians with reference to both, and that is, to render the respective rights and dues to each. (Matthew Hole.)
(c) (d) III. The duty of all Christians with reference to both, and that is, to render the respective rights and dues to each. (Matthew Hole.)