Or render Unto Caesar’s what is Caesar’s?
By Theodore Shoebat
In the present-day church in America there is this frequented idea of praying for the president, and while this is not necessarily a bad thing, it has become but opportunities for pastors to act sycophantically to politicians. They pray that the president will make the right decisions, but they never describe what a right decision is. They pray for his well-being, but they never pray for the correction of his character. They pray that he be righteous, but they never detail as to what righteousness is. Its all vague, its all politics.
Here is a great example of Andy Stanley doing just this, because he was invited to a prayer for Obama service
But the early Christians would disagree with this thinking. If they lived today they would pray for Obama to leave his idolatry, his anti-Christianity, his work with Saudi Arabia, his sympathies toward Islam and his dealings with Islamists.
St. Romanus, right before he was martyred in the early fourth century, told his persecutor:
Never shall I pray for the emperor’s well-being or for his great and brave regiments but that they may be faithful soldiers and in the water of Christ be born again for the Father and receive from heaven the Comforter himself, that they may cast off the darkness of idolatry and see the light of eternal hope which does not flow into the humours of the eyes gleaming through the windows of the body, but shines in pure hearts within. …I assure you I shall never obey one who commands a sin.” (6)
Now lets deal with that verse where Christ says
Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. (Mark 12:17)
The second part of this line is rarely mentioned. Christ here affirms that there are certain things which do not belong to government, but to God alone. If government demands that we be evil, then to comply would be to not giving unto God what belongs to Him: our righteousness. If government commands that we worship it, then we are to resist, since worship alone belongs to the Creator.
We are to follow the law, never the lawlessness, of government.
To use the words of Tertullian: “what will be God’s, if all things are Caesar’s?” (1)
The government of today’s socialist mentality in the West–specifically the Obama administration–would like for us to bow down to the state, and pay it with our servility, and ultimately, with our souls. Is this what Scripture commands or permits?
Let us look to Scripture to find out.
When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were commanded by the government to bow down to a golden image, they did not convey a “pray for our dictator” service, nor did they declare that since God put Nebuchadnezzar in power they were thus obligated to follow the edict. No–they fervently told the despot, “O King, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Daniel 3:18)
An analogous situation occurred in ancient Persia where a pagan magistrate named Haman commanded Mordecai to bow down to him. Though this was the command of the Persian government, Mordecai did not submit, and “bowed not, then was Haman full of wrath.” (Esther 3:5)
When Israel was taken over by the heretical kingship of Ahab and his foreign wife Jezebel from Phoenicia, the religious institution was seized and priests were forced under threat by the sword to conform to the system of Baal worship. Many refused and were executed, and ultimately they were “seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed into Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” (I Kings 19:18)
These priestly tyrants were not tolerated by Elijah, who ordered:
Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. (I Kings 18:40)
When Christians in the Muslim world defy the Islamic establishment, they too are following in the footsteps of our biblical predecessors.
Numerous of today’s pastors discourage Christians from ever getting involved in politics. Famous pastor (and I don’t use this as a compliment) Max Lucado even uses Jesus as an excuse to avoid getting involved in politics:
The culture we face is no more deviant than the culture Jesus faced. He lived in a society that denigrated women, and from what I understand, their treatment of the less fortunate was just horrible. But I don’t see Jesus being politically active.
Really? Lets weigh this with Scripture. Christ foretold to His disciples:
But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before the governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. (Matthew 10:18)
That Christians were to be persecuted by governments implies that they will be arrested for observing their Faith in nations where Christianity is illegal. Thus, Christ was getting involved in politics, so much to the point that he commanded His followers to preach the Gospel even if it were against the demands of government.
Christ is our model for defiance against tyranny, nay, he is the enemy to all tyranny. Matthew reports that “they that had laid hold of Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.” (Matthew 26:57)
The assembly was the Sanhedrin, which was not only the religious establishment but the political establishment. It was so powerful governmentally that it compelled Pilate to crucify Jesus.
Christ, thus, was political.
Both Paul and Peter were involved in politics when they preached the Gospel, since by doing so they turned people away from the pagan state religion of Rome. I have heard before that paganism is individualistic, having nothing to do with government. This is flat out wrong. Paganism was a political system, and to deny it was to deny the power of the government.
When St. Vincent of Saragossa refused to worship idols, he was told by the governor of Spain:
Dare you, unhappy man, …with rude speech outrage this authority of gods and emperors, authority at once religious and political … For truly this is the order you must accept: either must you here and now make supplication at the altar with incense and turf, or pay the penalty of a bloody death.” (2)
Vincent happily accepted death, but not without insulting Caesar’s demands:
Torture, imprisonment, the claws, the hissing red-hot plate, even the final suffering of death, are all mere sport to Christians. How vain and futile are you rulers! How senseless Caesar’s decree! (3)
St. Eulalia directly insulted the emperor Maximian when she too was pressured to bend the knee to idols, going so far as to even describe him as a prostitute:
Here am I, a foe to the worship of evil spirits; I trample idols under foot, and with heart and lips I confess God. Isis, Apollo, Venus–they are naught; Maximian himself too is naught; they because they are works of men’s hands, both worthless, both naught. Though Maximian, lord of power and yet himself vassalage to figures of stone, prostitute himself to his gods and make himself over to them, why does he persecute noble hearts? (4)
It was this same religion and persecution that Paul and Peter faced. And if their actions were not political, then why were they executed by the state? (5) It is the duty of the saint to love justice, and hate tyranny; and when the latter is implemented, are we obligated to disobey, and never to honor it.
As Christians we are not to stoop down to tyranny; we are not to be obsequious before the face of evil. We are to be active against it. And when governments wish to take away that which is God’s, we must never relinquish.
Theodore Shoebat is a Christian apologist and scholar, and author of the book, For God or For Tyranny
(1) Tert. On Idol. trans. Ante-Nicene Fathers (ANF)
(2) Prudentius, Crowns of Martyrdom, 5.42-52, trans. H.J. Thomson
(3) Ibid, 61-66
(4) Ibid, 3.72-85
(5) Euseb. Eccles. Hist. 2.25
(6) Prudentius, 10.426-445