“Jesus said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” – Mark 12:17, CEB.
My guess… this is one of the most popular prooftext’s when discussing the subject of Christianity and politics. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. But what are we saying?
Ok. I might be off on this but I’ve had a few conversations over the years about Christianity and politics. Usually when I hear this passage being cited, it is done so to explain participation in the state and her politics such as voting, volunteering at an election site, working in an election campaign, etc… So it seem Jesus is being quoted for what he said about giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.
But do we know what it is to give to God what belongs to God?
You may recall that what Jesus said was actually a response to a trap set by the Pharisees and Herodians. They baited Jesus, so to speak, by acknowledging that he teaches “the way of God in accordance with the truth” along with asking him whether it was proper to pay taxes to Caesar (Mk 12:14). In response, Jesus took a coin with Caesar’s image on it and said… Well, you know.
Essentially, it seems, that Jesus was saying that the coin belongs to Caesar so give it back to him but… Don’t you ever consider giving to Caesar what belongs to God.
Now he we are. It is another election year. As citizens of the state, we will be asked to vote. Some Christians believe it is our civic duty to do so and some believe Christians should have nothing to do with politics, which includes abstaining from casting a vote. Good arguments can be made for either view.
So where does this leave us?
It seems that it would be merely conjecture to speculate as to whether Jesus would vote or not if he had the legal right to do so. What we do know is that Jesus was a first-century Jew who proclaimed the reign of God, which he called “good news” (Mk 1:15). So we can be sure that Jesus would never have patronized the state‒including its politicians (conservative or liberal) and their ideologies‒as though the state is the source freedom, hope, peace, security, and the many other blessings that so many people ask of their government to do for them.
Because Jesus’ faith was in God!
And that is what we cannot give to Caesar. Neither in this year nor any other. For when we act as though our livelihood depends on the state, it seems we have given to Caesar what belongs only to God.
So, give to God…