Render Unto Caesar…But…

In his helpful work Christ and Culture Revisited, D. A. Carson, clarifies the holistic claims of Christ in a familiar passage often thought to teach a sacred/secular split. In Luke we read:

[Wanting to catch Jesus in a trap, the scribes and the chief priests asked him] Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent. (Luke 20:22-26 ESV)

Does Jesus here teach a sacred/secular division? Dr. Carson’s comments are insightful:

Yet we must not think that Jesus’ utterance warrants an absolute dichotomy between God and Cesar, or between church and state, or between Christ and culture. That brings up the second detail in the text that must be observed. When Jesus asks the question, “whose image is this? And whose inscription?” Biblically informed people will remember that all human beings have been made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). Moreover, his people have the “inscription” of God’s law written on them (cf. Exodus 13:9; Proverbs 7:3; Isaiah 44:5; Jeremiah 31:33). If we give back to God what has his image on it, we must all give ourselves to him. Far from privatizing God’s claim, that is, the claim of religion, Jesus’ famous utterance means that God always trumps Caesar. We may be obligated to pay taxes to Cesar, but we owe everything, our very being, to God. [Here Carson quoted from David T. Ball] “Whatever civil obligations Jesus followers might have, they must be understood within the context of their responsibilities to God, for their duty to God to claims their whole selves.”

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Posted on April 14, 2011, in Christian Worldview, Culture, D. A. Carson, Politics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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