Render unto the Caesar the Things that are Caesar's
"Render unto Caesar what belong to the Caesars" is the beginning a phrase ascribed to Jesus in the synoptic gospel, which fully reads, "Render unto the Caesar what are Caesar's, and unto God what belong to God." This phrase has been a widely quoted and controversial summary on the relationship between the contemporary secular authorities and Christianity. The origin of this message was from the response posted to a question on how lawful it was for the Jews to pay taxes to the Caesar. This phrase gave rise to all possible and multifaceted interpretations (Robert & Miller 1995, 421) concerning the conditions under which it could appear desirable for Christians to earthily commit themselves to earthly authorities. All the three synoptic gospels elicit a group of hostile questioners who tried to trick Jesus into taking a dangerous and explicit stand on whether the Jewish citizens should pay or should not pay taxes to the Roman authorities (Anne & Desmond 1993, 35). Reflecting from different accounts, both Matthew, 22: 15-21 and Mark 12: 13-17 state that the "questioners" were Herodias and Pharisees while in Luke 20: 20-25, the questioners are revealed as "spies" sent by the chief priests and teachers of law (David & Marshall 2001, 734). This paper serves to explain the meaning of this controversial phrase, and takes a deep consideration into its multifaceted interpretations.
Jesus' response when his opponents tried to hold him down by asking whether it could be right for the Jews, whose populace was snatched by the Romans, to pay homage to the Roman emperor. Jesus took a Roman Coin, which would be used for paying the tribute and then questioned whose picture was on it (Brown & John 1839, 187). All his questioners answered- Caesar's. His response thereby implied that by using the Roman coin, the Jews accepted the Roman rule, and the Roman government owned the right to tax them, so long as the Jewish religious duties were not compromised (Anne & Desmond 1993, 39). Jesus' main point was that the Jews should offer to the worldly authorities the things which belonged to them, and to God what was God's. By rendering to them Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's, Jesus meant that everything was God's hence the point seemed to be- if someone could realize that the entire life including all the Caesar's belongings, powers and rights belonged to God, then one would be within the proper frame of mind; surrender unto the Caesar what is Caesar's (Brown & John 1839, 184).
When one realized that everything belong to God, then they would also realize that anything that they rendered unto the Caesar was for the sake of God (Geoffrey & Davis 1992, 408). Any authority that one could ascribe to the Caesar could be ascribed for the sake of God's high authority; any kind of obedience rendered unto the Caesar would be for the sake of the great obedience rendered to the Lord, and any claim or accusations that the Caesar made on someone could be a reflection of the infinitely high claim which God had on that someone. Rendering to the Caesar is definite and limited to rendering to God. The determination of what is Caesar's strongly relies on the fact that everything belongs to God in the first position, and can only become Caesar's through the permission and design by God (Calvin, George & Kennedy 1986, 109). Elaborately, only God can decide on or determine what is rightful or limited for rendering unto the Caesar. Jesus did not say unto the Jews to render everything to the Caesar, but he rather said that they should only render unto the Caesar what is Caesar's. A clear example of what God views as His can be found in Psalms 24: 1, which states that the earth is Lord's, as well as its fullness and everything that dwells in it. Moreover, Jesus meant that every human has to decide on who is their "god"- was it the God of Abraham, or the prince of the world (Calvin, George & Kennedy 1986, 97).
One can suggest that it could be a mistake to imagine that in his reply, Jesus separated life into two diverse spheres- the sacred and the secular, just as many people supposed. Rather than separating, his argument accumulates. He did not imply that on one hand, the Jews should respect the Caesar; and on the other extreme end, obey God. What he simply points out is that if they respected the Caesar's property just as they should do, then the more they ought to respect God's property (Alfred & Tennyson 1994, 102). Consequently, his comprehensive answer was, "well, render to the Caesar what belongs to the Caesar, but while at it, render unto God everything since all belong to God." The sole reason as to why God ordains the Caesar's rights is solely for the sake of God. Therefore, in his book- 1 Peter 2: 13-14, Peter encourages every human to be a subject of the "Lord's sake" in every institution, be it within the empire, supremacy or governance as set by God (Alfred & Tennyson 1994, 89). For the sake of the Lord, Peter reveals that everything is God's hence limiting what is Caesar's and how to render it to him. Peter gives an alternative to the saying that, "render unto the Caesar nothing that an individual cannot render for the sake of the Lord" (Peter & Davis 1999, 147).
Peter, as well as Jesus calls for Christians to bear a mind-set of an owner and alien simultaneously. They secretly imply that all humans are not servants of any government, but are servants of God (Michael 1996, 49). They should thereby be free from any kind of governance and human institutions since everyone belong to the owner of the whole universe, enjoy and share within that inheritance. They are aliens on earth; they all serve the sole owner of the world- God. Various supportive illustrations from other books within the New Testament may be useful in explaining the phrase in question. First Corinthians 6: 20 states that God made human and brought them to himself; first Corinthians 7: 22 states "we are not slaves of any man or any government," and according to Philippians 3: 20, all people are citizens of the heavens- meaning that everyone is an alien on the earth. Furthermore, 2nd Corinthians 5: 8 affirms this sentiment by stating "we are never at home here on earth, but wait for the Lord from heaven." Through this freedom from the worldly things and from the Caesar, God sends humans for a season back to the "alien" institutions and structures of the society in order to bear witness that these institutions and structures are not the ultimate, but God is. Since humans should always live out of the aliens' ideas of a different kingdom amidst the earthly homeland, a tension shall always arise at any instance when they live within two kingdoms. Additionally, John 19: 12 warns the Jews to take caution of too much rendering unto the Caesar the same way Pilate did, and when rendering unto the Caesar, they opt to do it only for the Lord's sake- that if they cannot, then they should not (Calvin, George & Kennedy 1986, 97).
That we should render unto the Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's has been one of the most well-known phrases in the Christians bible (Practice & Doctrine 2001, 876), but one of the most confusing, controversial, or the least understood verse of the Jesus' sayings or teachings. According to Geoffrey and Davis (1992, 406), the gospel setting illustrates that Jesus' opponents were out to trap him into a corner by posting to him a controversial question on whether the Jews could be an exemption by law, from paying taxes to the Roman power, which occupied their territory (Brown & John 1839, 179). The gospels disclose to us that Jesus was definitely aware of the intentions of his opponents, and he knew of the best way to handle them. A number of documented theological ideas understood this passage by Jesus as a way of making the distinction between two diverse spheres (Anne & Desmond 1993, 36). One of the spheres relates to the Caesar and the worldly or secular matters while the second sphere relates to God and matters concerning God, thereby concluding that we should respect and/or recognize what belongs to every sphere. Humans have the obligation to respect the civil or secular sphere of the society in its own setting (render unto the Caesar what are Caesar's), but Christians must also bear in mind their duties to respect and obey God within the sacred or religious context (David & Gross 2008, 31).
On the historical course of relating the above spheres, the two spheres…