15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk.
16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men.
17 “Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?
19 “Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius.
20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”
21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.
It’s a simple enough question: What belongs to God? To be more specific, what part of your own life belongs to God? We have all heard that famous saying from the verses above, most likely from the old King James translation:
“Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
We often shorten that sentence to just “Render unto Caesar,” because we like to think we know how to separate our lives, rendering unto “Caesar” and God in the proper proportions. We think we have a pretty good idea what belongs to God in our lives, and what is just part of our daily life–civil obligations, material things, the work we do to earn that “denarius” to pay Caesar’s tax. Yes, we know how to give to God what is truly His. Or do we?
“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.”
12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you;
For the world is Mine, and all its fullness.
13 Will I eat the flesh of bulls,
Or drink the blood of goats?
14 Offer to God thanksgiving,
And pay your vows to the Most High.
15 Call upon Me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”
The way we usually go about it is like this: We work our daily job, earn our money, pay our taxes, buy the things we need, buy gifts for friends and family, rest in the evenings, rest on the weekends, attend church on Sunday, write a check for an offering, go back to work on Monday, etcetera.
Here is the way God goes about things: He watches over our every step, He provides the health we need to work our daily job, He allows for the increase of business so we get paid, He created all the earth and the very materials with which we pay our taxes, He has created the plants and animals and raw materials for all our food and clothing and cars and homes, He has carefully knit the bodies and hearts every member of our family and community, He rested JUST ONCE right after the Creation and hasn’t rested since, He is with us every day of the week, He accepts our offering and multiplies it to His glory, He works in the hearts of men every hour of every day, etcetera.
Do you see the difference?
What part of our lives truly belongs to God? Let us ask Jesus.
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
38 “This is the first and great commandment.”
What belongs to God?
ALL OUR HEART: Literally, our innermost being. Today, we think of the heart as the seat of our emotions, but for the Hebrews and for the people of Jesus’ time, the heart was the seat of our intentions, our motivations, and not just our feelings.
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.”
What we store in our hearts determines what we bring forth. It not just about what we feel nor how the circumstances of our lives make us feel, but more about what we allow to influence our actions, the storehouse from which we draw our thoughts. WE determine the feelings that enter our hearts and the feelings that come from within.
Love is not something we FEEL, it is something we DO. If we are to love God with all our heart, then all our motivations must spring from His will, all our thoughts draw from His wisdom, all our intentions be geared to please and obey the Lord our God. There can be no other who takes preeminence in our hearts, no other toward whom we act so selflessly and lovingly.
ALL OUR SOUL: Literally, in both Hebrew and Greek, our breath, the stuff that gives us life.
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
Our soul is the eternal part of us that comes directly from God. It is not now nor has it ever been ours to use as we see fit. Philosophically and theologically, our soul is the spark of the divine, that tiny portion of us that we can truly say is made in the image of God. Being such, our soul guides our actions through our conscience, through our morals and ethics, through our obedience to the very God who gave us life.
If we are to love God with all our soul, then our soul must be the guiding influence in our lives, allowing the Holy Spirit of God to draw us nigh unto God. When we rebel against God, the first thing we ignore is our conscience that tells us we ought to do something else. When we love God with all our soul, then our soul is at ease and we know the peace of God.
ALL OUR MIND: In Greek, literally, all our imagination, our understanding. In Deuteronomy 6:5, the Hebrew word used here means might or strength. Can we reconcile these two different ideas? Certainly, we can. As human beings, the things that sets us apart from the beasts of the field is that we think, we reason. It is our greatest strength–and our greatest curse. Out of the thoughts of our imagination come all manner of divergent philosophies and reasons for living our lives in ways that oppose the things of God. It is not without reason that we say our imaginations “run wild,” because they really do go in ways that are not Godly, that are more like beasts than like men and women created in the image of God. Where our heart gives us the motivation to do things, it is our mind that gives substance to our actions, that imagines our every deed, that forms the words we speak. Our mind gives strength to otherwise formless intentions.
If we love the Lord our God will all our mind, with all our strength, then we will not try to imagine that we know better than He does what we should do. We will form our thoughts around His thoughts, our ways around His ways. We will give strength to the things that truly matter to God.
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Look at the life of Jesus, and see what fruit was shown by His own love for the Father. Jesus treated all men with justice and fairness–not as the world would treat them but as a righteous and loving God treats them. Jesus showed us the abundant mercy of God by traveling a road to Calvary that not many of us would ever contemplate. Jesus walked humbly before men AND God, in utter obedience to the Father and in loving service to all men. Jesus lived a life that truly shows us a heart of mercy, a soul of humble obedience, and a mind that thought only of God’s righteousness and justice.
What belongs to God? All our heart: our intentions and motivations must belong to Him, springing forth from a heart of flesh that has been transformed by the gospel of peace with God. All our soul: our morals and actions must humbly and obediently draw from His Holy Spirit, allowing the breath of God to guide the direction of our lives as wind in a sail. All our mind and strength: our thoughts must be pointed toward the One who gives us life, our strength dedicated to the One whose mercy allows us to stand even in our rebellion, our very lives built not upon the pattern of our own imaginations but upon the Word of God itself.
What belongs to Caesar? Nothing at all. When we consider what truly is ours to give to God and all that is commanded of us in that great commandment to love Him, we will see that while the Caesars of this world may like to THINK they own the money and the roads and the trees and our lives, it all truly belongs to God.
Let Caesar take back the things that have his own image on them. Let us render unto him that things that feed his vanity and condemn his own actions, thoughts, and motivations. But let us, through love for the lord our God, imprint upon our lives the very image of God–the Almighty and merciful Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Let us then render unto God that which belongs to Him: all our heart and all our soul and all our mind. What belongs to God? Our whole lives.
Holy Father God, Peter asked us what manner of persons ought we to be in holy conduct and godliness, and from Your Word it is clear that we must be men and women whose heart and soul and mind belong wholly to You. We are to love so completely that even when we are working our day jobs and going about our weekly lives, we are oriented toward You, guided by Your Spirit, nourished by Your Word. Holy Lord, I wish my life to be so lived that with ONE heart, ONE soul, ONE mind I live for You. Let me not be double-minded in any aspect of my life. Help me to be the man created in Your image, not the man created in my own. Amen.