Topical and Doctrinal Notes
Thought: The Things That are God's
Our last lesson treated of the beautiful story of the Lord's riding into Jerusalem as King, and we learned that there are two kinds of kings. The one kind rules over a kingdom that belongs to this world; the other rules over the kingdom that is not of this world.
Kings of the world maintain order among men: they see to it that people can go about their business peacefully, without interference by thieves and robbers. If there is wrong done, they see to it that the wrong is righted. They provide for the opening and maintenance of streets and roads; and in very many other ways insure the peaceful and happy living together of the citizens of the kingdom.
The Lord's kingdom, although it is not of the world, is nevertheless in the world. The difference is that the worldly kingdom has to do with things of the world on earth; the Lord's kingdom has to do with heavenly things upon earth.
Affairs that belong to a worldly kingdom are called "civil," or, "belonging to the State"; the affairs that belong to the Lord's kingdom on earth are called "ecclesiastical," or "belonging to the church." "Ecclesiastical" affairs, therefore, and "civil" affairs are quite distinct. They belong to two different regions of our being. And they must also be kept in order. And this is what the Lord teaches us in today's lesson, where He says, "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."
When the Lord Jesus Christ was on earth the chief king who ruled over the worldly affairs of the land of Judea was entitled "Caesar." He was the emperor of the Roman Empire, to which the land of Judea belonged where Jerusalem was.
The Pharisees, and the political party called the Herodians, wanted to catch the Lord by their question. They thought they could make Him say that the tribute should not be paid to Caesar because Jesus Himself was king. They could not understand that the Lord did not want to be an earthly or worldly king, and so when He told them to give Caesar whatever was due to him, but not to neglect giving God what was due to Him, they were astonished and left Jesus.
They did not make the distinction, which you can and will make, between things of the world, and things of heaven.
In order that the two may be kept distinct, the Lord has given us two minds, one of which is engaged in learning about the world and how to do business in the world, how to take care of our bodies, our homes, our work, how to behave toward others in a polite and courteous and honest and moral and just manner; and the other mind is engaged with things that belong to the Lord, with love to Him and His heavenly kingdom, and is filled with truths that show how the love is to be carried out.
The things that tell us about the world are called "civil and moral" truths. The truths that tell us about the Lord are called "spiritual," and "celestial" or "heavenly" truths.
How very distinct the things that are God's are from those that are Caesar's; or, to put it in another way, how very distinct "civil truths" are from "spiritual truths"; we can see from this, that a man may be a very good citizen, he may obey all the laws of his country, and yet not be a member of the Lord's kingdom; he may not care for the Lord, nor believe in Him and so not learn His laws nor obey Him. But one who is a loyal and true member of the Lord's kingdom, or of His church, will also be a true and loyal citizen of his country.
Why is this? Because, being loyal and obedient to his Divine King, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, he obeys this same law of the Lord's, "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." Don't you see, that if he should fail to obey the laws of his country, he would not be obeying the law of the Lord, which tells him to obey them?
The tribute money was a tax. And one of the most important things for a citizen of a country to do is to pay his taxes and duties. To try to evade paying them is to be disloyal to his country and to his Lord.
To be a good citizen and to be a good churchman, we must learn the laws of our-country and the laws of heaven, and be true to both.