They watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. So, they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. 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 20:20–26, ESV 2016).
My Musings – I spent the first twenty years of my career as a corporate tax accountant “beating the deadline.” But just like an iceberg, however, making sure we beat the filing deadlines was just the visible tip. And I spent many a late night and weekend making sure there were no late filing penalties. So, I can readily identify with the subject depicted in Mr. Rockwell’s painting. In my early career years, nearly all my preparation work was done on paper too. No personal computers in those days.
But as I said, that was just the tip of the iceberg. My biggest responsibility while “rendering to Caesar” was to make sure we did not render more than we were obligated. Of course, with modern businesses and the tax laws being so complex that was no easy task. Nor was it without controversy. The Internal Revenue Service sent out “spies” to watch (audit) us.
The company I worked for was considered “large-case,” which meant every tax return we filed was audited. For the most part, the auditors we encountered did not pretend to be “sincere,” they were. Their job was to make sure Caesar got what was owed, and my job was to make sure it was no more. We each had our job to do, but there were always differences of interpretation encountered along the way that needed to be settled. Usually somewhere in the middle. Some we settled in the field and some we went to appeals. We never had to go to court.
My Advice – In my experience, that’s how it works with Caesar. That is not how it is supposed to work with God. If we are that fastidious in rendering “to God the things that are God’s,” we are missing the point of stewardship. All that we have is from God, and we hold it in trust. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” (Luke 16:10, NIV 1984).