Standing Up for Righteousness
When the Jews tried to trip Jesus up and discredit Him, He said:
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. Matthew 22:18b-22
This text has Jesus asking the Jews to look at the money with Caesar’s inscription on, not to establish who owns the money. The coinage of Caesar’s days was not his but belonged to God along with all created things. Jesus point was to establish that, in accord with the 4th commandment, God expected people to “Duly give therefore, to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” which includes all their obligations to “the higher powers ordained of God,” Rom. 13:1-7. “The things that are Caesar’s include, not only tribute (taxes) but likewise fear and honor,…” See Lenski’s 1943 Commentary on Matthew, page 866. (Augsburg Publishing House).
This Scripture above also teaches us that God has assigned two kingdoms, and areas of responsibility to each. Caesars is the realm of civil and criminal law and it does not fall to the churches or to individual Christians to interfere in civil matters where the law is clear and does not contradict God’s Word. This was one of many problems which only furthered the protestant reformation because the Roman Catholic Church was insisting that it should have authority over the governments of its days. We sometimes call these two kingdoms the Kingdom of the left (the world) and the kingdom of the right (God’s
invisible church of all believers with Christ as the head). As Christians we belong to both Kingdoms, at the same time, and are allowed by God to participate fully in the Kingdom of the left, and to be government workers such as Soldiers, police officers, judges, etc. This also means we are allowed to call 911 and request help from the police, utilize the judicial system, and fight as a Soldier in a just war. In other words, we may serve in the government and be served by the government. Scripture says:
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from
the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. –Romans 13:3-4
This means that the civil and criminal law systems are there, by God, to help us. We can use them and should. We are allowed the right of self-defense and yet we are discouraged from seeking vigilante justice. In matters of the law, we can defend ourselves through the courts. We can also stand up for a just cause and use the courts to defend others.
We can and should pray to God to resolve injustices. King David often did this in the Psalms. But Jesus also said, to the man who wanted Him to help get his inheritance:
13 Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” 15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” –Luke 12:13-15
Here Jesus makes it clear that the Kingdom of the right, God’s spiritual kingdom, has not been charged to assume the responsibilities of civil government. Apparently, the man who came to Jesus bypassed the civil authorities, or perhaps hadn’t heard what he wanted to hear from them after they had already rendered a judgement. Jesus final words here warn us that we need to look at our motivation in pursuing civil court cases.
Often, when in the middle of turmoil, when standing up for ourselves, a just cause, others, or our Lord and our Christian Faith, our knees grow weak and we question our motivations and actions. Often, this is a result of false accusations hurled against us or threats and abuse inflicted on us. Satan will try to confuse us by misquoting Scripture to us, as he did Adam and Eve, to confuse them and lead them into sin. The verses about turning the other cheek, and giving to someone our tunic, when they have already taken our cloak (Matt. 5:39-40), are some of his favorites to quote. We must look correctly at these verses. These actions over and against Jewish citizens were harsh and probably unfair but actually legally allowed under the Roman law or tacitly tolerated. When the law allowed these, and other things like carrying a Roman Soldier’s pack for a mile, the Jew’s were to comply. But when the law, and powers that be, are clearly on our side then, sometimes, suffering, injustice, and persecution, is not a call to submission but a call to stand up and be counted for the truth and righteousness. And when the law is on our side, if we chose not to use it and simply suffer, this could possibly be seen as a self-imposed cross which does not come from God. Edmund Burke Said; “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” When championing our Lord, and or a just cause, or the truth, we can recall these Words of the Psalmist;
God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed,
Still, Christians are always encouraged in civil affairs (non-criminal) to try and settle matters among themselves before resorting to the courts;
5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6 But instead, one brother takes another to court – and this in front of unbelievers! 1 Corinthians 6:5-6
Much more could be written to what I have said above. Some things could be better qualified or contrasted to other Christian teachings. Accordingly, look also at Matthew 18:15-17. This article should not be taken as a dispensation to go quickly to court over some matter. But rather, as an encouragement, in this sinful world, to redress wrongs and find justice in accord with God’s guidance to Christians on such matters, through use of the Kingdom of the right. To also participate fully in the kingdom of the left in areas such as public service, politics, voting, etc., in accord with God’s Word.