Spiritual Duty

Matthew 22:21 (ESV)

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  

Have you rendered to God what is God’s?

“Render,” is an interesting word choice in today’s passage. It stirs me to consider the difference between “render” and “give.” We tend to use the words interchangeably. Such exchange diminishes the meaning of “to render.” The two verbs are distinct. We know what “to give” means: “to make a present of.”[1] The meaning of “render” comes to life when we study its origin in the Old French word, rendre, meaning, “to give back.” This is exceptionally important. We’re not being told by Jesus to give to Caesar and God, but to give back to Caesar and to God what is their due. In Jesus’ time, coins were stamped with an image of Caesar; thus, making the coin Caesar’s. In a way, we are stamped with an image of God; thus, making us God’s. I like the way Jesus clearly indicates that our civic duty and our obligation to God can coexist, one does not exclude the other. “He who takes the coin from Caesar, must give it back to him again,” wrote John Peter Lange, D.D..[2] I will add, “One who takes God’s blessings, must give it back to God again.” Lange celebrated the wisdom of today’s verse, “If [people] would always strictly adhere to this rule, there never would be a hostile collision between the two powers.” Now, when we give to our God, we are simply giving back to God that which was God’s to begin with: our time, talent, and treasure. Have you rendered to God what is God’s? It is our spiritual duty to Christ.

“Victory over fear is the first spiritual duty of man.” Nicholas Berdyaev, early 20th century Russian political and Christian religious philosopher       

[1] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Boston, “render,” © 2009.

[2] Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, © 1960, Vol. 8, p. 397.

About Pastor Steve

Pastor Steve Hodges is an ordained minister, pastoring a church in central Virginia.
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