In a well-known passage of Scripture, Jesus responded to a group of Pharisees trying to trap Him somewhere between the Jewish and Roman laws with this principle: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matt. 22:21b)
Often we focus on the first part of the principle. Yes, we are to pay taxes, to serve in the military or in an alternate service, to vote. But it seems to me the greater question is, are we rendering to God the things that are God’s?
But what exactly is not His?
Elsewhere Jesus tells His disciples to take up their crosses and follow Him. That idea makes perfect sense if we understand that we are, in fact, to give God our all. Even in our giving to Caesar, we are doing so as an act of service to God.
Some years ago, our pastor said the way of Jesus is the way of surrender, giving up my agenda for His. Yet too often in our culture we come to Jesus with the idea that He can add value to our lives. In fact, we want to negotiate with Him, create our own personal covenant with Him: I’ll do all the Christianly things, and God will then bless me as He promised His chosen people of old—promised land, abundant food, protection against enemies, success at every turn.
It’s appealing, but we neglect a fundamental point: Jesus Christ is not our risk manager. He is our Master. We are to sanctify Him—set Him apart—as Lord in our hearts (1 Peter 3:15a).
As Master, He tells us what He wants of us, not the other way around. And clearly, He wants our all. We are to lose our life so that we may find it, give our life so we might save it. We are to die to self that we might live.
The way of Jesus is surrender. And yet, look at all the finding, saving, living.
So the deal-makers are right that the Christian life promises reward. They just miss completely what that reward is—Jesus Himself. He is the one we enjoy now and will enjoy even more in the future, at His banquet.
This post originally appeared here in October 2012.