Living a Christian life isn’t always easy. If we’re going to be quite honest, it almost never is. There are temptations everywhere. I don’t know about you, but it seems like Satan has a plan for my life. He has it all mapped out. His target seems to be on me constantly. The NCAA National Championship game is tonight, so it’s only fitting to use a basketball analogy. It’s like Satan has an entire wall of game tapes from my life, and he’s constantly watching them, scouting, trying to figure out how to take me out of my game and make me play his. If I go right, he anticipates it, and he’s there ready to push me to the left.
If we aren’t careful, we’ll play right into his game. One of our most vulnerable times for Satan to attack us is when hardship strikes us or our family. Maybe it’s the loss of a job. Maybe it’s the sudden loss of a parent or child. Maybe it’s a horrible diagnosis. When we least expect it, we’ll fall quickly into Satan’s trap and begin to question God. We might easily echo the words of Job: “Your hands have made me and fashioned me, an intricate unity, yet You would destroy me” (Job 10:8). In other words, we may find ourselves standing in our yard, screaming at the top of our lungs, “WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME, GOD?!?!” As complex and deep as a question like that seems, the answer is actually quite simple, and it lies in a story that we’ve all heard many times.
Jesus was no stranger to difficult questions. Many times, His adversaries tried to trap him with questions that seemed to have no right answer. Matthew records for us one of these interactions that Jesus had with the Pharisees in Matthew 22:15-22. In front of many others, they asked Jesus a very simple question: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matt. 15:17) This isn’t a far-fetched question. In fact, I’ve heard it many times in my lifetime, but not dealing with Caesar. Every time a sinful activity seems to be supported by our own government, such as abortion or homosexuality, I hear many question whether or not we should pay our taxes to the government. So, maybe these Pharisees were expecting Jesus to say they should not pay taxes because of what that money would be used for. However, law required the taxes to be paid, and you must follow the civil laws if they don’t contradict scripture (Romans 13:1-7). So how was He to answer?
Jesus made one of the simplest yet most profound and meaningful statements He ever made. Jesus asks for a coin, and they give him a denarius. He shows them that the coin bears the image of Caesar. Then, Jesus makes the famous statement, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). Unfortunately, many today hear or read this passage and think only of the command that Christians are to pay taxes to our governing authorities. However, I believe Jesus had something much more meaningful in mind here.
What was it that Caesar was wanting from the citizens? He wanted their money in the form of taxes. Why did Jesus say that they should give him what he wants? Because the money has his image on it. Literally, there was an image of Tiberius on the coin that was handed to Jesus (similar to how our coins today have the image of a President). It was Caesar’s money. It belonged to him. Give it to him.
But what does the second part of Jesus’s statement mean? They were to give to Caesar the things that belonged to Caesar, but they were also to give to God the things that belonged to God. So what exactly are we supposed to give to God? How do we know what He wants? Following the analogy Jesus made with the coin, obviously God wants from us what bears Him image. But what do we have that bears the image of God? Let this passage from Creation answer that:
“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…’” (Genesis 1:26)
So what is it that bears God’s image today? We do. Man was made in the likeness of God. We bear His image today. So if you ask God what He wants from us, His answer is simple: “I want you.” He wants everything about us. He wants our heart, our dedication, our love, our loyalty, our life, and even our very soul. He gave all of this to us when He made us, but He wants us to voluntarily give it back to Him because we love Him.
Go back now and read again Jesus’s conversation with the Pharisees in Matthew 22. “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Jesus wasn’t just giving an answer about paying taxes. He said that if Caesar wants the money then give him the money, but you better give yourselves to God. That is something that is so much more valuable.
Satan is going to bear down on us. Life is going to be hard. He will be there at every turn, but there is only one way to defeat him every time. You must have God on your team. That requires submission to Him. Not just when things are good, and even not just when things are bad. He wants all of you, all the time. He wants everything about you.
So the next time you begin to question God and His plan for your life, and you say (either to yourself or out loud), “What do you want from me, God?” God’s answer back to you in very simple. “I want you.”