“No King But Caesar”

One of the saddest statements in the Bible is found in John 19:15– 

“But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.


We have no king but Caesar.” 

It’s the grim echo of 1 Samuel 8:7 “And the LORD told [Samuel]: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. “

I recently had a respectful discussion with someone who asserted that one political party in the United States was more in line with biblical teaching, especially with respect to care for the poor and issues of social justice.  

I answered the assertion with this statement:

But the result of political social tinkering is that masses of people no longer seek God or the Church to care for the poor…where they might find Jesus in the process. The government drives a wedge between people and their God.”

In my book, good and evil don’t fall along party lines.  As I see it, both parties agree that caring for the poor is a good thing to do.  We may disagree about what truth we’re seeking or what true justice is.  And I’d say that we definitely have a disagreement about the best way to go about truly helping the poor and the oppressed. 

Perhaps we have different goals in mind altogether.  Our solution for how to care for the poor is intimately related to the question of which god we serve?   Do we serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or do we have no king but Caesar?

This conversation started my prayerful thinking about what the Bible says about care for the poor and social justice as well as what it says about the purpose and role of human forms of government.

Are people in America looking to the government instead of to the Church in their times of need? 

Increasingly, that answer is “Yes.” 

 Is that the way God designed life to be?

I am personally convinced that God wanted His people to do the job of caring for the poor as a reflection of our faith.

I am drawn to the idea that God is looking for a big, brawny Church—working so hard spiritually—that it doesn’t have time to become rich, fat, or lazy, waiting for people to enter the opulent, architectural wonders to be fed off the pastor’s spiritual plate, along with everybody else.

The Church is not supposed to be a feeding trough with clever branding and nice carpeting. 

Isn’t God’s intent that the needs of people draw them to…God…who provides for every need? 

Then God’s Church does what He designed it to do: be a place where people have come (on account of their physical, spiritual, and emotional needs) but in the process of being satisfied, they will meet God, learn about Him, and find salvation in Jesus Christ–and also satisfy their greatest need for all eternity.

What, then, is the role of government?

The Bible is clear on this.

Romans 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

The government protects the public interest by maintaining law and order, bringing punishment upon wrongdoers, and being the human instruments of God.  Government is completely legitimate.  But note that while it is legitimate and an instrument of God, (1) it is not the Church, (2) its role is not to care for the poor, (3) it is not to substitute as Messiah, and (4) it is not to separate people from their God.

When we see the limits, we can embrace a lean and muscular government—one like a marathon runner—an institution so focused on the finish line of civilization, humble restraint, and shepherding law and order that it has neither the time nor the desire to grow fat and lazy.  A Jabba the Hutt government with an insatiable appetite for power and money isn’t what God had in mind.

What did God intend in giving us both a Church and a Government?  Two institutions, each doing their job and not trying to do each other’s job, forsaking their own job in the process.

Sadly, as people look to the government as a place where all their needs are met, the Church’s unique role is diminished and people no longer seek God.  The consequence of this is hardening of people’s hearts toward helping the poor as a reflection of their faith.  “Oh, let the government do it.  That’s why we pay taxes,” becomes the cop-out response of a people who have lost sight of God’s ability to provide for people.  “Take from the rich and give to the poor” becomes the mantra of those who have no king but Caesar, clearly not knowing that if God wanted the poor to be rich, He has wealth, power, and opportunity to accomplish it without human help.

Therefore, both miss the point that sometimes people have needs SO THE CHURCH WILL MEET THEM with the goal that they’ll meet Jesus and be fed spiritually for eternity.  Some people are designated “grace recipients” …if the Church is doing its job (and not submitting to the concept of government enablers to do our job for us) or shirking its God-given role.

Yes, I believe the government drives a wedge between people and their God.  Because one thing is for sure: a government without limits is a counterfeit king with an appetite that is never satisfied.  Tragically, those who are hungry will never be satisfied in the long haul, if they seek to be filled by mere government hands.

Isaiah 55:1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. 4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples. 5 Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.” 6 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”

Have we rejected God as king? 
 Do we have no king but Caesar? 
For a wide swath of America, sadly, the answer is a grim resounding, “Yes.” 
Not for me.  My King is still on the throne.

Categories Articles, Articles and Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on October 2, 2012

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