Giving Caesar His Due
by Jeff Montgomery
I have to admit to having a bit of a problem with authority. This is not a good problem to have when you're trying to fit into the typical confines of the working world. There's always somebody trying to tell you what to do.
My problem is that when someone higher up the corporate food chain is issuing some orders about doing something a particular way, I want to do just the opposite. I want to go my own way, since, undoubtedly, my way will be much more thoroughly thought out and will lead to a wildly successful conclusion. This is why I scrupulously avoided a career in the military.
And thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit, I've managed to keep things in perspective to the point that this tendency has only caused a real problem once in my career (before I had a family to support). Through God's good graces the authority-fighting monster stays locked in his cage most of the time.
While this is my own experience, I think it's safe to say that most of us have had moments in our working lives where we bristled at having to take direction from someone who was either a) less qualified than we are, b) obnoxious, or c) a bad manager. It's no fun, especially when you feel like your own creativity and efforts feel like they're being squashed in favor of something less effective.
In many ways this situation is similar to what the Jews were having to experience under Roman rule during Jesus' time. They had inhabited Judea for thousands of years, developed a rich tradition of worship, and, until the Romans came along and took over, they were doing just fine, thank you. Along come these new rulers (or managers, if you will) to tell them how to do things, like paying taxes to the emperor.
And the Jews were looking for a way out, just like we would be seeking a way out of a rather unpleasant working environment. They placed their hope in the coming Messiah, who would lead them to freedom.
Most of us probably aren't waiting for a workplace Messiah to come along and lead us to the promised land, but we may be looking for some way to deal with a situation that can be quite frustrating. Jesus, as always, gives us some direction.
At a particular time in His ministry, Jesus is confronted by some Pharisees and challenged him to explain why they should pay the census tax to Caesar. They were trying to trick Him into incriminating himself so they could turn Him over to the Roman officials. His response: "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God" (Mark 12:17)
We can look at our work, and the orders or direction we receive, in a similar way. Working for any organization, be it a corporation, a school, a law enforcement agency, or a gas station has it's requirements and rules. We need them for stability and efficiency's sake. This means that there are hierarchies of management. It also means that unless we own the company, we probably have at least one layer of management above us.
When we work within the structure of our working environment we are giving Caesar his due by doing our best to follow the established procedures and rules, and by respecting the flow of management.
In the same way, we are giving God what is His by doing our job well and by offering up all of our hopes, joys, and frustrations of the day to Him. It means trusting that God has a greater purpose, and that by participating in obedience we are furthering that purpose.
This is not to say we need to be like little lambs, obediently going here and there without question. Sometimes we need to speak out for the greater good. In today's world, we are giving both Caesar AND God their due by constantly seeking to do our best. If we are given some kind of direction from a manager that we know will lead to disaster, it's our duty to both God and our corporate Caesar to do the right thing.
I also find it helpful to remember Jesus' response to Pilate when, in the midst of His passion, Pilate says to him, "Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?" (John 19:10). Jesus responds by saying this: "You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above" (John 19:11).
In a much less dramatic way, we, too, should keep in mind that God is directing our lives, and at this moment He has us working in our particular environment. We could be there to have our rough edges smoothed to be better prepared for our salvation, or we could be there to accomplish some greater good. The point is that we wouldn't be there, and we wouldn't have that particular management, unless God put us there under that authority.
So by working within the structures and procedures we are really honoring God by carrying out the work He needs for us to do at that moment. It's not always fun, and it doesn't always make sense, but if we have faith and trust in God, we can be assured that we are accomplishing something good.
E-mail this article to a friend