A king’s coin offers us kingdom perspective.
In the ancient world Caesar’s coin promised privilege, access. The image of Caesar was stamped on currency. It was his image, which gave a coin its value and weight. Caesar’s coin was an extension of his power. It fortified his empire. It secured his reach. Under Caesar’s rule, if one desired power and influence, then one was dependent on him. His ownership was complete. Truly, he set himself up as a false god.
In his book, Playing God, Andy Crouch examined the following passage, offering rich insights about image-bearing and idolatry, and he made a special note of Jesus’ words which were “… dismissing Caesar’s coin with a simple ‘return to sender’” (Crouch, 2013).
But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him . – Mark 12:15 -17, ESV
Challenging those who were threatened by Him, Jesus confronts the question of allegiance, alignment and trust. For us today Jesus’ words remain a challenge, an invitation, an audacious proposal – to whom will we yield? To whom will we bend the knee? Whose Kingdom are we building? This short exchange is not what it appears, a mindless tax discussion, rather Jesus continues to ‘flip tables’ by exposing fraudulent hearts.
Jesus resists the empty claim of this human system of dominion and ownership. Jesus challenges his listeners to remember that they are created to carry the power of the One who is greater than Caesar. The abundance of His Father spans eternity. The Father’s image, the weight of glory, is stamped on us. His power is imbued to us because we are marked as His. In doing so, He entrusted to us the wealth of His Kingdom – how rich we are!
We are God’s currency, an extension of His power and presence, just as a coin is an extension of the ruler of the land. Jesus challenges us. On whom are we dependent? In whom do we trust? The calling of the faithful steward begins with one’s response to these questions because they beckon our submission.
No matter our vocation, our passion, our job title, if we wish to be God’s faithful steward, then first we settle the question of ownership. Who owns us? Whose fame do we promote? God’s faithful steward is committed to extending the King’s rule. This is not solely an exercise of resource management, or the pursuit of mission fulfillment, focused on making an external impact around us. It is a commitment to the continual work of the Holy Spirit within us, God’s most valued “coin.” As God’s faithful steward, we must examine ourselves. Where do we expend our effort? Where do we invest our energy? Where do we lay claims of ownership? Where is there self-promotion and pride?
The King’s work begins in the heart of the faithful steward to cultivate and multiply God’s justice and mercy, God’s goodness and beauty, God’s kindness and hope. It is a life which embraces self-sacrifice in service of another. This encounter between Jesus and His enemies is no simple happenstance. Three chapters later Jesus gives to God His very life for the sake of the Kingdom. Jesus’ provocative words still resound – Will we render to God what is His – our very life?
- Crouch, A. (2013). Playing God: Redeeming The Gift of Power. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press.
The Outcomes Academy Online – Fall Registration is Open
The Outcomes Academy is Christian Leadership Alliance’s most in-depth professional learning experience. Academy is designed by subject matter experts to equip Christian leaders for operational excellence in eight core functional areas. Practical and full of best practices, this learning experience offers critical insights and instruction that will advance the effectiveness of leaders and the organizations they serve. Registration is open through September 25 and classes begin on October 2, 2018.