I’m currently in the throes of this amazing 1030-page novel, The Instructions by Adam Levin…
…and in the process, I came across the following passage, which resonated with me—particularly in light of the circumstances we Americans find ourselves facing today—and thought I’d share:
“You can render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, but if you don’t keep from Caesar that which is yours, Caesar will take some, and then take some more, and if you don’t put a stop to it, though you won’t lose everything—you can’t lose everything; there’s things he can’t take, at least one or two—a time will soon come when you’ll THINK you’ve lost everything, then you’ll think ALL is Caesars, and by then you’ll be too weak to take what’s yours back, too tired to remember what was yours to begin with, and you’ll end up, perversely, scheming for his leavings and, even more perversely, grateful when you get them.”
~ Gurion Maccabee | The Instructions, by Adam Levin
For reference, the actual biblical story (Matthew 22:15-22) goes like this:
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. 16 And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and do not care what anyone thinks; for You are not partial to anyone. 17 Tell us then, what do You think? Is it permissible to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. 20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” 21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then pay to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 And hearing this, they were amazed; and they left Him and went away. (NASB)
Now, on the one hand, my interpretation of what Jesus was saying here is that since the coins are made in the image of Caesar, thus indicating they belong to Caesar, then we should surrender them to Caesar; whereas we are made in the image of God and thus belong to God, and should therefore surrender ourselves to God. So we should stop worrying so much about money, and about the government, and instead focus about what’s infinitely more important: living a Godly life and loving and helping others as much as we can.
But on the other hand, I also believe that government is evil, being institutionalize violence, and that, as Tolstoy pointed out some 138 years ago in his profound book The Kingdom of God Is Within You: Christianity Not as a Mystic Religion but as a New Theory of Life: the institution of government is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus.
Case in point: in Chapter X, we find this passage:
“Christianity in its true sense puts an end to government. So it was understood at its very commencement; it was for that cause that Christ was crucified. So it has always been understood by people who were not under the necessity of justifying a Christian government. Only from the time that the heads of government assumed an external and nominal Christianity, men began to invent all the impossible, cunningly devised theories by means of which Christianity can be reconciled with government. But no honest and serious-minded man of our day can help seeing the incompatibility of true Christianity—the doctrine of meekness, forgiveness of injuries, and love—with government, with its pomp, acts of violence, executions, and wars. The profession of true Christianity not only excludes the possibility of recognizing government, but even destroys its very foundations.”
(He also addresses this issue in his essay The Law of Love vs. The Law of Violence).
And this being the case, then yes, we should avoid “rendering unto Caesar” as much as possible…
But back to the original passage from The Instructions…
…tell me that the quote from the novel isn’t 100% true—that the government will continue to take, and to take, and to take, until either the people put an end to it, or lose everything and suffer a complete economic and societal collapse (the inevitability of which is often a prelude to war)…
…and tell me that this isn’t precisely the path we’re on in the US today…and maybe even around the world…
A Note To Readers:
If you found this article (or any of the others, for that matter) interesting, informative, entertaining, etc., please consider subscribing to the INSIGHTS email newsletter: simply enter your email into the form located in the right sidebar (also under each post), or, if you prefer, just us this simple quick sign-up form. Thanks! ~ Rand