As with Romans chapter 13, Jesus’ instructions recorded in Matthew 22:21, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s,” are likewise much misinterpreted. The same people who love to quote Romans 13 to justify their cowardice in the face of oppressive government also use Jesus’ words in Matthew 22 to do the same thing.
Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 22 puts two misconceptions to rest: 1) the fallacious philosophy that a man can be a law unto himself and is, therefore, not subject to any civil government or authority, and, 2) the draconian doctrine that government (Caesar) is, itself, above the law and can force God’s people to submit to anything it so desires. In one brilliant statement, the Lord Jesus forever expunges both errors.
Obviously, if men were perfectly sinless, there would be no need for human government; but, since every man has tasted of Adam’s fallen nature, God instituted human government for the overall peace and safety of civil people. No man is a law unto himself–including people in government! This is especially true in the United States, because America has no Caesar! America’s founders clearly understood this principle. Thomas Jefferson reflected this understanding when he said, “In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”
In other words, when men are elected to public office, they do not lose their sin nature! The propensity of men to be selfish, power-hungry, and oppressive is ubiquitous. Plus, this propensity is energized when men are put in positions of power. Therefore, it is incumbent upon free people to recognize, not only their duties and responsibilities to government, but also to recognize the duties and responsibilities of government to the people.