The issue of Mark 12:13-17 lays out a message that requires thorough reading for both then and now. It is true; for all intents and purposes, this was a test for the Christ. The flattery heaped by the Pharisees and Herodians is thick and does not go unnoticed. But their observations are true. The dilemma they intend to force on Jesus is legitimate on its surface. A response to civil authority is required of any citizen in any country at all times, even as it is today in America. Regardless of how unjust a “tax” may be or how heavy the burden hoisted on the citizens by its government, there is a necessity to respond either in obedience or revolt and the latter was what the religious leaders hoped Jesus would convey. Note: even though Jesus response in this situation was correct and sends his flatterers away amazed, they accuse him of not paying or at least encouraging people not to pay taxes during his trial in Luke 23:2.
There are several instances in scripture which talk about civil responsibility. If you care to examine them, consult Romans 13:1-7, Col 1:16, 1 Timothy 2:1-6, Titus 3:1-2 and 1 Peter 2:13-17.
In this season of discontent in the US with a large number of citizens in revolt against huge government spending, big government bureaucracy and waste, are Christians correct and within the guidelines of scripture to protest and defy the actions of the civil authorities? Is there anything immoral about the intent or action of the current Government that compels us to respond or to see what they are doing as an affront to God? Or should we support and comply? Do we stand under the umbrella of our constitution or the authority of scripture? Are those two “documents” in agreement with our rights as citizens or do we abrogate our rights under the authority and teaching of scripture?
Is our Government anti-God or anti-Christian or anti-faith? I suspect many would argue “yes” without any hesitation or reservation. Others would say there is no requirement of scripture that Government be godly, Christian, or faith driven. It simply is what it is, leaders appointed by God and as long as they are not casting God into his own created darkness, than we have an obligation to obedience. In addition, we do not have an option of divorcing our faith from our civil obligations – we are not a Christian on the one hand and citizens on the other – we are Christian citizens. We cannot divorce our faith from our citizenship any more than we can divorce our faith from our daily life. Christian is who we are, not what we are.
Does that mean we like what our Government is doing; that we agree with what our Government is doing; that we support what our Government is doing? The answer for many of us is “No!” But that does not give us any right – not one under the authority of scripture – to do anything but obey. As we are taught – anyone can be good when treated fairly and justly. It is when we are punished for doing no wrong that the strength and depth of our faith is tested. And these trials are not just from God, but from the authorities he has put in place over us.
Does that mean we are in violation of scripture if we protest or let our opinions be made known to our government officials? Perhaps. So then what?