To whom are we to show our loyalty?
This question is no easier to answer today than it was in the time of Jesus. What do we do when the demands of the gospel and the demands of the government conflict? Although there are many people in the world who don’t have the option to choose their leadership, many countries support an elected government. The government in question could be local, state or national. We pay taxes and by doing so, often support behavior that we do not agree with and that does not agree with gospel values. However, if we do not pay what is due, then we are subject to fines and possibly imprisonment. How did Jesus answer the question of his day?
Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what is God’s. We may not be able to easily choose what our money supports, but we can help determine what our government supports. We have a responsibility to know what those running for office – on every level – stand for and support. We have a responsibility to let our elected leaders know what bills we want them to help pass, and those we want to see defeated. This also means that we have a duty to register to vote and then to vote on Election Day. Apathy enables special interest groups to have the last say, not the general public.
How is this rendering to God the things that are God’s? How is this showing our support of the poor and the vulnerable? Are we willing to take the time to check out which of the candidates are committed to our values? Are we willing to make sure that our vote will count on Election Day? If we are truly committed to social justice, then we will take the time to make sure that when we render to Caesar, we are also rendering to God. And we can continue to advocate for those who do not have the rights that so many of us take for granted.
It is sometimes easy to get caught up in other people. We see people all the time who do bad things, but still seem to get ahead. The fellow employee who goofs off, but still manages to get promoted. The classmate who cheats on every assignment, but gets a scholarship. It is frustrating. In this passage, David reminds us that the wicked never really prosper, though it may seem that way. We are not to be envious of these people because they are doomed to “wither” and “fade.” Wickedness does not last. Only the things of God endure.
Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.
Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
What’s it all about, in the final analysis? What’s the meaning and purpose of life, when you get to the very core of the matter? This is the subject that the teacher, King Solomon, deals with in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Before he gave his final answer in Chapter 12 at the very end of the book, he explored the various alternatives there are in the search for meaning in life.
His search encompassed many of the things that foolish people try to center their lives around. He tried wine, women, and song. He tried to find meaning in great projects like the building of homes, vineyards, gardens, parks, and reservoirs. He bought himself everything money could buy—slaves, flocks and herds, goods and services of every kind imaginable. He amassed gold and silver and got himself a harem. He searched everything and everywhere and denied himself nothing in the process.
What he discovered is that focusing one’s life around these creaturely things is meaningless: “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11). Nothing could satisfy his search for meaning and purpose, because everything he tried was temporary and limited in nature. You heap up wealth, for example, but you have to leave it to somebody else when you die. Thus, “This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 2:17-19). Even the search for wisdom itself is meaningless if it is done for its own sake.
Here in chapter 12 the teacher comes to the end of the matter. The final purpose of life cannot be found within the created order. Every good thing within the creation has its time and place, but if it is set up as the very focus of one’s life it turns into an elusive and meaningless chasing after wind.
Only the reverential fear of and love for the transcendent God of heaven and earth can provide us with a life whose significance will last for all eternity. Only the keeping of His commandments can offer us a purpose that will never fade away or lose its meaning.
Bible in a Year
Old Testament Reading
Numbers 34, 35, 36
New Testament Reading
Reading Plan Courtesy of Christian Classics Etherial Library.
Tyndale Life Application Daily Devotion
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of Heaven’s Armies…What joy for those who can live in your house,
always singing your praises.
The writer longed to get away from the bustling world to meet God inside his dwelling place, his holy temple.
We can meet God anywhere, at any time. But we know that going into a church building can help us step aside from the busy mainstream of life so we can quietly meditate and pray. We find joy not only in the beautiful building but also in the prayers, music, lessons, sermons, and fellowship.
Psalm 35:3 Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.
What does this sweet prayer teach me? It shall be my evening’s petition; but first let it yield me an instructive meditation. The text informs me first of all that David had his doubts; for why should he pray, “Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation,” if he were not sometimes exercised with doubts and fears? Let me, then, be of good cheer, for I am not the only saint who has to complain of weakness of faith. If David doubted, I need not conclude that I am no Christian because I have doubts. The text reminds me that David was not content while he had doubts and fears, but he repaired at once to the mercy-seat to pray for assurance; for he valued it as much fine gold. I too must labor after an abiding sense of my acceptance in the Beloved, and must have no joy when his love is not shed abroad in my soul. When my Bridegroom is gone from me, my soul must and will fast. I learn also that David knew where to obtain full assurance. He went to his God in prayer, crying, “Say unto my soul I am thy salvation.” I must be much alone with God if I would have a clear sense of Jesus’ love. Let my prayers cease, and my eye of faith will grow dim. Much in prayer, much in heaven; slow in prayer, slow in progress. I notice that David would not be satisfied unless his assurance had a divine source. “Say unto my soul.” Lord, do thou say it! Nothing short of a divine testimony in the soul will ever content the true Christian. Moreover, David could not rest unless his assurance had a vivid personality about it. “Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.” Lord, if thou shouldst say this to all the saints, it were nothing, unless thou shouldst say it to me. Lord, I have sinned; I deserve not thy smile; I scarcely dare to ask it; but oh! say to my soul, even to my soul, “I am thy salvation.” Let me have a present, personal, infallible, indisputable sense that I am thine, and that thou art mine.
1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within.
2 Kings 6:16 So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
1 Samuel 17:45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.
2 Samuel 22:33,35 “God is my strong fortress; And He sets the blameless in His way. • “He trains my hands for battle, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,
Psalm 34:7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them.
2 Kings 6:17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Hebrews 11:32-34 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, • who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, • quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.