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.” Mark 12:15-16a
This interaction with the religious leaders is full of ironic challenges. Notice how Jesus asks for a coin. Why did he ask for a coin? The obvious answer is that he wanted to make a point with it but the secondary answer is that he didn’t already have a coin. Jesus is a king without a coin to his name. The religious leaders are trying to get Jesus to say something that will make the audience angry. Jesus isn’t content to deflect the question, instead he wants to turn the issue back on them and on the crowd. Which king do you want to follow? Do you want to follow Caesar who is wealthy and has all the power or do you want to follow me, the guy who can’t even illustrate his message without borrowing a coin?
Let’s be honest, some of the teachings of Jesus go against the grain of our natural inclinations. Here, Jesus is going against our desire for security and power. Caesar isn’t the only one who has possessions in this story. Jesus says, give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Just like the image of Caesar was on the coin, the image of God is on each human life. We are made in the image of God after all. In Jesus’ kingdom you don’t need coins to have influence. So what do you need to have influence in Jesus’ kingdom? We need to submit ourselves to the way of Jesus, offering to God what is God’s (our own lives). As we begin to live differently that gives us great influence in a world that is starving for a restored humanity.
Jesus doesn’t tell the people to stop giving taxes to Caesar. Instead, he challenges them to give themselves to God. Jesus’ kingdom is one that works from within the empire. It’s a kingdom that pays the tax of the land and then overwrites the land’s authority with a way of love and service.
What does that mean for our situation? It means we can be a part of a political party but we should always influence it from the inside out. The systems of this world are flawed. We don’t need to attack them or avoid them, we simply need to challenge them from within. We change the world not be exiting it but by living in the way of Jesus within the world and influencing it from the inside out.
Take a moment and evaluate the political party you have traditionally been a part of. Notice the blind spots in your political party and challenge those blind spots. What parts of that political party are not aligned with the way of Jesus? You don’t need to leave the party because of those things (there is no perfect party). Simply seek renovation of the party from within it.
By Aaron Bjorklund