Render Unto Caesar…

The example of Christ’s “rendering unto Caesar” is a topic that I have studied but have never written about. As it inevitably comes with any discussion concerning the philosophy of liberty and scripture, I have recently seen the benefit of writing on the subject. Whereas this passage of scripture is typically spoken of in discussions concerning government’s legitimate/illegitimate ability to lay taxes, I believe that there is a more profound and typically ignored message that often answers the taxation argument implicitly. The taxation argument is as old as government itself, and, quite frankly, I am bored with it – so, hopefully I can present a coherent message concerning this scripture without getting bogged down in the never-ending discussion of taxation.

“Choose ye this Day…”

Throughout the scriptures, the Lord has always asked his people – even his children – to choose a side. In all instances, God always allows man’s moral and free agency to choose his own will – whether to captivity and death or to liberty and life (2 Ne 2:27). The Lord always forewarns the natural consequences of choice, “but God will force no man to heaven.” Our Father mourns the loss of his children when they – to the great irony of eternity – use their agency to fight against their agency (3 Ne 10:5), but yet he always allows for that agency.

As it always was, Christ’s response to the trap laid by the Pharisees and Herodians to catch him in his words was more than a political response concerning taxation. Christ echoed the age-old call for his children to serve him, and the Pharisees and Herodians having eyes saw not and having ears heard not (Jeremiah 5:21) – for “they marveled at him” (Mark 12:17).

Sovereignty

Sovereignty has, in my view, become a very dirty little word that means everything and nothing. When a word becomes so convoluted as to take on so many meanings, it has become nearly meaningless to really utilize it in any coherent and consistent way. We often hear of individual sovereignty, popular sovereignty, state sovereignty, etc., thrown around loosely in political conversation, as if people really understand why they are using it. That said, however, attempting to tackle the concept of sovereignty is a worthwhile endeavor, especially if we are to understand Caesar’s role in ancient Rome and Christ’s command to render unto Caesar the things that are supposedly his. I will write more on the subject later, but, for this paper, I will touch on this issue lightly.

As an Apostle, Elder Howard W. Hunter once observed in April General Conference, 1968, concerning Christ’s run-in with the Pharisees and Herodians that

His adversaries intended that Jesus would be gored on whichever horn of dilemma he might choose. The interesting thing about his answer is that he did not evade the question, but he answered it clearly and positively without being caught on either horn. He said, “why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought him a penny” (Matt 22:18-19). What is referred to as a penny was no doubt the current Roman denarius with the image of Caesar and the inscription that gave his name and titles. There was a common maxim that the one who causes his image and titles to be stamped on the coin is the owner of the coin and acknowledged as the sovereign. “And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s” (Matt 22:20-21). They had acknowledged that the coin belonged to the Roman Emperor, and it being the current coin for the payment of tax, it showed the country to be under the rule of Rome. “…Then saith he unto them, render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matt 22:21)… (“We Owe Allegiance to Sovereignty,” Conference Report, April 1968, pp. 63-66; emphasis added).

There are many things to unpack from this short quote from Elder Hunter, but there are two things that are very important to address in advance. First, we must understand the political understanding of who Caesar was – especially after Augustus – not just as a political ruler, but as the political and religious sovereign. Second, we must look at how God has, in other situations, tried to reclaim his people, as His people have sought to identify with an earthly master.

Caesar Augustus: Pontifex Maximus

Starting from roughly the 700’s B.C., a relatively well documented line of religious priests – or Pontifs – existed in Rome. The pontifex maximus was the highest religious position in all of Rome, and was the high priest to the College of Pontiffs – even the bishop to the citizens of the whole Roman Empire.

Until the time of Augustus, the pontifex maximus was held separately from Caesar. Augustus, however, in a move that would not be rivaled until Constantine, in order to form more political unity across an ever reaching and heterogeneous Empire, was the first Caesar to don the title of pontifex maximus. Writes historian Will Durant that

In 12 B.C., Augustus, having waited patiently for the tepid Lepidus to die, succeeded him as pontifex maximus, “such a multitude from all Italy assembled for my election,” the Emperor tells us, “as is never recorded to have been in Rome before.” He both led and followed the revival of religion, hoping that his political and moral reconstruction would win readier acceptance if he could entwine it with the gods. He raised the four priestly colleges to unprecedented dignity and wealth, chose himself to each of them, took upon himself the appointment of new members, attended their meetings faithfully, and took part in their solemn pageantry… He lavished gifts upon the temples and renewed old religious ceremonies, processions, and festivals…

Augustus himself became one of the chief competitors of his gods. His great-uncle had set the example: two years after being murdered, Caesar had been recognized by the Senate as a deity, and his worship spread throughout the Empire. As early as 36 B.C. some Italian cities had given Octavian a place in their pantheon; by 27 B.C. his name was added to those of the gods in official hymns at Rome; his birthday became a holy day as well as a holiday; and after his death the Senate decreed that his genius, or soul, was thereafter to be worshiped as one of the official deities…

When Augustus visited Greek Asia in 21 B.C. he found that his cult had made rapid headway there. Dedications and orations hailed him as “Savior,” “Bringer of Glad Tidings,” “God the Son of God”; some men argued that in him the long-awaited Messiah had come, bringing peace and happiness to mankind. The great provincial councils made his worship the center of their ceremonies; a new priesthood, the Augustales, was appointed by provinces and municipalities for the service of the new divinity (The Story of Civilization III, Caesar and Christ, pp 225-26).

From various records we know that Augustus was never really entirely comfortable with the adulation of divinity placed upon him (or, rather, placed upon himself by himself and his propagators), but he accepted it as a necessary tool for the continued unification of Rome. Whether this is true or not is really beside the point – Augustus was the pontifex maximus, and he had deified Rome’s political head as the divine sovereign of his people.

There are several points in Durant’s post that are important to detail. As Augustus became the pontifex maximus, he (1) sacked the old pontiffs in the College of Pontiffs and installed his own priests, (2) raised the level and importance of the priests to an unprecedented level of wealth and influence never known before, (3) associated and intertwined the duties of the priests and their rites with his own political motives, (4) built and furnished the temples, (5) set himself up as a god among his people and as a righteous ruler to whom his people would look to him for temporal and eternal guidance of moral conduct, and (6) established a cult-like following of the people’s religious leader(s). These few points are very interesting, especially when we find Augustus’ monarchical counterpart in scripture just a century before and half-way around the globe. The Book of Mormon gives us yet another example that can help us understand the power-grab between man and God, as we can more clearly understand what is going on during Christ’s day – in order to help us better understand Christ’s meaning.

King Noah: The Power-Play Between Man and God

The story of King Noah is a message of the ages. Abinadi’s discourse on divine reclamation is one of the most eloquent given in scripture. The comparison between the wicked King Noah and Augustus is uncanny, as both rulers “did cause [their] people to commit sin, and do that which was abominable in the sight of the Lord” (Mosiah 11:2).

Going point-for-point from Durant’s exposition of Augustus’ religio-political transformation into pontifex maximus, we can see how the same political method had already been used by King Noah. Just a few short verses into Mosiah 11 we learn that Noah had “changed the affairs of the kingdom” (Mosiah 11:4) as he put “down all of the priests that had been consecrated by his father, and consecrated new ones in their stead” (Mosiah 11:5). These priests were “supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms, by the taxes which king Noah had put upon his people” (Mosiah 11:6). The priests were made politically relevant, as Noah had “seats which were set apart for the high priests, which were above all the other seats” and Noah did “ornament [these seats] with pure gold; and he caused the breastwork to be built before them, that they might rest their bodies and their arms upon them while they should speak lying and vain words to his people” (Mosiah 11:11). Concerning temple building, “Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings… And he also caused that his workmen should work all manner of fine work within the walls of the temple, of fine wood, and of copper, and of brass” (Mosiah 11:8,10). Noah and his Priests were viewed as righteous by the people, as they would flatter the people and set themselves up as a light (Mosiah 11:11; 12:12-14).

It is under these conditions that Abinadi, like Christ to the Jews, comes into the scene. While volumes can be written on the topic of Noah and Abinadi, suffice it to say that Abinadi’s message is concerning the reclamation of God’s people. For Abinadi’s message, as perfectly similar to Christ’s, is clear.

And it came to pass that there was a man among them whose name was Abinadi; and he went forth among them and began to prophesy saying: Behold, thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me, saying, Go forth, and say unto this people, thus saith the Lord – Wo be unto this people, for I have seen their abominations, and their wickedness, and their whoredoms; and except they repent I will visit them in mine anger.

And except they repent and turn to the Lord their God, behold, I will deliver them into the hands of their enemies; yea, and they shall be brought into bondage; and they shall be afflicted by the hand of their enemies.

And it shall come to pass that they shall know that I am the Lord their God, and am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of my people (Mosiah 11:20-22).

Here we see the reclamation of God’s children – the same call of God to “choose ye this day.” God is calling upon his people. Here we see, as Alma the younger declared in mentioning Abinadi, the timeless question “can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenance?” (Alma 5:19). God will always seek to reclaim his people, for they must have His image engraven upon their countenance. Yet the natural man fights back, as Noah will not concede his de facto control over the people, for he responds,

Who is Abinadi, that I and my people should be judged of him, or who is the Lord, that shall bring upon my people such great affliction?

I command you to bring Abinadi hither, that I may slay him, for he has said these things that he might stir up my people to anger one with another, and to raise contentions among my people; therefore I will slay him (Mosiah 11:27-28; emphasis added).

The time of truth thus arises for the people under Noah’s control. Who do they identify with? Will they turn to their God? Will they be reclaimed? Will they be gathered? Whose image will they yoke themselves under? These people are at liberty and have their agency to choose – who will they run to for their support, their sustenance, and their guidance?

Now the eyes of the people were blinded; therefore they hardened their hearts against the words Abinadi, and they sought from that time forward to take him… (Mosiah 11:29)

And it came to pass that [the people] were angry with [Abinadi]; and they took him and carried him bound before the king, and said unto the king: Behold, we have brought a man before thee who has prophesied evil concerning thy people, and saith that God will destroy them…

And now, O king, what great evil hast thou done, or what great sins have thy people committed, that we should be condemned of God or judged of this man?

And now, O king, behold we are guiltless, and thou, O king, hast not sinned; therefore, this man has lied concerning you and he has prophesied in vain (Mosiah 12:9,13-14; emphasis added).

In such a moment as this, I cannot help but feel Abinadi’s eternal sorrow – not for himself, but for God’s people. It is speculation, but perhaps Abinadi knew of the prophet Samuel, in the Old Testament, who was also seemingly rejected by the people as the Children of Israel wanted and identified more with a king than with their God. In such a moment, I like to think that Abinadi would repeat to himself the scripture found in 1 Samuel 8:7-9.

And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them out up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.

Now therefore hearken unto their voice…

It was the voice of the people that rejected Samuel, burned Abinadi, and ultimately sacrificed the Savior and Creator of this world. It is the voice of God that allows man his agency to act in liberty or captivity – for He allows his children their desires, whatever they may be. Yet He continues to call them and plead with them to have His image engraven upon their countenance.

The people under Noah, like the Jews of Christ’s time, labored under similar political heads – small men who claimed to be more than they could be, yet enforced their delirium with the sword. In both instances, the merciful hand of the Lord as He allows His children their agency to act as they will.

Whose is this Image?”

Christ’s question to the image of the “penny” (most likely the Roman denarius) is far more reaching than a seemingly ignorant quandary. Christ’s mission was to reclaim His people – even and especially His own oppressors. I believe Christ would have agreed with Goethe when he stated in various ways “No one is more of a slave than he who thinks himself free without being so” – and this applies quite appropriately to the Pharisees and Herodians.

Brilliantly [Christ] had destroyed the ploy of his oppressors, but that was never his true mission or desire. These, too, were sons of God. These, too, were among those he came to save. He feared for them and loved them even in their malice. As they turned away he added a plea: “..and [render] unto God the things that are God’s.” As the coin bore the image of Caesar, so these and all men bore the image of God, their Heavenly Father. They had been created by him in the likeness of his image, and Jesus was to provide a way for them to return to him. Yet, “when they heard these words, they marveled, and left him, and went their way” (Matt 22:21-22) (Howard, W. Hunter, “His Final Hours,” April General Conference, 1974).

Whose image is upon our countenances? Who do we look to for our daily bread, our protection, our security, and our support? Will we be yoked by Christ, or by Caesar? Who do we give our alms? Truly, “for where our treasure is, there will our heart be also” (Matt 6:21).

“Render unto Caesar…”

More than a matter of mere taxation, Christ is asking His people to choose whom they will have for their king. While Joshua was resolute in serving the Lord (Joshua 24:15), the people of Samuel’s day rejected their God in the desire to have an earthly king “to judge [them] like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5).

The Pharisees and Herodians presented Christ with a token of mammon and asked Christ who it belonged to, yet Christ’s response was to ask them who their hearts belonged to. “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve…” (Joshua 24:15), but “ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt 6:24).

Who is Caesar? Caesar of Christ’s day, not just of Augustus who died in 14 A.D. but every succeeding emperor, was the people’s god. While Augustus had given the Jews great religious autonomy, the Jews were not above looking to Rome for their protection, support, and guidance. As Durant noted, Augustus (and succeeding emperors) established themselves as a “Savior,” “Bringer of Glad Tidings,” “God the Son of God,” and even, to many, the “Messiah.” Who was like unto Caesar, the religious and political sovereign – even the pontifex maximus?

“We have no king but Caesar…”

Under this discussion of Caesar, perhaps no more chilling and heartbreaking words were ever spoken in the Christ’s presence than those of His own people sentencing Him to death. Christ had asked them to choose: give homage to an earthly messiah, or render your heart unto God.

… And [Pilate] saith unto the Jews, Behold your King.

But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, cruficy him. Pilate saith unto them, shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar (John 19:14-15; emphasis added).

In a passage of scripture that hearkens back to the death of Abinadi, Christ too was sacrificed by the voice of the people, and by those “priests” who falsely claimed to officiate in his name. In all three cases of Samuel, Abinadi, and Christ – the people did choose… They had no king but Caesar.

Conclusion

Christ’s statement to “render unto Caesar” that which is Caesar’s is more a call to “choose ye this day whom ye will serve” than it ever was a statement on positive financial obedience to political systems.

It was commonly known in Christ’s day of the popular deification of Augustus and succeeding emperors. Caesar was more than the political sovereign – he was also the religious and divine sovereign, even the pontifex maximus. Augustus was the earthly king – having unknowingly copied the wicked designs of King Noah and his court of priests. In each kingdom, a prophet came seeking to reclaim God’s people – imploring them to choose. Christ came to free the captive, but the captive who falsely believes he is free is the greatest slave of all.

Whose image is in our countenance – Christ’s or Caesar’s? Who do we, as Children of God, identify with – who is our Caesar? As Elder Christofferson recently explained concerning an immoral people incapable of self-government, “We would not accept the yoke of Christ; so now we must tremble at the yoke of Caesar.” It might do us all well to check ourselves and question who we really look to for our maintenance, safety, guidance, and protection – God or Caesar?

Image: LDS Media Library

11 comments

  1. I really like that quote by Elder Christofferson. I had heard it originally but forgot about it. Thanks for reminding me. It’s awesome.

  2. Small correction on the quote towards the end…it is from Catholic Bishop Fulton J Sheen who Elder Christopherson was quoting.

  3. So happy I found this site only days ago, and very grateful to have read this post. Deeply rich and edifying. A gem I will treasure.

    I thought of Moses throughout as well. He too was a type and shadow of the Savior. Recall how Moses stood in the name of the Lord before Pharoah (who represented Satan) to reclaim the Isrealites by saying, “Let MY PEOPLE go.”

  4. I’ve read other commentaries on that scripture “render unto Caesar,” in explaining how it doesn’t mean that it is OK for the state to steal from you. But by far I think yours is superior. Thanks for taking the time to write it out.

  5. I enjoyed your article. Especially the quote by Elder Hunter. It will assist me along with my other LDS quotes that I use in my Religious Freedom Restoration Act legal defense and claims against the federal government when or if they try to force me to be a socialist. To date I have been quite successful against the IRS and Social Security Administration as I have not filed a 1040 tax return in over 34 years and have received letters from the IRS that I am not required to file. I also sent back their Socialist Security Number over a decade ago when they tied the number to buying and selling in 42 USC sec. 666(a)(13)(A). In doing so I have done my best to follow the repeated commandment by the Church to “eschew socialism and communism.”

    Message from the First Presidency, Improvement Era, August 1936, p. 488:
    “Latter-day Saints cannot be true to their faith and lend aid, encouragement, or sympathy to false ideologies such as socialism and communism. The official Church position on communism remains unchanged since it was first promulgated in 1936: “We call upon all Church members completely to eschew Communism.”

    The 2nd plank of the Communist Manifesto (the counterfeit religion of Satan according to the prophets) is the graduated income tax. The 5th plank is essentially paper (credit) money. The quote by Elder Hunter especially caught my eye when it states: “There was a common maxim that the one who causes his image and titles to be stamped on the coin is the owner of the coin and acknowledged as the sovereign.”

    The Note (FRNs) that most Mormons and Americans erroneously call dollars and do so under penalties of perjury on 1040 forms they voluntarily send in to their slave masters, are not dollars and never have been. http://www.freedom-school.com/money/senator-john-ensign-office-reply.pdf They are just evidence of debt. They are irredeemable notes. But on their face is found the “title” FEDERAL RESERVE NOTE. In using these Notes Americans and especially Mormons apparently acknowledge the Federal Reserve as their sovereign according to the maxim quoted by Elder Hunter.

    I must agree.

    Few Mormons support and defend Constitutional required gold and silver legal tender coins (minted since 1986 AD as per 31 USC sec. 5112) and use them to calculate the value of their property. In doing so they have rejected God and the U.S. God given Constitution and taken upon themselves the False God of the Federal Reserve System and embraced the 5th Plank of the Communist manifesto and have, therefore failed to eschew Communism and therefore “cannot be true to their faith.”

    I repeat. Federal Reserve notes are not dollars. To claim they are under penalties of perjury on a 1040 form is to commit perjury.

    The United States of America is not our sovereign but our servant. The sovereignty belongs to We the People and the USSC has stated that we are individual sovereigns. The United States has been minting legal tender gold and silver coins with a Congressionally established value minted on the coins reverse side since 1986 AD (as per 31 USC sec. 5112). The 5112(e) silver one ounce coin has a value of ONE DOLLAR.

    Choose you this day whom ye will serve but from me and my house we will serve the Lord and support the Constitution as we have been commanded to do while me and my family will continue to eschew socialism as we were also commanded to do.

    In the United States of America WE are individual Caesars and we MUST render unto ourselves that which is ours. To give our labor to a Socialist nations is to reject God. To render unto our servants that which is not theirs is to be an unwise and slothful servant. The government is to be our servant not our master. Those who allow the government to rule them are unprofitable servants.

    Thanks again for this article. The quote by Elder Hunter is a treasure for me and my Religious Freedom Restoration Act arguments. (The RFRA was openly and directly supported the the Church and Elder Oaks spoke in favor of the bill for the Church.)

  6. I am also reminded here of the words of the Savior crying to the Nephites from the heavens before he appears unto them at the temple in Bountiful: “How oft have I / would I have / will I gather you…” ( 3 Nephi 10:4-6). Great observation in a scripture where I never would have thought to apply this concept before.

  7. @Christopher Hansen,

    I think most of us would like to do what you do but have no idea how to go about it.

    It’s not necessarily the Constitution that we adhere to, it is the law of the land, God’s law, natural law, (little c) constitutional law (whichever you want to call it), that is what we need to adhere to.

    I’ll check out the link to your website and see if it helps me to know how to do things differently. It would be fascinating to know how to stop using federal reserve notes.

    1. You don’t need to stop using them. You need to stop using them to calculate value. You can use pennies and they are not dollars. Federal Reserve notes ARE legal tender. They just are not dollars and cannot be dollars.
      http://www.freedom-school.com/money/senator-john-ensign-office-reply.pdf

      If you like to read here is another web site.
      http://www.sovereignfellowship.com/

      Congress now allows for Gold enforcement contracts. Such contracts were not enforceable until recently because of the Commie/Fascist FDR. That means that when you write a contract you can demand payment in gold or silver or something of equal value. Considering the continual loss of perceived value of the U.S. Federal Reserve note it is best to write contracts with a gold or silver clause especially if payment is to be made over time.

      Has the price of gas gone up? Not really. The price of gas in the 60s was about 25 cents a gallon. That was about 1/5th of an ounce of silver. 1/5th ounce of silver today buys 1 and 1/2 gallons of gas. A silver dollar since 1986 AD is a full ounce of silver. One REAL dollar buys over 7 gallons of gas.

      If you are still a voluntary slave taxpayer and have not yet decided to eschew the 2nd plank of the Communist Manifesto (like the prophets told us to do or we could not be saved) and you are paid in Federal Reserve Notes and not silver dollars minted since 1986 AD then you need to calculate the value of your wages in U.S. dollars. The 1040 form demands dollar calculations and not FRN calculations. The form and instructions never say to calculate in Legal Tender or FRNs. The instructions use the $ and the word dollar. So what a dollar is is a rather important piece of information.

      If the current U.S. dollar has an exchange rate of 35 FRNS to one dollar then how many dollars did you have in wages in 2011 AD? Would you even be required to file a return with only that much in wages?

      If you KNOW that you don’t know what a dollar is and you sign the 1040 under penalties of perjury then you are committing perjury. I believe that it is against the doctrines of the Church to commit perjury so then the RFRA kicks in. The Government is not allowed to legally substantially burden your religious exercise.

      The statement: “I think most of us would like to do what you do but…” is a cop out. That is like saying I think most of us would like to go on a mission but… You either WANT to do something and so you take the time and effort to learn how or your don’t really want to do it and you would only do it if it was easier.

      We all make choices. That was what the statement by Elder Hunter was about…to me at least. Who will you choose to serve? If you want and education you work for it. If you want to be free you work for it. If you want to eschew Socialism there are choices to be made.

      The truth is : We do what we want to do. There are things we claim we would like to do but we don’t want them because we are unwilling to make the effort.

      That is where the profitable and unprofitable servant parable comes in.

      Can a practicing socialist be a profitable servant. To the best of my knowledge the prophets have repeatedly told us that you cannot be a faithful member while lending aid, encouragement or sympathy to the false isms of Fascism, Socialism Communism etc.

      To choose Satan’s plan in heaven was to choose eternal damnation. The same choices are being given today and most humans and most Mormons CHOOSE Satan’s plan and counterfeit gospel of socialism.

      1. I agree, if we want something we need to take the time to figure it out. But often times the mind needs to become open to the idea that it is even possible before it will accept that it is something that is even possible to do.

        Just like breaking the 4 minute mile. It took one person to do it before others could do it. Does that mean the others didn’t want to do it? No, it just means they had a mental block. That is why teaching by persuasion and example is so important, it is the only thing that can change people. There are other factors, like childhood experiences that can turn an adult to do bad things, or, at least, not do good things. I think the solution is multi-generational. I will teach my children the best I can and improve myself the best I can so that they can trump anything I have done by the time they are adults.

  8. Mr. Logan, I certainly do agree with most of your conclusion, particularly this edited excerpt: “Christ’s statement to ‘render unto Caesar’ that which is Caesar’s is [most importantly] a call to ‘choose ye this day whom ye will serve’…It might do us all well to check ourselves and question who we really look to for our maintenance, safety, guidance, and protection – God or Caesar?” However, I believe you may miss an important component of Jesus’ teaching by dismissing as “boring” “the taxation argument.” Jesus had much to say and do pertaining to taxes and tax collectors. Taxes and their collection most assuredly were not something he ignored as beneath his spiritual wisdom. My search for the word “tax” in all of its forms in the synoptic gospels had 34 returns, so imitating Jesus, I treat the issue as vital to an understanding of Jesus.

    Consider: Taxation may be the root cause of most of the evil in the world today. No one who participates in taxation by levying, collecting, receiving or benefiting therefrom can live by the Golden Rule, doing to others as they would have others do to them. No one involved in taxation can adhere to Jesus’ admonition in his Sermon on the Mount to renounce the use of force and violence in the conduct of one’s affairs, even in the face of a forceful attack. Taxation requires the initiation of force or coercion against harmless, innocent people, if for no other reason that to fund the violent state, which is utterly dependent upon it. Furthermore, the people who are most responsible for the initiation of force and violence to provide for their daily bread and their many other munificent emoluments are considered by most citizens as their nations’ leaders. With their reliance on forcible taxes, they lead entire nations of people into sinfulness. And as they go about stealing the fruits of people’s labor to fund murderous machines of war, death and destruction, above the din you will hear them cry, ” Jesus said, pay your taxes; render unto Caesar.

    Imagine if leaders of the Christian churches, including LDS, had correctly understood Jesus’ teaching on taxes, including his admonition to render nothing to Caesar because everything belongs to God (see, Psalm 24:1, and elsewhere in the OT.) Perhaps the immoral institution of men ruling other men would have gone the way of slavery by now, war would be a thing of the past, and God’s warning through Samuel to the Hebrews would have been belatedly heard.

    Two other points regarding the render-unto-Caesar incident: First, Elder Howard’s interpretation of the incident errs when he says, “His adversaries intended that Jesus would be gored on whatever horn of the dilemma he might choose.” This is a palpable error that has long been propagated by statist exegetes, which is conclusively refuted by the Gospel of Luke’s account of the incident, to wit. “Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor.” His enemies knew Jesus well enough to know that he would never endorse the state or its taxes, so they never even considered that he would endorse paying the tax. And to suggest, as those who say that either way he answered the question would do him in because a yes answer would lose him many of his followers and enrage the Zealots –so what? Who do these idiots think Jesus was: a politician currying votes? A people-pleasing pussyfooter who followed rather than led? If Jesus believed people should pay their taxes he would have taken this opportunity to unequivocally say so no matter what anyone thought. Jesus would not avoid the truth; his purpose on earth was the Truth.

    Secpond, Elder Howard is dead wrong in saying, “There was a common maxim that the one who causes his image and titles to be stamped on the coin is the owner of the coin and acknowledged as sovereign.” PROVE IT! This demonstrable myth has been perpetrated without a shred of evidence by those same statist exegetes who would have Jesus working as a flack for the Roman IRS. Economists have theorized and history has demonstrated that money must be a bearer instrument (presumed to belong to whoever possesses it without consideration of whose puss is on it) or it will not be acceptable in commerce. No one would accept money in trade for valuable goods if the money was deemed to belong to a third-party emperor. The fact that the various Roman emperors’ coins have been found throughout the domain of the empire and beyond proves the coins were both accepted in commerce universally and were not thought to belong to the emperor. As for the stupid claim that by using a coin with the emperor’s puss on it one acknowledges his sovereignty–horse pucky! If that was the case, George Washington would be sovereign of the modern world. That theorytale was b.s. in the year 30AD just as it is now.

    Congratulations to Christopher Hansen on not having filed a 1040 tax return in over 34 years. It has been over 41 years since I filed one, or paid into or accepted benefits from the SS Ponzi scheme. (Unlike SS, Ponzi didn’t force his suckers to buy into his scam.)

    Christopher, why would you want government to be your servant? Do you want it to steal from others for you? An evil servant is a dangerous bedfellow! I would get rid of him altogether.

  9. Of course we are to serve God . Jesus also stated render unto Ceaser what is Ceaser. This implication here is that government taxation is recongized . The ideal there is no taxation when we live in an ideal setting of Zion.

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