'Render Unto Caesar What Is Caesar's'

By Frank Hill

From Politico:
'President Barack Obama on Thursday tied his proposal to raise taxes on wealthy Americans to his faith, telling leaders gathered for the National Prayer Breakfast that Jesus’s teachings have shaped that conclusion. The rich should pay more not only because “I actually think that is going to make economic sense, but for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required,’” Obama said at the Washington Hilton, delivering remarks at an annual event that every president has attended since Dwight D. Eisenhower.'
Well, this brings up a lot of other verses to consider, doesn't it?
  • Jesus Himself Paid Taxes! (Matthew 17:24-27)
  • 'Render Unto Caesar What Is Caesar's' (Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26)
  • Submit Yourself To The Governing Authorities (Romans 13:1)
  • Pay Taxes Because The 'Governing Authorities' Are God's Servants (Romans 13:5-7)
Now, politicians always have to be very careful when they are mixing Scripture with advocating public policy.  What about the confusion between 'church and state' here?  Didn't President Obama just step over the line by 'invoking' the Holy Lord by intimating that He thinks higher taxes on rich Americans is a 'good thing' to cure our budget deficits as if Jesus is some sort of OMB Director?
But more to the point, what do these verses actually tell us about the American Experience as a nation over these past 223 years?
That we are a nation of 'rebels' who don't look kindly on despotic leaders and rulers, that is what it says.
Here's what we mean:
Apparently, none of the Revolutionary Founders of this nation paid too much attention to the admonition to 'submit to the governing authorities' very well, did they?  What did they do?
They stuck more than their finger into the chest and then the eyes of King George III and told him through a bloody war (which anytime really is 'politics by other means) to go stuff it somewhere and don't ever bother us again.
And then, they did something truly amazing.
They wrote a Constitution of self-rule that completely eliminated any vestige of single person rule in America.
No, not the one we live under now.  The Articles of Confederation, adopted in 1781. The 'first' Constitution and the one that coined the phrase 'The United States of America' for the first time.
There was no President. There was no Supreme Court. There was no bicameral legislature. Just one unicameral legislative body where 13 representatives of the 13 states would meet and have to arrive at a unanimous vote to get anything done.
So, in God's eyes, who then became the 'governing authority' under which to submit and pay taxes and do other things the 'government' ('of the people, by the people, for the people'...you know, what Lincoln said at Gettysburg) told them to do?  Who is the 'Caesar' now?
You see the difference? It is one thing to have a single person make decisions for the rest of us all based on his/her personal feelings and predilections.
It is an entirely other thing to have a group of people hammer out a deal under which they know themselves that they are going to have to live under the rules they hammer out and then return home to face the approbation or the disgust of their many neighbors and friends who live near them, not across the ocean or in Washington, DC far removed from the 'real world'.
We think President Obama has made the mistake in assuming that we live in an America under the rule of a 'Caesar' or at least a very powerful President during his term in the White House.

To some extent and to be fair about it all, the power assumed by the President has been steadily escalating over the past 80 years since FDR took the reins of the White House during the last (but far more severe) Great Depression in 1933.  Ronald Reagan consolidated power during his term in the White House through his charm and personality and George W. Bush did some things that still give us heartburn to be honest about it.
But we really don't live under a Caesar and never have. We don't live in a nation ruled by a King, a czar, a potentate or even a Grand Poobah of the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes like in the Flintstones cartoons.

We live in a democratic republic where we are supposedly ruled by fellow citizens who are supposed to argue, debate, scream if they have to over policy differences in Congress and our state legislatures....and then come to some reasonable compromises and conclusions and go home.
The problem is that Americans seem to have become inured to the idea that The President and the Executive Branch of our government is far more important and powerful than the Congress (of the People) is. Take a look at this chart and see what we mean.

Maybe this 2012 presidential election cycle is a good time to discuss, maybe at least for 10 minutes in one of these interminable debates, the proper role and perspectives on self-governance nowadays.

The Founders spent 13 years in, first, a bloody, protracted war on the battlefields and then heated debates in the councils and pubs over what to do next between 1776 and 1789 to set up what they thought was the 'ideal' structure for people to govern themselves in a free society.

We think now that the 'governing authorities' are ourselves, and not a Caesar, that it is time we start acting like we care about what is happening to our nation and get involved in some tangible worthwhile manner this election cycle.

Like maybe you running for some elective office for example or at least coughing up some significant dough for candidates who do have the courage to run for something.

'Rendering Unto Caesar' when you are actually the 'governing authority' takes on a completely different light, doesn't it?

(Editor's Note: Frank Hill's resumé includes working as chief of staff for Senator Elizabeth Dole and Congressman Alex McMillan, serving on the House Budget Committee and serving on the Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform. He takes on politics from a fiercely independent perspective at the blog Telemachus).


  1. Frank, a most enjoyable as well as reasoned post.

    The most perfect (if there is such a thing as perfect) framework for governance ever devised is losing meaning and understanding among a great many of out people. Perhaps it is indifference. Or maybe lack of a proper education, in particular American history and civics. My guess it is the latter.

    I still can recall many of my classmates hated history and civics. Perhaps that is part of it. I feel fortunate to have had some damn fine teachers that made history come alive for me. Also a fine literature teacher that introduced me to Sun Rand.

  2. Great post. I recall that large portions of the Bible are about rebelling against Mammon to follow the Lord. From the Egyptian midwives to John the Baptist calling Herod out, doing what is right is always paramount.

  3. Naturally, the Fop in Chief and his power-hungry ilk conveniently overlook the clear statements by Jesus and the Apostles that forced charity is no charity at all; good works and righteousness require the individual to take those actions willingly, or they are not good works or righteousness. That's a fundamental element of the Gospel, and it's emphasized repeatedly in the New Testament as a stark difference between the way the Mosaic Law was being lived at the time and the New Covenant that Jesus and the Apostles taught.

    1. Tons of rich people do amazing things with their wealth like build charitable hospitals for the poor and build universities where poor people can get scholarships to go and learn how to cure cancer or invent computers.

      Duke University, for example? Big Bad Tobacco Baron Washington Duke and his son James Buchanan Duke made a fortune making and selling cigarettes around the globe early in the 20th century....and endowed little teeny tiny Trinity College of Trinity, NC with $10 million in 1926 to move to Durham, NC and become 'Duke University' where thousands have attended and learned a great deal and the Duke Medical Center has literally saved thousands and thousands of lives and cured a bunch of bad diseases.

      Poor people? They don't have the resources sadly to do that.

      So thank God every day for generous rich people with foresight and vision. Every. Day.

  4. As a follow-up to Obama's comment, I would quote John 12:5.

    "This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a a thief..."

  5. Is it the intent of "social conservatives" to turn this once great democratic republic into a theocracy? Because if it is it goes against everything the founders stood for, and against. Remember the Church of England, remember the witch burnings in Europe, the Salem witch trials? All in the name of preserving perverse and empty theology, all to preserve the powers of the pulpit. Think it can't or won't happen here in the U.S.A. Think again. Read some actual history. The founders sure as hell did.

    What do you suppose will differentiate us from say the Islamic Republic of Iran if and ultimately when when this happens? No answer... I'm sure.

    And conservatives like to claim Any Rand is their political guidance. How laughable.

    We're facing the greatest threat to individual liberties and the very foundation of our republic. It is in the fascism of theological power lust to control us through guilt and and the unprovable belief in a better life AFTER we're dead.

    Damn, whatever happened to the real America I admired through the enlightened intellect of the founding fathers and the vision they had for America. The one they set the nations infant feet on when they gave us the constitution. The greatest, and most just blueprint for self governance and liberty the world has ever known.

    Sadly we seem all to ready and willing to throw it all away for what.................................. again, no rational answer is possible.

    1. People don't understand the animosity the Founders had towards ANY sort of state-sanctioned and administered religion.

      Jefferson's Statutes of Religious Freedom were designed to keep the government from getting into religion and using it for their purposes.

      It used to be in Virginia that you could not hold political office unless you were an Episcopalian. Seriously and honest to God. No Baptists, No Methodists. No Puritans. No Quakers.

      oh, yeah, forgot to add this: EVERYONE in the state paid taxes, some of which were diverted to SUPPORT THE ANGLICAN CHURCH OF VIRGINIA!

      Ever heard of the longest word in the English language: antidisestasblishmentarianism? It had to do specifically with the issue of 'dis-establishing' the state from the official religion of the state or nation.

      We may have a nation built on Judeo-Christian principles...cause that is what the Founders knew and the society they lived in at the time.

      But religious freedom and liberty, and definitely freedom from a state-sponsored and mandated religion was paramount in the minds of those guys and we should be forever thankful for that.

    2. Frank - I, like you are very thankful , every day of my life. Unfortunately there many who are'nt. Maybe they are just too uneducated to grasp the philosophy of the truly unique and intellectually superior founding fathers.


Commenting here is a privilege, not a right. Comments that contain cursing or insults and those failing to add to the discussion will be summarily deleted.