Render Them NOT Unto Caesar
By Lynn and Sarah Leslie
Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest though for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto the,. Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. (Matthew 22:15-22)
Several years ago when Iowa was in the throes of a homeschool legislative battle, a group of homeschool leaders met together in the Governor’s office. A well-intentioned Christian legislator (who was a homeschooler) offered a bill for discussion. However, the bill contained some legal language that gave the State a “compelling interest” in the education of homeschooled children. We objected strenuously to that language on religious and legal grounds.
In the heat of the discussion that ensued over State vs. parental rights, a mild-mannered homeschool father suddenly leaned across the table and stated emphatically: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”
We were taken aback for a second. What was this man really saying? Confused, we asked: “Are you saying we should render our children unto Caesar?”
It was his turn to be bewildered. He later acknowledged that this is not how far he intended to apply the verse.
Was this interpretation of the “Caesar” Bible verse unique to this man? As we studied the Scripture and researched issues related to parental rights in the ensuing years, we were surprised and dismayed to learn that there is a widespread misunderstanding and misapplication of this particular Scripture. We have become especially concerned about this error as we face increasing encroachment of religious liberties and parental rights through education reform measures (GOALS 2000/AMERICA 2000)* and pending international treaties like the U.N. Convention On the Rights of the Child. Will Christian parents willingly render their children unto this new Caesar?
In Caesar’s Image
When Jesus was asking about paying taxes to Caesar, He held up a coin and asked whose image was on it. When told that it was Caesar’s, He replied, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.“ Like the two sides of that coin, these words of Jesus have two perspectives: On the one side He spoke of rendering taxes to Caesar. Taxes are a domain of government. The other side is what is often lacking in Church teaching today: “[Render] unto God the things that are God’s.” The coin bore the image of Caesar.
Children bear the image of God. (And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”¦. [Gen. 1:26a]) There is no Scriptural support to the argument that children are a legitimate domain of the government.
According to writers Blair Adams and Joel Stein, in their book Who Controls the Children?:
God has not given the State the responsibility for the education of our children. They do not bear the image of Caesar but the image of their Creator. We are to render them unto Him. Education is to conform them to the image of Christ, not that of the State. God has ordained that parents should have the responsibility of raising their children so that they shall be conformed to the image of God. Education involves the relationship of the parent with the child; by entering into this province the State interferes in a sacred area of covenant ordained and protected by God. As Marx and Engels gleefully assert: “We destroy the most hallowed of relations, when we replace home education by social.” The molding of the heart and mind of the child cannot be compared to the regulation of traffic lights or boilers. (pp. 263-264)
God has not delegated the responsibility for the education of children to the State (“Caesar”). During the 1800s, parents delegated the education of their children to the State. It can be argued that under a truly representative form of government, and with a Christian consensus prevailing in the land, that this act did not seem totally unbiblical at the time. Nevertheless, Scripture clearly plants education in the lap of parents, and within the context of discipleship at a local church. Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6). Here is just a partial list of pertinent Scriptures: Gen. 18:18-19; Deut. 6:1-9; Deut. 11:18-21; Deut. 32:45-46; Ps. 78:1-11; Ps. 145:4; Proverbs 4:1, 20-27; Prov. 6:20-23; Prov. 23:24-26; Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:20; 2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14-15.
Since the days of John Dewey, State education has been in the image-making business. Much of this image conflicts with godliness. The values, attitudes and beliefs that will be assessed under Outcome-Based Education clearly intend to mold children into the image of a new “Caesar” to fit the futurist worldview of the education reformers. In one clear example, William Spady, “Father of O.B.E.,” in a paper handed out to seminars, details his assessment of the future for which children will need to be educated: “cognitive flexibility,” “interdependence,” “altering economic consumption patterns and the quality of life standards and taking collective responsibility for promoting health and wellness,” and “transforming patterns of family and personal support systems,” etc. This new image of Caesar disparages the individual, putting weight on group mores for the greater good of the whole. In this view of the future, which is being implemented under education reform measures right now, the State will have a “compelling interest” in the intimate details of the lives of its children, and all citizens. Will Christian parents be led to render their children unto this brave new “Caesar”?
Dumping In the Nile
Many Christians are familiar with the story of the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 11, heroines in the Bible who disregarded the edict of Pharaoh and refused to kill male infants born to Hebrew women. They did not render the male infants unto the Egyptian “Caesar.” They obeyed God’s law, not Pharaoh’s.
But, there is a related Bible story which receives little attention in the Church today. It also has to do with rendering children unto Caesar. This story is so significant that it is mentioned twice in the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews brings it to our attention in the list of faithful saints in Chapter 11 and Stephen preached on it before the Council in the books of Acts. It is the story of Moses, whose parents were required by the law of their land to dump the infant Moses into the Nile. Although required to do so by law, they did not.
And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive. And there went a man of the house of Levi and took to wife a daughter of Levi. And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink. (Exodus 1:22-2:3)
The Lord commends the parents of Moses for not rendering him unto Pharaoh, for disregarding the law of their land in obedience to God. The writer of Hebrews states:
By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. (Heb. 11:23) The word faith (Greek pistis) in this passage means literally “moral conviction.” Moses’ parents were so persuaded, so convinced that God would save them and their child that they purposefully disregarded Pharaoh’s edict. Their conscience would not allow them to disobey God in spite of what was undoubtedly extreme pressure. Also significantly, the word “fear” is phobeo which is the root word of our English “phobia.” The word means “to be alarmed, afraid, or reverence.” Moses’ parents were not afraid of the edict/commandment (Greek diatagma) of Pharaoh. They feared God rather than men.
The testimony of Stephen is even more illustrative. He says:
Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph. The same dealt subtly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live. In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father’s house three months: And when he was cast out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son. (Acts 7:18-21)
Stephen reveals an alarming fact. Pharaoh dealt so subtly with the Hebrews that some “cast out their young children.” Some parents actually dumped their young babies into the Nile in obedience to Pharaoh! The Greek word for “cast out” is the literal act of casting something out (poieo).
Moses’ parents did not “cast out” Moses in the same sense. There are two different Greek words that are translated into English as “cast out” in this passage in the King James Version. The second time the phrase “cast out” is used (ektithemi), it means “put out” or “exposed to perish.” Moses was put out, exposed to the elements, after being nourished in his own home for three months. He was not cast out as onto a rubbish heap, however. It is clear from the Biblical account of Moses’ exposure that his mother carefully crafted his boat to ensure his survival, placed him in a location where he would be found, and sent her daughter to observe in order to ensure his survival (and who also appears to have been briefed on how to recommend the child’s own mother as a wet nurse!). This cannot be equated to the “casting out” that numerous other Hebrews must have tragically done to their own newborn babies.
How could these Hebrew parents have done such a grievous thing? Psalm 105:25 answers this question for us: “He [Pharaoh] turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtly with his servants.” The Hebrews were being dealt with in a “subtle” manner by Pharaoh and his people. This Hebrew word nakal means “to defraud, i.e. act treacherously: “”beguile, conspire, deceiver, deal subtilly.” The Hebrew parents were “deceived.” Scripture does not tell us how they were deceived, or by what methods. But there are certainly other Biblical accounts of godly people being deceived into evil that we can look to for examples of how human nature becomes corrupted. Stephen’s account states that Pharaoh “evil entreated” the Hebrew parents, which means “exasperated, harmed, hurt or vexed.” They were under great pressure to obey Pharaoh. The key point, again, goes back to the book of Hebrews where we are told that the parents of Moses feared God, not Pharoah. Perhaps misplaced fear is one root reason why parents are so willing to hand over their children to “Caesar.”
Subject to the State
Some may ask, “How do we as Christians disregard the laws of the State in light of the following?”:
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. (Romans 13:1-5)
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. (1 Peter 2:13-17)
These passages make it quite clear that we are to submit or be subject to (Greek hupotasso) the governing powers. But why do these powers exist? For the punishment of evildoers and the praise of them that do well! (1 Pet. 2:14) Our governmental leaders are to be ministers of God to us for good, not evil. (Rom. 13:4) So when laws are enacted which conflict with God’s commandments, which are evil in their intent, what are we do do? We are to do that which is good ( Rom. 13:3), which means we are to obey God, for He alone is good. Nevertheless, when we disregard the laws of the State we are still subject to the consequences that may be forthcoming.
Those who disregard the edicts of governments that conflict with the laws of God place their fate squarely in the hands of God. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) faced a fiery furnace, not knowing the outcome beforehand. They could not obey Nebuchadnezzar in worshipping the golden image because to do so would be to disobey God. (See account in Daniel chapter 3.) In the New Testament, Peter and the apostles were arrested for testifying for Jesus:
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:27-29)
In each instance, men having strongly held convictions chose to regard God rather than man. And in so doing they subjected themselves to man’s authority. They were ready and willing to receive whatever punishment their governmental leaders determined, even if that meant death.
Interestingly, Daniel’s companions, as well as Peter and the other apostles, were honored by God for their obedience to Him. By their doing good (obeying God) Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not only spared from the judgment of Nebuchadnezzar, but they heard the king praise God and were subsequently promoted by Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:28-30). Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same ( Rom. 13:3). Peter also knew full well that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men (1 Pet 2:15). By obeying God rather than men Peter and the other apostles quieted the Council and were merely beaten and released, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:41). Parents who educate their children at home, teaching them of the Lord in a full context, are therefore given this example “to obey God rather than men.”
These examples from Scriptures do not indicate that there was compromise. This is a key point at which modern Christians deviate from Biblical example and God’s commands. We can surmise that one way in which Pharaoh dealt “subtly” with the parents of other children in Moses’ generation was through the arts of compromise, or dialectics. How were these parents persuaded, cajoled, or otherwise coerced into doing the unthinkable? How were they led to believe they were doing the right, proper, and “legal” thing when they tossed their newborn sons into the Nile?
There are numerous Biblical examples of compromises that led to sin and even death. The life of King Saul and the story of Balaam and Balak are two noteworthy examples from the Old Testament. In 1 Tim. 6:20-21 Paul warns Timothy to avoid compromise:
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith”¦.
The word “oppositions” means “antithesis.” In a compromise, the “antithesis” is that idea which is counter to the “thesis.” Timothy is being warned to avoid all oppositions (antithesis) to the Truth (thesis) of the Bible.
The compromises (synthesis) with “Caesar” over the education of children have been on-going over several generations in our country. Now, numerous Christian leaders are meeting with education reformers to find “common ground” in education. Bob Simonds of CEE is working with Spady, the futurist OBE promoter. Christian groups like ACSI, NAE and the Assemblies of God are signing onto “common ground” documents.
Authors Adams and Stein laid out a scenario for the future of private education back in 1983, if Christians continued to compromise with the State in matters of education. This scenario is particularly apropos for today with the rapid escalation of education reform, and the increasing pressure from “Caesar” to make concessions. Adams and Stein state:
A chasm has”¦ arisen between parents and professional secular educators (the latter as agents of the State) over the question of who has ultimate authority to determine the future of children. The fa ƒ §ade of “working together” may perhaps be maintained when the chasm has just begun to appear, but what of that day when the chasm will have become unbridgeable, when public schools will have restructured all tests, all standards of excellence, even language itself””as they even now show every intention of doing”¦””until only those who conform to their Orwellian doublethink will be considered to be “doing well” in school? Will we then be prepared to acknowledge that the State has the authority, or even the capacity, to determine what is best for our children educationally and to therefore supervise the parents in the education of their children?
The present apparent compromise between public and private education is, for parents and their children, taking one step forward and two steps backward [dialectics, ed.]. One step forward is seemingly taken because the state may allow parents to give their children an alternative private education if they comply with the demands of public educators; at least they may do so in order to step-by-step separate small segments of compromising parents from the unified block of resistance until that block has been slowly chipped down to nothing. Then no liberty will remain for any alternatives to compulsory State education. And two steps backward are taken because parents will have once again established the legal precedent””by their own submission to the State’s demands””that the State has the right to make the ultimate decision in regard to the education of their children. And the day will come when the State will once again try to forcibly assert this authority over both parents and their children. This will happen when the State decides, on the recommendation of its educational agents, that no alternative to its program is any longer acceptable. And parents will have reinforced this contention that their authority, rights and responsibilities in regard to their children were only a “tolerated privilege” granted by State “sufferance” and not an inalienable right, because they will have already established the legal precedent by acknowledging the State’s authority to determine what is a valid education and what is not. (pp. 66-67)
Once again we are brought back to the inescapable question: Why, in spite of all these objections, are so many still so willing to grant the State [“Caesar,” ed.] authority to control education? “¦[I]t would appear that such total trust in only the authority of the State is nothing less”¦ than positing the State with attributes that belong only to God. For the Bible gives a clear mandate to parents to educate their own children”¦. It nowhere suggests that we are to turn this responsibility over to the State. Since parents are given that responsibility directly by God, for us to turn that authority over to the State is, as we have said before, to render not Caesar the things that be, not of Caesar, but of God”¦. (p. 263)
Endnote: Adans, Blair and Joel Stein. Who Owns the Children? TruthForum, 1983.
*The context of this article was the massive federal encroachment into education reform via psychological and sociological assessment tools, outcome-based education, and the early beginnings of what later became the No Child Left Behind Act. For a more comprehensive discussion of education reform read the deliberate dumbing down of america: A Chronological Paper Trail by Charlotte T. Iserbyt http://www.deliberatedumbingdown.com.
For current updates exposing the effects of education reform on homeschooling, see http://www.homeschoolfreedom.org.