Render Unto Caesar

Posted by on Jan 18, 2017 in Stories

Render Unto Caesar

“What, O my son? And what, O son of my womb? And what, O son of my vows? Do not give your strength to women, or your ways to that which destroys kings. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong drink, for they will drink and forget what is decreed, and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. … Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” (Proverbs 31:2-5, 8-9 NASB)

For the past couple years, I’ve been thinking about civic matters a lot, particularly criminal justice. Since the presidential election, my thinking has escalated, but prayer has lagged behind. I just haven’t known how to pray for our new president. Then on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while preparing my estimated tax payment (in accordance with Romans 13:7!), I began to get a glimmer of a roadmap for intercession. Just as we render our taxes unto Caesar (the government), so we give our prayers to God for that same government.

1 Timothy 2:1-2: The apostle Paul told Timothy to pray for all governing authorities “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” You could imagine that the aging Paul might have really hungered for a nice quiet life at that point! But I think Paul knew that for ordinary folks, life is precarious, in any century.

Paul mentions godliness and dignity. Godliness could be called the evidence of God’s touch in human form — the peaceable fruits of the spirit and deeds of caring, such as Jesus called out: caring for the thirsty and hungry, the strangers and naked, the sick and imprisoned (Matthew 25:35-36). The word “dignity” may refer to self-esteem. I like to think that dignity includes that “human flourishing” that Pastor Noah has been talking about — a kind of peace in oneself and a foundation for living fully.

So, based on 1 Timothy, I pray

  • that our new president will reduce turmoil and increase tranquility in the lives of ordinary people,
  • that our new president will guide the administration in policies and practices, acts and approvals that will promote godliness, and
  • that our new president will increase the human flourishing of our nation, especially for the poorer, less loved and more disadvantaged segments of society.

Daniel 6:1-28: When I taught this classic “lion” passage to the preschoolers last summer, I billed it as “Daniel and the Bad Law.” Daniel, a foreigner in Babylon, had been living a kind of quiet and tranquil life in godliness and dignity, serving the kings of the land, until his jealous peers connived to end his life through legislation. They pushed a vicious law past the clueless king and forced the king to execute Daniel. Only the miraculous ending is unusual about this story — sadly, using legislation to serve selfish purposes is not.

Based on Daniel’s story, I pray

  • that our new president will be guided by God with wisdom to reject bad law, approve good law, and perform his duties with care and humility.

Proverbs 31:1-9: King Lemuel preserves two critical pieces of advice from his mother, quoted above: avoid vices that will hamper just rule, and speak out on behalf of the poor.

With King Lemuel’s mother, I pray

  • that our new president will be continually mindful of those who, like Lazarus, are lying outside the gate in distress, and will open his mouth to advocate for them, and
  • that God might keep our president from destructive vices and instill in him a heart to use power to enact justice and defend the rights of the voiceless, the needy and the unfortunate.

Jani can be reached by email here.

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