We’re forever trying to juggle our involvement in things like work, school, and politics with more spiritual things such as prayer, evangelism, and Bible study. We know, of course, that the Bible warns us about loving the world (1 John 2:15), conforming to this world (Romans 12:2), and friendship with the world (James 4:4). On the other hand, it tells us to be salt and light, love others, care for the poor, and exercise dominion over God’s very good creation.
As we sort through these things, we’re confronted with a list of daily responsibilities: to feed our family, put a roof over their heads, and make sure they have the proper clothes. To help us keep perspective, Jesus said, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25).
We know He’s right, but the kids do need shoes — today.
It helps to see that Jesus is talking about priorities. Theologian William Edgar (see pg. 36) says, “One way to put the question when facing texts [like Matthew 6:25] is: How can we properly recognize the need for food and shelter, while not letting them undermine the great priorities of the kingdom?”
In a fallen world we’re tempted to deify people and institutions “and thus forget the One who holds all things together.”
We do that, he says, by always having the bigger picture in view. When God’s kingdom is the prism through which we view the rest of life, it also becomes our standard for assigning priorities. When we think about work, family, and food through that lens, we recognize they’re not only legitimate, they’ve actually been ordained by God. It’s when these things become ends rather than the means for some greater kingdom purpose, that our attachments become a problem.
Was Jesus Part of the World’s Power Structure, or Above the Fray?
Jesus gave us a picture of this when He talked about paying taxes. In Mark 6:13-17, a group of Pharisees and Herodians wanted to trap him. They asked, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” If Jesus said no, they’d accuse Him of being disloyal to the government. If He said yes, Edgar points out, they’d charge Him with being philosophically inconsistent and weak in the face of worldly pressure. His kingdom was supposedly not of this world; why would He concede Caesar’s authority? Was Jesus part of the world’s power structure, hoping to bring change through politics and business? Or was He above the fray, removed from the grittiness of this world’s struggles?
Jesus took a Roman coin with the emperor’s face engraved on it and said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
At first, it looks like Jesus is saying that some things belong to God and others belong to the civic realm. In other words, some things in this world are sacred, others are purely secular. But if we follow His reasoning, Edgar says, we see that He’s actually underscoring the fact that everything belongs to God. Whose face is on the coin? Caesars’s. In God’s providence, he possesses rightful authority. But the next logical question is: Where is God’s face? Answer: On His entire creation, and especially on people because they bear His image. God’s image is stamped everywhere, including on Rome’s economy. Everything, in every sphere, reveals His hand.
Whatever We Do, We’re to Do for His Glory
It follows, then, that we worship God when we pray and when we pay taxes. Whatever we do — including eating, drinking, and buying clothes — we’re to do for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31; Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). If everything belongs to God, the only wise choice is to be faithful to Him.
Juggling priorities, then, becomes a simpler. When we love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27), we see everything else — money, power, position, sex, and politics — in the light of His priorities and purpose. That doesn’t minimize the proper role of such things. In fact, it emphasizes the fact that without them, we couldn’t fulfill our responsibility to fill the Earth and exercise dominion over it. But, as Edgar reminds us, in a fallen world we’re tempted to deify people and institutions (Romans 1:23) and thus forget the One who holds all things together, including “thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities” (Colossians 1:16).
Every realm of life belongs to God, including government, with its right to collect taxes (Romans 13:6-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Money, sex, art, and business — they belong to God, too. And when we view them as He intended, they serve His purpose.