Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.
Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married the widow and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.”
Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.”
In this passage the Pharisees and Sadducees are trying to trick Jesus into saying heretical things, or to prove that His teachings are wrong. But He out-logics them and proves His superior knowledge and understanding of scripture. This reminds me of modern debates with non-believers. They will quote some piece of scripture to you, offer a hypothetical situation, and try to get you to stumble all over yourself, thereby proving that your faith is contradictory or wrong. The only way to “win” such a debate is the way Jesus does: by knowing scripture inside and out and having clear understanding of it, and by not becoming zombies that just spit out the words of others, but by maintaining our ability to think critically about our own beliefs.
As Christians in America we face a unique problem. Our government separates church beliefs from state decisions, yet we worry that such separation allows people to live increasingly sinful lives. So we try to put our faith back in to laws. But, to me, that isn’t what Jesus would want us to do. We can’t force those who don’t believe to live a Christ-like life, and in trying we can drive them away from God. We should let the government do what it’s going to do, and be careful not to put all our faith in the government. Our faith belongs in God, and no matter what the laws say we can still live the sort of life that brings glory to God. So all the time, effort, and worry we spend trying to make the government do things our way, we should instead give to God through prayer, worship, or service.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not want us to be completely politically un-involved. I believe part of our job as Americans is to be involved in the political process. And there are plenty of issues to decide out there that have little to do with religion, especially foreign policy. All I want us to do is to be careful not to make politics our religion, and not to try to force our faith on to others.