Updated: Dec 15, 2021
The Role of the Church
“…and to God the things that are God's.”
With governments all across the West drastically expanding their reach into every area of society, Christians and churches have become increasingly irrelevant. Social issues, such as taking care of widows, orphans, foreigners, and the sick and poor have almost entirely become the government's responsibility.
However, the Lord did not place this responsibility on the government. Rather, He calls the individual and the Church to take care of those in need. On an individual level, we can look to Deuteronomy 15:11, Proverbs 14:21, Galatians 2:10, Ephesians 4:28, 1 Timothy 6:17-18, and James 1:27. The story of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:30-36) is a perfect example of the individual freely giving away his own resources to help another person in need. Regarding the Church on a corporate level, we can look to Acts 4:32-37, 1 Corinthians 16:2, 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, and James 5:14.
Some Christians might argue that the government is doing exactly what the early church did but on a bigger and better scale. I would remind them that everything the early church did was based on voluntary giving, not mandatory taxes the government collects from its citizens to then hand out to other citizens (For more information regarding where I stand on taxes, feel free to read Caesar & God Part One). Offering a hand up instead of a hand out will restore hope to the person in need and eliminate entitlement, wasted resources, and government enablement and dependency.
What about the welfare system? Unfortunately it is an absolute disaster precisely because the government is involved. Why can’t the local church(s) support the widow, father the orphan, house the foreigner, help the poor, or pay for and heal the sick? Why does the government need to be involved? It’s true that one of the primary jobs of a government is to help prosper its nation. However, the way in which the government helps through its social welfare programs is not only immoral (stealing from others) but also ineffective.
We don’t need a middle man who takes a cut for himself and forcefully directs our resources to others. Every person should have the ability to give the full amount of however much they want to those in need. We can spend our own money better than the government can. If we start viewing Caesar as a protector (Romans 13:4) and God (through the Church) as a provider (1 Timothy 6:17), then it will be easier to distinguish what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God.
What Belongs to God?
I’ll never forget the first time I heard Ravi Zacharias share his commentary on Matthew 22:15-22. When Jesus asked whose image is on the coin and the people responded by saying it was Caesar’s, Jesus famously responded, “well, give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and give to God the things that are God’s.” To this, Ravi shared, “I really wish the people would have asked a follow up question, ‘well what belongs to God?’ and Jesus could have responded by asking, ‘whose image is on you?’”
What a powerful picture that paints on the value of people. All human beings bear the image of God, so when we help and give to those in need, we are giving back to God. Jesus said it best in Matthew 25:35-40, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
The widows, orphans, foreigners, and the sick and poor all belong to God, and the scriptures tell us in Deuteronomy 10:18 that God Himself, “defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” It is clear God loves, protects, and comforts those in need, but He does so mostly through other people, His people.
Not too long ago, I went to a church where the pastor stood up before preaching his sermon and proclaimed, “If anyone in the church or someone you know outside the church is struggling financially to pay rent, talk to our Deacons after and we will help them out. We want to eliminate poverty within our church and alleviate poverty within our community.” There are a lot of churches already operating like this and that’s great, but imagine if the full body of Christ was unified in operating this way! The impact on our local communities, cities, states, and even our nation would be transformational, but it all starts at the individual and local level. It’s time we as the body of Christ take our rightful place as the hope and safety net of those in need and begin to give to God that which belongs to Him.
It would have been easy to highlight the truth and importance of Matthew 22:15-22 at the individual level which is how God wants us to give all of our love, worship, and devotion to Him alone. However, the Lord wanted me to highlight the social perspective of this verse because of how widely misunderstood the government and the Church’s roles are in society regarding these social issues. Hopefully this was insightful and thought-provoking.