48th Sermon of Jesus… The Lord’s Attitude Towards the Authorities
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April 29, 1872
"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 Hero-dians, saying, Master, we know that thou are true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou 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 them, 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. When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way."
1. This chapter contains a number of parables which I gave to the Pharisees and scribes in order to obviate all their objections in the best possible way.
2. The above verses deal with one of those pitfalls the Pharisees used to set for Me, hoping to be able to hand Me over to the authorities if I gave an unwary answer.
3. The Romans, as their rulers, were only concerned with their own supremacy in the land of the Jews and were quite indifferent to the Jewish religion and its reformers – be they prophets or preachers, like My predecessor John, or the expected Messiah as represented by Me, – so long as any innovations concerned only the domain of religion and did not reach into the political field. Therefore, the Pharisees were anxious to find a question where, if answered conscientiously, I could not possibly evade politics.
4. So the Pharisees sent their followers to Me, together with some servants of Herod, with the ambiguous question: “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?”
5. They had assumed that My answer would be that the offering to the temple came first and the tribute to the emperor was an unjust burden forced upon them by the might of the sword. Through such an answer they would have had the most conclusive evidence that I misled the people with bad interpretations, making them hostile to the government, and they believed thus to be able to involve Me with the authorities. However, so that they would not appear responsible and in case I denied the claim they would have witnesses, they sent also servants of Herod along, who were to confirm the statement they expected to hear from Me.
6. I must admit that this question was insidious. Since the Romans were not the lawful rulers, and only circumstance had forced them upon this land as its possessors, the Pharisees believed that I, as a native Jew, must despise the foreign rule and oppose it. But I, who search into the human heart, was quite aware of the Pharisees’ intentions and gave them, with only a few words, an answer that made a further question on their part impossible. For the answer: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s!” already contained the whole explanation, which only I, being the One Who I was, could give, – although this was not the answer they had expected.
7. Since I had shown them on the coin they handed to Me the image of the emperor and its superscription, I could not say anything else but: “This image on the one side of the coin shows you whose subjects you are; and if you do not want to understand the meaning of the image, the superscription on the other side proves it even more clearly. This is a small coin with which you trade and are able to satisfy your worldly needs. The spiritual, however, is above all coins – be they of gold or other metals -; it has another origin, another cause and another goal!” Thereby I made a strict distinction between the tribute due to the worldly power and that due to the spiritual.
8. The answer I gave was to tell them: “With the taxes paid to the emperor you purchase your worldly order, peace and security; with the spiritual offerings you obtain for yourselves order within, the peace of a clear conscience and the security in your actions, so that you know what you are doing and why. Thus you reach the same goal on both roads – here spiritually and there materially. Both must exist, for without them a coexistence of people is impossible, and without them it does not become clear which is the more important: The treasures of the world or the treasures of the spirit.”
9. What I said to the Pharisees was also valid for all later times and will be so in the future as long as people live together in towns and villages and as long as religion and belief in a Supreme Being still dwell in their hearts. Just as a ruler is needed as a wordly sovereign, also a God is needed Who holds together the entire universe. Both are promoters and upholders of order and, therefore, also the sole lawgivers. Whatever the worldly rulers may be called, the executive power will always be assigned to one person only; and so also spiritually there can only be one ruler and not several gods.
10. There have, of course, always been sovereigns who misused their power and others who would not accept any power above them, just as there have been individuals and nations who were not satisfied with one God, but created for themselves a multitude of gods and goddesses to enable them to follow their worldly passions comfortably. But also in such a case every action was sanctioned through divine decree. Thus there were, and still are, people who want no ruler, no God, except their own self.
11. Still, whatever people’s attitude, they have to pay tribute everywhere. If they want to be respected in their worldly life they have to give the worldly ruler part of their earnings, and to the spiritual ruler – GOD – they have to sacrifice all worldly passions, if they want to reach the goal He has set them.
12. Everywhere punishment threatens if payment is not made -here worldly, there spiritual -, and so I was quite right when I told the Pharisees: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s”, which means: “Fulfil both – your social and your spiritual obligations. Recognize your attitude as humans towards your fellowmen and the worldly ruler. However, do not forget what you owe to Him Who set you into the world and endowed you with talents of which He will one day demand the tithe or tribute – money. Do not mix both obligations trying to satisfy both in the one way, which is not possible. Neither of the worldly nor of the spiritual can you rid yourselves completely.
13. The meaning you should derive from these words to the Pharisees is that you should not refuse to pay the tribute-money due to the world; however, this should be done without forfeiting that which is spiritual in your being and also without wishing to be all spirit while you still have to live on this earth globe in a physical body. It is of the greatest importance, both here in the earthly life as well as in the highest spirit life, to know the happy mean, so that a person may not go to extremes, which would be of no use to anybody, but only harm him and others.
14. Therefore, you, too, should heed these words to the Pharisees, the deep meaning of which illuminates your earthly as well as your future life, so that a wrong conception may not bring forth absurd results. As I already explained, love as such would only be ruinous to the loving as well as to the beloved if it were not guided and tempered by wisdom. Thus any virtue -even the best – can become destructive when it strives beyond the bounds of feasibility.
15. Do not ever forget in your earthly life to give the world what it is entitled to demand of you.
16. Give to the world what is the world’s, but do not allow worldly desires to penetrate the spiritual. Spiritualize, if you wish, all kinds of activities, but do not allow your sacred, spiritual qualities to become worldly since they have to last longer than just for this short pilgrim life. Give God what is God’s. Do regard also your worldly possessions as gifts from heaven, but do not forget the eternal, permanent treasures on account of the worldly ones. Although world and God appear to be two quite different things with different objectives, it is still possible not only to satisfy both, but even to combine them, bearing in mind that the world was also created by God as a means of enhancing and fortifying the spiritual qualities of His beings thereby to lead back to its origin what is worldly gross or material.
17. The world must be given its tribute, for it is a guide to the spiritual. As light is only appreciated when darkness is known, so the everlasting will be valued much more when one is familiar with the perishable, the world. The tribute-money you have to give the world consists in fighting its temptations, and besides, in the clear understanding of the real worth of its treasures, which can be used to advantage only if they can yield a spiritual product of love. And the material tribute to the emperor enables his subject to perform his work in peace thereby providing for his own and his family’s welfare. Thus the judge looks after the common welfare and the citizen after his own.
18. Therefore, temporal life is only the foundation for a higher structure, commenced on the rough stones of material reality and to be completed in the ultimate spiritual light elements of another, higher world. In order to reach the higher life, the worldly tribute-money must flow abundantly so that it may achieve a lot of good and sublime spiritually. In this way, that which is the emperor’s, and that which is God’s can be combined. This can only promote people’s spiritual life and it corresponds to the true purpose for which I set you into the world equipped with so many diverse qualities – good and bad. Control the latter, they are meant to contribute towards strengthening the former and will make you into My spiritual image.
19. Do heed the lesson which I have given you in this Gospel! There is a deep significance in it, from which the circumspect can gain rules for his whole life. He will then not demand extremes, neither of himself nor of his fellowman nor of the world, but will take the proper middle course and in paying the tribute-money will make it easier for his fellowman to produce the tribute. Thus he will fulfil his mission and My purpose for which I created spirits and matter; the latter, being the binding agent for the former, shall and must in the end dissolve and reunite what I set separately into the vast expanses of creation.
20. By taking the middle course you, too, should strive to contribute towards spiritualizing the material, so as to justify My returning to the earth by your own and mankind’s spiritualization. Then it will show what you have given to the emperor and what to God, and to what extent the proper measure and proper weight have prevailed. A union with Me and My spirit world can only take place when you have become capable of apprehending even the least of My words in its true, profound spiritual meaning. To achieve this, I use every possible means of showing you what is the world’s or the emperor’s. However, I also keep reminding you of what is God’s or Mine, and how both, although separate, can be combined when proper understanding is followed by the right realization. Amen.
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