What Belongs to Caesar?

Last week at North, and this week at Spring Creek, I’m preaching on religious liberty, using an updated version of a sermon I preached two years ago at Houston International: “Show Me the Money!

Seventh-day Adventists have always been strong advocates of religious liberty for all, and strict separation of church and state (see Liberty magazine).

One of the stories I tell in that sermon is about the national Sunday law that Senator Henry Blair of New Hampshire introduced in 1888. He was supported by the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Under pressure, he added an exemption for Sabbath keepers, but Adventist pastor and editor A. T. Jones testified before the Senate Committee on Education and Labor on December 13, 1888, that such an exemption did not change the fact that Congress had no business making a law on this subject. He said we might respond using the words of Jesus.

Show me the Lord’s day; whose image and superscription does it bear? — The Lord’s to be sure. This very bill which is under discussion here today declares it to be the Lord’s day. … Render therefore to the Lord the things that are the Lord’s, and to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. It does not bear the image and superscription of Caesar; it does not belong to him; it is not to be rendered to him.

Jones was persuasive, and the legislation died in that committee chamber.

But some today still want the state to be concerned with God’s affairs. We see that especially here in Texas. The Texas Republican Party Platform denounces what it calls “the myth of separation of church and state.” This Tuesday, March 2, the Republican primary ballot includes this survey question:

Ballot Proposition #4: Public Acknowledgement of God

The use of the word “God”, prayers, and the Ten Commandments should be allowed at public gatherings and public educational institutions, as well as be permitted on government buildings and property.

YES or NO

I think we might reply as did Jones:

Show me the Ten Commandments. Show me the prayers you would offer. Whose image and superscription do they bear? — God’s to be sure. They do not bear the image and superscription of Caesar; they do not belong to him; they are not to be rendered to him.

I would encourage you to vote NO on Proposition 4, if you vote in the Republican primary.

Update: The ballot question passed with 95% of the vote; the Texas Republican Party will no doubt interpret this to mean that Republican voters accept their theocratic agenda.