God's Politics

God's Politics


Video: Tony Campolo on Jesus and Taxes

posted by gp_intern

Tony Campolo offers some thoughts on “rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

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Eric

posted April 16, 2007 at 10:34 pm


Tony treads a very fine line. He doesn’t actually say that I should withold my tax dollars if I think something the government is doing is unGodly, but he certainly implies it. I’m sure all of us could find better and more Godly uses for our money than to give it to the government to spend on any number of things. Does this mean we should all withold our tax dollars from the government? Or is he just reporting that some people are doing this and he understands their thought process. If that’s the case, it’s not a very interesting commentary.



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Wolverine

posted April 17, 2007 at 2:14 am


So if I were to decide, after Bible reading and prayer, that I ought not pay for government social programs that God has led me to believe are counter-productive, would Tony Campolo support me on that? Wolverine



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jurisnaturalist

posted April 17, 2007 at 3:27 am


Again I say, “Pay your taxes, just don’t expect them to do any good.” Which is what I think Jesus was saying. We pay our taxes because it is strategic. We are not to fight for political victory, but for the victory which transcend politics. We are to demonstrate the emptiness of political achievements by achieving more outside of and despite the political process. Does the state promise you bread and circuses? Demonstrate the emptiness of that promise by providing the bread of life and the adventure of discipleship. Does the state promise protection from foreign enemies. Demonstrate the emptiness of that promise by loving your enemies and praying for them, settling peacefully with them when possible, and winning your brother over. Does the state promise welfare for the poor? Demonstrate the emptiness of that promise by giving sacrificially and voluntarily and helping to restore dignity for invalids by providing them a way to serve. Does the state promise an education? Demonstrate the emptiness of that promise by educating yourself and behaving as the Bereans did. Challenge your mind and ask difficult questions of yourself and others. Work out your own salvation. Pay your taxes. Then ignore the existence of the state, and behave like a citizen of heaven. Nathanael Snow



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Sarasotakid

posted April 17, 2007 at 3:43 am


So if I were to decide, after Bible reading and prayer, that I ought not pay for government social programs that God has led me to believe are counter-productive, would Tony Campolo support me on that? You miss the point. It is not what Tony Campolo thinks that should matter. It is what God thinks. That was the whole point of his message.



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Eric

posted April 17, 2007 at 4:10 am


Sarasota Kid, So are you saying that if God calls me to withold my tax dollars because of the Iraq War (or something else) but he doesn’t call you do to the same, we’re both justified in our actions?



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Sarasotakid

posted April 17, 2007 at 4:27 am


Eric, Possibly.



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kevin s.

posted April 17, 2007 at 8:37 am


So, Campolo is rendering the Biblical text so as to have no meaning whatsoever. We can pay taxes, or not pay taxes, depending on whether we support the causes to which we are paying taxes. That, or he has said nothing, as Eric said.My guess is the latter, based on Campolo’s track record.



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Sarasotakid

posted April 17, 2007 at 12:17 pm


Funny you would bring that up, Kevin. I remember having a very strong feeling that God was telling me in the lead-up to the Iraq war that it was wrong, dead wrong to go into Iraq. Some other Christian friends came to my house to eat dinner. They had been praying out the current crisis. They felt strongly that God was telling them that the invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do. Go figure. Which one of us was right, Kevin? Which one of us was hearing from God? You figure it out.Based on your your pat dismisiveness of Tony’s message, you appear to act as if you have it all figured out. I don’t and I don’t pretend to either. Whether you like to accept it or not, there is a lot of ambiguity in spiritual matters and none of us has it right, all the time.



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Eric

posted April 17, 2007 at 4:52 pm


Now that I’ve thought a little about it I don’t think I agree with Campolo’s analysis of this text. I don’t think Jesus was saying to pay taxes when God calls you to do so; I think he’s saying you should obey the laws of the state, assuming they are just. If the state requires you to pay taxes and you believe this is a just law, then follow it. I don’t think anyone would say that the state requiring you to pay taxes in a representative democracy, in general, is unjust. The injustice may occur when the state decides to spend the money on a cause you feel is unjust. But that doesn’t make paying taxes unjust. If the government enancts unjust policies I think you should either work to change those policies or leave the state to avoid contributing to them. I’m interested in others thoughts on mine…



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kevin s.

posted April 17, 2007 at 5:01 pm


“Based on your your pat dismisiveness of Tony’s message, you appear to act as if you have it all figured out. I don’t and I don’t pretend to either.” No. Tony hasn’t offered a compelling reason as to why the render unto Caesar passage ought not be understood as an example of how to handle taxes. Further, I suspect he is being dishonest. Would he ever suggest that some Christians might be in the clear if they didn’t want to support an anti-poverty program? Probably not. I don’t need to have everything figured out in order to have some things figured out.



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Jeremy

posted April 17, 2007 at 5:58 pm


“Tony treads a very fine line. He doesn’t actually say that I should withold my tax dollars if I think something the government is doing is unGodly, but he certainly implies it.” I gotta say that I have to agree with this. Tony’s a great guy but at the end of the day its still Caesar’s coin. The only difference between Jesus’ day and ours is that we have the opportunity to decide who our Caesars will be (at least idealistically speaking). But, I can’t imagine that Jesus was telling the Pharisees that they were to refuse to pay the taxes owed to Caesar. That just doesn’t make sense to me. It seems to me that Tony has taken this passage out of its context and reframed it for himself. I hate to say it, but that seems to be the case here.



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Jeremy

posted April 17, 2007 at 6:09 pm


“We can pay taxes, or not pay taxes, depending on whether we support the causes to which we are paying taxes. That, or he has said nothing, as Eric said.” Right, Jesus wasn’t saying that the Pharisees had the choice to obey or not to obey the Roman tax laws. That was the position the Pharisees wanted to hear because then they could report him to the authorities for advocating breaking the law. But, neither was Jesus saying that the Jews should be loyal in all things to Rome (i.e. idolatry, emperor worship etc). I think Kevin is right, either this is what Jesus meant or Tony is right and thus Jesus meant nothing by what he said. I’m sorry Tony, but I don’t think the commentaries are going to agree with you here.



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Jeremy

posted April 17, 2007 at 6:13 pm


New Interpreter’s Commentary: Matthew 22:19-22. Jesus asks for the “legal tender” with which the tax is paid. He does not have it himself, but the Pharisees, in the sacred precincts of the Temple, produce the coin with its idolatrous image and inscription and acknowledge that they are Caesar’s. When Jesus pronounces that what is already the emperor’s should be given to him, while avoiding either a direct yes or no, he in fact gives an indirect yes. It is not against the Torah (this was the form of the question in v. 17, “Is it lawful?) to pay taxes to the emperor. The Pharisees acknowledge this by participating in the economic system made possible by Rome, even by having Roman coins in the Temple area. Although unconvinced, the Pharisees are silenced and depart from this round “in shock” (ejqau”masan ethaumasan).”



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Jeremy

posted April 17, 2007 at 6:21 pm


Sorry for the inconvenience Tony. Interpretation Commentary: “Instead of taking the baited hook by discussing the legal niceties of the issue, Jesus calls for a Roman coin, knowing that the tax can be paid only in Roman currency. When a silver denarius is presented to him, he asks, “Whose image is this, and whose inscription?” Most probably the head of the coin showed the head of the reigning emperor, and the tail an inscription that identified him as “Tiberius Caesar, Son of the Divine Augustus, Pontifex Maximus,” that is, as high priest of the pagan Roman religion. Exodus 20:4 prohibits “graven images” of any kind. Yet here, in the most holy space in the holy land, Jesus’ adversaries promptly produce a coin that violates the dictates of their religion! The hypocrisy is obvious. They are happy to do business with Caesar’s coins. Why then should they raise a religious question about giving Caesar his due? Since the question posed by the opponents is sufficiently answered by the object lesson and the first half of Jesus’ epigram, special weight must be attached to the second half, “and to God the things that are God’s.” Perhaps we should imagine Jesus pausing in the middle of the sentence, so that the full force of the conclusion will be felt by his audience. Although there is strict parallelism between the two halves, they are by no means of equal significance, because Caesar’s role is so vastly inferior to God’s. That is, Jesus is not saying, “There is a secular realm and there is a religious realm, and equal respect must be paid to each.” The second half practically annuls the first by preempting it. In Jewish religious thought, foreign kings had power over Israel only by permission from God. Tax may be paid to Caesar because it is by God’s will that Caesar rules. When God chooses to liberate his people, Caesar’s power will avail him nothing. Since the time of Tertullian interpreters have pondered the possibility that the saying implicitly refers to humans as God’s coin, bearing his image. Since men and women are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), they belong to him as surely as Caesar’s coins belong to Caesar. To God must be given back what is his. This may be fanciful, but the conclusion is sound. In the second half of his epigram Jesus demands far more of his followers than in the first half. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns, “You cannot serve God and mammon” (6:24). Here he is saying, in effect: If Tiberius wants a few denarii, give them gladly, because giving them up will remind you that a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of his or her possessions (see Luke 12:15). What counts above all else is living in accordance with the Father’s will.”



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kevin s.

posted April 17, 2007 at 7:22 pm


Oh, and believe me, as a conservative I’d LOVE to find a way out of paying taxes. :)Sadly, however, I am not as pretty as Maggie Gyllenhaal, or even Jake.



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Jeremy

posted April 17, 2007 at 8:43 pm


“Oh, and believe me, as a conservative I’d LOVE to find a way out of paying taxes” LOL, yeah no kidding. Don’t get me wrong I’m not a conservative (anymore), but if Tony wants to indicate that people are should follow their conscience and protest America’s Federal spending by refusing to pay their taxes that’s fine and I’m sure that some can rationalize such a protest by exercising some non-violent resistence phiosophy, but to use this passage, Matthew 22:21, to do so is just exegetically wrong.



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HASH(0x11e2ccd8)

posted April 17, 2007 at 11:32 pm


what things do you have ‘figured out’ kevin s.? just curious…



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Donny

posted April 18, 2007 at 3:19 am


There isn’t one thing the Progressives and Liberls preach that any Christian should put their money into. Taxes to (godless) Communism, abortion for convenience and sexual perversions (marriage chaos). That is, of course, why the Democrats must take power through the legislative (and education) process. Christians won’t support them unless they have to by law.



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Jeremy

posted April 18, 2007 at 4:22 am


“There isn’t one thing the Progressives and Liberls preach that any Christian should put their money into.”Ok this is quite a bit of an overstatement, and if you don’t recognize that then I’m sorry for you. But, “Godless Communism” really? Marx may have been an atheist but Communism as an economic system is neutral, as are all economic systems. I guess we’re left then to assume that American Capitalism is God’s economics or at least Pro-God? Oh, but wait maybe someone might do well to read about the Jubilee Laws that God ordained for his people, where debts were forgiven and land was returned to the families that were originally given to them. p.s. Capitalism HATES this idea. Oh, and the “abortion for convenience” bit well I don’t hear any responsible politician Left or Right advocating this (no matter what nut-job you manage to quote), instead what I do hear is that politicians (including Bill Clinton during his administration) want to seriously reduce the number of abortions, something that “W” has not done. And “Sexual Perversions” well, I don’t know which is more damaging to the family 1-5% of persons engaging in homosexuality or a 60% divorce rate, inside and outside of the church. But, then I guess that the divorce rate is all the homosexual’s fault.So, Donny, unless you actually plan to bring actual discussion then your baseless, strawman comments are probably best kept to yourself. Not to mention the fact that your comments weren’t even close to being on topic.



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Canuckelhead

posted April 18, 2007 at 7:42 am


I suppose (godless) Communism implies (godly) Capitalism? Vacuous generalities, thou art a jewel!



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Aaron

posted April 18, 2007 at 6:37 pm


Tony C. try looking up “Dr” Kent Hovind.



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kevin s.

posted April 19, 2007 at 5:41 pm


“what things do you have ‘figured out’ kevin s.? just curious…” Well, that when Jesus said “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”, he meant it for starters. If you have a point, make it and let’s discuss. Cut the playground crap.



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nad2

posted April 19, 2007 at 9:48 pm


while i’m not sure i would say tony has it completely right within its context, or rather perhaps the original context is really being stretched here, i think he is far closer than those claiming this is some pronouncement of our subservient relationship to the state, & it appears that tony has real respect for the greater scriptural and cultural contexts in which ‘render unto caesar’ was spoken. this is a very rich topic that eludes any shortened answer, but robert klinck does a pretty good job of addressing the scriptural context here: http://www.renderuntocaesar.net/ a brief excerpt from klinck on the context of the interrogation in which this is spoken is here: “In essence, one must conceive that, to this band of murderous conspirators, in the midst of their foul plot, Jesus pronounced a homily for the general edification of mankind. Surely a more implausible scenario is hard to imagine.” place the scriptural background of this being in the midst of interrogation by the religious leaders (appointed by rome) trying to get jesus to commit treason or get the crowd that is in love with him to turn against him, within the cultural context of the jews being occupied by a foreign power w/ a coinage any good jew wouldn’t have & the ambiguous, ‘give caesar’s coin back to him’ followed immediately with ‘give god things that are his’ and you are on the right track. it is brilliant, much more in the vein of ‘i come to bury caesar not praise him’ by antony than your uncle sam saying ‘pay your taxes’



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Pastor Ed

posted April 19, 2007 at 11:26 pm


Campolo is a great preacher and writer, passionate in his beliefs. This bit of interpretation, however, makes a hash of the Scripture.Starting with Jesus’ famous dictum about rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s, Campolo then rambles off about whether Christians should be involved in politics or not, and ends up saying that everything belongs to God.From this he derives the notion that if the government is engaged in ‘ungodly’ activities, the Christian is correct to withhold taxes in protest. From this conclusion, and the fact that Jesus said to go ahead and ‘render’ the taxes to Caesar, we would be led to believe that Caesar must have been using the taxes only for godly activities at that time.Any serious examination of Tiberius’ rule would find little that Christians can approve of. As for social justice, Rome relied on millions of slaves. Romes armies were ruthless and cruel. Ordinary punishments, like crucifixion, are extremely cruel. But, using Campolo’s rule, Jesus must have had no serious qualms about any of Rome’s activities, since He pointedly did not recommend withholding the taxes that Rome demanded.If Christ did not disapprove paying taxes to the cruel and oppressive Romans, it’s difficult to imagine governments he would withhold from, with the exceptions of Hitler’s Germany and the Communist dictatorships, with their systematic and intentional extermination of their political enemies. I love you, Tony, but this one renders the text meaningless.



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nad2

posted April 19, 2007 at 11:41 pm


in saying ‘show me a roman coin, whose picture is on it, give it back to caesar’ i think quite cleverly avoids the question the same way he did w/ ‘under what authority do you do these things?’ if anything, it is an indictment of the jewish leaders for carrying roman coinage, especially in the temple (scandal!). he simply says, ‘this is caesar’s coin, give it back to him,’ a provocative nonanswer (not ‘pay your taxes’), followed by give to god what is god’s, a very sligh but anti-imperial statement. for romans, caesar was god or the son of god, all in his kindgom was his. the render unto caesar part has much more to do w/ the choice of currency (which jesus implicitly always has to ask to see because he doesn’t carry roman coins), who has it & what it stands for (in the hands of jewish leaders in the temple, it stands for their collaboration w/ rome), while the render unto god is the much more profound part.



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nad2

posted April 19, 2007 at 11:55 pm


i would agree w/ tony and those who think this is meant to say the opposite he is advocating – that this scripture in its context is relevant to the debate of the ethics of paying taxes for things you think are immoral, but it definitely does not does not render any view on that debate supreme because the answer IS NOT MEANT TO BE A GENERAL PRONOUNCEMENT ABOUT PAYING TAXES!



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Julie

posted April 20, 2007 at 12:08 am


I never cease to be amazed at how many Christians don’t really want to believe scripture. Thank, Tony



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nad2

posted April 20, 2007 at 12:37 am


or aren’t exposed to the fullness of the scripture



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