In her letter in defense of Mr. Smotherman, Lacy Corman has misapplied Mark 12:17. She says that this passage proves that Jesus was involved in politics. To the contrary, his response shows that he avoided a political stance. Jesus’ enemies, the Pharisees were nationalists and wanted independence from Rome. The party followers of Herod were supportive of Rome’s rule over the Jews. The question, Is it lawful to pay the head tax, was designed to trap Jesus. If he said yes, then the Pharisees who despised subjection to Rome and the Jews in general would hate him. If he answered no, then the party followers of Herod would claim sedition. Jesus adroitly asked for a denarius and asked them whose picture was on the coin. They replied Caesar’s. Then give it back to him. Jesus remained neutral to the political issues of his day. The people even tried to make him a king and he eluded them. His kingdom was no part of the world and he said his true followers would also be no part of the world. In fact at John 16:30 Jesus said that he conquered the world. He never compromised God laws and principles. Compromise is the name of the political game. History shows what a sloppy job the politicians have done.
The principle is still in effect in our day. Secular governments give us many services. In the first century, despite its imperialistic nature, the Roman state provided numerous services for its subject peoples, including construction of highways, and a form of mail service, as well as the maintenance of civil order and a form of protection from criminal elements. The people paid for these services by taxes.
However, there is a second part to what Jesus said. Pay back God’s things to God. What did he mean? He meant obedience to God’s law’s and principles. When the apostles were flogged by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court and ordered them to stop preaching about Jesus, they answered, ”We must obey God rather than men.” What else do we owe God? He is the source of life; therefore, we owe him our lives. First century Christians understood that. It is a matter of historical record that no Christian became a soldier and no soldier who became a Christian continued to be a soldier. This was the case until the time of Marcus Aurelius during the second half of the second century. They knew if they gave their lives for the state, they would be giving to Caesar something that belonged to God.
Look what the politicians did in 1914. 28 nations squared off and fought the bloodiest war in human history. 25 of them claimed to be Christian. Christians killed Christians and the churches used their pulpits as recruiting stations. The historian Paul Johnson said that WW1 was a civil war among Christian nations. Has anything changed? H. L. Mencken wrote that all politicians are liars otherwise they wouldn’t get elected. The political campaigns, national, state, and local are filled with lies, propaganda, and false promises, and are unbelievably costly. That’s what Jesus conquered, the world of politics, greedy commercialism, and false religion. There are many other statements that Lacy Corman made that manifest a lack of knowledge of history and a naiveté, but it’s impossible to address them at this time. She is, however, to be commended for her sincerity, her zeal for what she thinks is right, and for her courage to express it in a public forum.
Sincerely, Noah Lutsky