Jesus said, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) The context and occasion when Jesus made this statement was one of those times when the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus. The story is found in Matthew 22:15-22. They posed a question which they figured would catch him off guard and cause him to indict himself with his own words.
The passage reads like this:
“Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
The Pharisees were trying to get Jesus to contradict himself. He had been proclaiming that God does not regard one person higher than another and is not impressed with their hypocritical religiosity. If they could get him to say that Caesar was of no importance and, because he was not a man of God, they owed him no allegiance, then they’d have Jesus in trouble with the law and could get him arrested.
But Jesus was too smart for their scheming. In answering them, he gave to all of us a very important biblical principle: our allegiance to Jesus Christ does not relieve us of our duties to others, even to people who may not be godly. We are to be good citizens and examples of giving to others what is rightfully theirs.
I’d like to apply this principle to your working world, especially if you are employed and have someone in authority over you, someone who hands you a paycheck at regular intervals. This principle applies even more if your employer is not a Christ-follower and does not adhere to Christian principles. If you think of your employer—your boss—as the Caesar in your life, then you can apply this principle to your particular situation; it can give you some very good guidance on your behavior and responsibility as an employee.
Let’s think about the things a Christian employee owes to their employer, the things that are rightfully due an employer or boss, whether they are Christian or not:
- You Owe Hard Work
A Christian employee should always give their employer an honest day’s work for the money they receive. If you have agreed to do a certain job for a certain paycheck, then you owe that work to your employer.
Sadly, not everyone works hard for their employer. If you’ve been in the working world very long, you’ve certainly seen many people who maybe work one hour in three. They spend much of their working day talking on the phone, taking care of personal matters, talking to a co-worker, or just dragging their feet instead of working diligently.
At one time, I designed a training program for a client. One of my first tasks was to understand the problem and the people better. So I spent a good bit of time interviewing employees. I heard a constant complaint that they had too much work to do, that the employer was asking too much of them. Finally, I said to one employee, “Do you really think you’re asked to do more than you can accomplish in eight hours of honest work?” She was very candid in answering me, saying, “Mary, we used to have to work four to five hours a day in an eight-hour shift. Now they want us to work seven.”
This situation is very common today. Many people are offended if you ask them to give eight-hours of work for eight-hours of pay. There seems to be an attitude that the employer owes eight-hours of pay for maybe four-hours of work, and to ask more is really outrageous.
To give to your employer what is rightfully theirs, a Christian should always give a full day’s work. You should never take advantage of your employer by cheating them out of time and work that is due to them. Your work habits should be noticeably different from those who try to take advantage of the employer, and your attitude should be one of being desirous to give the employer what is their rightful due—hard work for your pay.
- You Owe Protection of Employer’s Assets
What belongs to your employer is yours to use for business purposes, not for your own personal benefit. You need to realize that taking your employer’s assets is simply stealing. I’m well aware that this is a common practice, and people don’t think of it as stealing; here again, Christians have standards higher than those of this world’s. If you render to Caesar what is rightfully theirs, then you will be careful not to steal from your employer and to do everything you can to conserve their money and their assets.
Those pencils and pads, paper clips and file folders which are supplied by your employer should not end up in your desk at home for your own personal use. Expense accounts should be meticulously honest and fair.
- You Owe Loyalty
As long as you’re willing to take your paycheck from your employer, you owe them respect and loyalty. It is a very common thing for employees to constantly degrade and talk negatively about their employer. But a Christian should not be found stabbing them in the back or running them down to others.
This should be a point of distinction for a Christian employee. It should be quite noticeable that you do not enter into the office gossip and character assassination of anyone, especially of your boss and employer. If you find you cannot give this respect and loyalty to your employer, then you should move on. It’s wrong to work for someone and, at the same time, disparage them and constantly gripe and complain about them.
Once again, here are three things that I believe you owe to your “Caesar,” your employer: 1) An honest day’s work; 2) protection of their assets by being careful not to use company assets for your own benefit; and 3) loyalty. Ask yourself if you are giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. That is what Jesus told us to do, and we must be careful to obey, both in the little and big things. Jesus said he knows we love him if we keep his commandments. This, then, is one way to show Jesus you love him, and it’s a good way to establish a strong testimony on your job.
Now, let’s think about what you do not owe to your employer, for the other half of this principle is to give to God what is God’s.
- You Do Not Owe Dishonesty or Deception
God requires of you a life of integrity and honesty; there is no such thing as a white lie. Lying for your employer is giving to them what is due to God. An employer has no right to ask an employee to lie or deceive in any way.
You may be thinking, “But my boss tells me to lie for him. What do I do?” Well, if you can avoid a confrontation by simply not lying, then I recommend that. For instance, instead of saying, “He’s not in,” when he is, say, “I’m sorry, he’s not available.” That’s the truth and you don’t even have to make an issue of it.
However, if your boss explicitly asks you to lie for him or her, this is where you have to take a stand and not render to that employer what is not due them. If they make an issue out of it, you could simply say, “If I lie for you, how would you know that I would not lie to you? I think I could handle the situation acceptably in another way.”
If your employer asks you to falsify reports or alter statistics to make them look better, that is another place where a Christian cannot render to Caesar what belongs to God. When obeying an employer causes you to disobey a Christian principle, then your course of action is clear: you obey God rather than man. That may cost you a job; it may cost you promotions or favor with the bosses. There is a price for true discipleship. But there should be no question as to what is right for you to do.
- You Do Not Owe Dishonorable Activity
You do not owe your employer participation in any activity that is dishonorable. Socializing after work or with customers is the American way, but frequently it is not the godly way. There are jobs where this type of after-hours activity is common and expected, and the people who get ahead are those who take part in these questionable activities. If you’re expected to participate in social occasions where lewd conversation or behavior is common, then you have a decision to make: will you render to Caesar what belongs to God?
No employer has a right to require you to be a part of compromising situations in order to keep your job. That is not their rightful due.
- You Do Not Owe All of Your Energy and Time
If you must constantly give your employer twelve-hours a day and weekends, you’re probably giving to Caesar what belongs to God. While it’s true you owe them an honest day’s work, if you give far more than that in order to get ahead, such that there’s no time left for your family, friends, church or yourself, then you’re getting into dangerous spiritual territory.
This one is tough to deal with because you may feel guilty that you’re not at work late hours, or you worry about what others will think about you for not being there on Sunday to work. Again, it may be a costly decision, for it’s true that some employers expect every drop of your time and energy in order to keep your job or get promotions. But don’t be fooled by this world’s false standards of excellence. You owe God time and a balanced lifestyle. If you put him first, he’ll honor that commitment.
Remember that someday we will all stand before God and give an account for everything we’ve done. Do you ever think about that? What will you say if you’ve failed to give your employer what is rightfully theirs? What will you say if you have given your employer what really belongs to God and have compromised your standards and principles? When we get an eternal viewpoint and see things the way God sees them, it sure makes a difference.
Ask God to show you today where you need to apply this principle in your life. In 1 Timothy 4, we read that we are to be examples in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Verse 16 says, “Watch your life and doctrine closely.” It’s not always easy to do, but you’ll be glad when you stand before God that you have given to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and given to God what belongs to God.