Ed: This post is part of a new series called “Reclaiming the Bible’s Prophetic Voice,” in which Council staff consider the biblical and theological roots of their work. You can read more from the series here.
Mark Chapter 12:13-17
And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Hero’dians, to entrap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a coin, and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at him.
Also Matthew 22:15-22; Luke 20:20-26
It’s a familiar passage. Religious leaders tried to trip up Jesus by asking him a trick question: should they pay taxes to Caesar? If Jesus had said “Yes,” the Jewish people, tired of being dominated by Rome, would have been alienated. If he had said “No,” that would have been insurrection against the Roman occupiers.
Instead, he took a coin, asked them whose image was on the coin (he was a master of the counter-question), and then replied that they should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but to God what is God’s. His religious opponents marveled and went away, at least for a little while. (The story comes early in Passion Week in all three of the gospels which record it.)
In Jesus’ day, a real Caesar ruled the Roman Empire and required his subjects to pay taxes and to carry the gear for soldiers. (Remember Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 5:41 about going the second mile.) That was about the extent of it.
Today, in the United States at least, our “Caesar” is a representative democracy, and the most basic requirement of our Caesar is that we take part in our democracy. That means – reduced to the bare minimum – that rendering to Caesar means registering and voting in elections.
Here are the dates you need to be aware of as November elections approach:
Friday, October 12 – last day to register for the November 6 General Election. You can still register and vote at One-stop locations, but you won’t be able to vote on Election Day if you haven’t registered by October 12.
Thursday, October 18 thru Saturday, November 3 – One-stop absentee voting (a.k.a. early voting) is open. If you are registered, you can vote. If your address or name has changed, you can update your registration and vote. If you are otherwise qualified to vote but missed the October 12 deadline, you can register and then vote at a one-stop center. In order to register during this period, you must show certain proof of name and residence. The one-stop voting sites are NOT the same as the precincts for voting on Election Day, and the hours of operation vary. To find out more, contact your local Board of Elections or visit the State Board of Elections website by clicking here and look for “One Stop Early Voting Sites.”
Tuesday, October 20 – The last day to request a traditional absentee ballot in writing. (You can request an absentee ballot through November 5 if you need it because of illness or disability.) Absentee ballots returned in person to your countyBoard of Elections must be received by 5 p.m. on Monday, November 5. Those returned by mail must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by November 9 in order to be counted.
Tuesday, November 6 – Election Day, polls are open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., and anyone in line when the polls close should be permitted to vote. If there is a problem with your registration or because of where you’ve gone to vote, ask to vote a provisional ballot. A precinct worker should help you with this. If they do not, or if you encounter any other problem that seems to be taking away your vote, call 888-OUR-VOTE immediately.
About Photo IDs – There’s been a lot of discussion this year about requiring voters to show photo IDs. The NC Council of Churches opposed this effort because it would make it more difficult for people to vote, especially people who are elderly or poor or young. The effort died when the legislative session ended. Some first-time voters do have to show ID (not necessarily photo ID), but no one else. For details, click here.
Straight Ticket Voting – Whenever you vote, note that voting a straight party ticket does not include the election for the President, judges or other nonpartisan offices. You must vote for all of them separately.
With the many options available, even on weekends, there’s little excuse for not taking part in this most basic responsibility in a democracy. Good citizenship requires it. As does the practice of our faith.
–George Reed, Executive Director