The Church of Caesar
A part of the Layman Looks at Law series
And He said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said to Him, "Caesar's." Then He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's." Matthew 22:20-21
There has been a trend over the past fifty or so years to incorporate our congregations to obtain charitable status, and to issue tax receipts for contributions and donations. Have we thought through the ramifications of doing so? What exactly have we done?
"I will build up the people I've called out; and the gates to the abode of the enemy will not keep them in." Matthew 16:18 my version
First, let’s recognize that those people Jesus called to assemble are his body of believers. He is the head, the Lord, and we are bond-servants and disciples, following his leadership. Was it his leadership that led churches to incorporate?
CORPORATION. An artificial person or legal entity created by or under the authority of the laws of a state or nation,…acting as a unit or single individual in matters relating to the common purpose of the association, within the scope of the powers and authorities conferred upon such bodies by law.1
A corporation is a person created and given certain rights by its creator, the government.. This corporate person is subject to the dictates of that creator.
The process of incorporating a congregation involves registering the members and all their assets as a distinct legal entity “under the authority of the laws of the state or nation.” Any power or authority that this new corporate person has is limited to whatever it is granted by legislature.
PRIVATE. Affecting or belonging to private individuals, as distinct from the public generally.2
When we register to become a corporation, we take what were private assets and place them on the registry, where they become public holdings, and government, the legal representative of the public, has the obligation and authority oversee those assets and operations.
Herein lies a conflict with scripture, “as Christ also is the head of the church.”3 In the process of incorporating, we have put Jesus’ congregation under the authority of government. He finds himself outside the door knocking,4 hoping to be let in.5
Paul presents a principle worthy of consideration in this matter:
Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey? (Romans 6:16)
Where before, as individuals, we had freedom of speech, now, as a corporate person/body, its speech and rights are limited by legislative acts such as the following:
"A charity may not take part in an illegal activity or a partisan political activity. A partisan political activity is one that involves direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, any political party or candidate for public office."6
If a church were to vocally and publicly support one particular political party, that church would be de-registration and its assets confiscated—since we gave it all to the government when we incorporated. Could it be that the tax receipt that we were offered was designed to control our influence over a sizable portion of the people’s vote in matters of government? I believe it was for exactly this reason. As a people group, we held too much sway, and those who control our government wanted to minimize our influence. If that is the case, they have succeeded.
As individuals assembling for religious reasons, we have the inalienable rights given to us by our Creator. As members of a corporation, we have only those rights that are granted to us by the corporation’s creator, the government. How then are we permitted to respond to issues such as sexual orientation or same sex marriage? Remember, as a corporation we were created “under the authority of the laws of a state or nation.” We gave up a position of influence over government, being its creator, for one under them for the benefit of a stupid tax receipt. We get a tax receipt from Caesar because we belong to Caesar.
If getting that receipt motivates our giving, then we have our reward—from Caesar.7
Jesus’ last letter to the churches in Revelation 3 was directed to those people who assembled in the city of Laodicea. Interestingly, this city name means “people judge/rule.” It was at the door of this church, comprised of lukewarm believers, that Jesus stood knocking in the hope of being invited back into leadership.
Have we put Jesus out by incorporating?
- Black’s Law Dictionary, 2nd Edition, Pg. 273
- Ephesians 5:23 NASB
- Revelation 3:20
- Revelation 3:20 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.
- Matthew 6:1-6
©2009, Steve: Bydeley.
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Dr. Steve Bydeley is the author of Fathered by God and with his wife Dianne, co-author of Dream Dreams and Dreams the Heal and Counsel. He has been a guest on the Miracle Channel, Trinity Television, and Crossroads Communication, and have taught internationally on various topics.