We’ve all heard the quip about death and taxes.
One of life’s most pervasive, ubiquitous influences is responsible for one, sometimes both of those: government. Some might say another of life’s most pervasive, ubiquitous influences — marriage — could also be responsible for one of them, though sociological research suggests that those who marry live longer, which immediately calls to mind other research which demonstrates that those who have dogs or cats tend to live longer, as well, although with considerably more worn and less-fresh furniture.
Government tends to affect us all our lives. From the time we are born and feet-printed at the hospital to the time that we die and someone is required to prove it, government is everywhere. Similarly, marriage tends to be on the minds of most people their entire lives. Before marriage, single people plan to be, although that plan is sometimes distorted into the sinful desire simply to “hook up” temporarily. After marriage — whether it’s ended by death or divorce — much of life remains oriented around the former relationship.
Jesus, in Mark 12, declares that both of these relationships are eclipsed by his kingdom, both in its already/not-yet manifestation and in its eternal consummation.
When asked about paying taxes, Jesus issues the famous line, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17, ESV). And when he was tested on the question of marriage relationships after the resurrection, he said “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” (Mark 12:24, ESV).
Jesus warns that during our time on earth we should be careful not to take on the image of Caesar. And he cautions us that we should not have an image of heaven that is too dependent upon earthly relationships that will not continue after the resurrection. When we take on the image of Caesar by entangling ourselves to readily with the affairs and demands of government, we refute the reality of an inaugurated kingdom and take glory that is rightfully God’s. And when we rely to heavily upon even good earthly relationships — such as marriage — supposing that any decent heaven would include a continuation of it, we remake heaven in our own image and take glory that is rightfully God’s.
How extensive is the kingdom of Christ to which he calls his people right now? It transcends both our relationship to earthly government now and our marriage relationship forever.