And He said to them, “ Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left Him, and went their way. Mathew 22:21, 22.
“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Unintentionally, Jesus touched a social issue. Should tribute be paid? This is an issue which has been arousing strong feelings for centuries. It can be discussed both in general and in particular. People’s happiness depends on the proper solution of this issue. This is a very tough, complicated problem with ten unknown quantities. It is easy for students to do math problems with one, two or even three unknown quantities. However, when faced with a problem containing more unknown quantities, they give it up. Life, though, offers people problems with ten and even more unknown quantities. It takes thousands of years to solve these problems. All people are baffled and frightened by the unknown.
They asked Jesus, “ Should we yield tribute to Caesar?’ His answer was explicit, “Yes, you should.” Throughout the chapter Jesus came up with great ideas, which need a long time to be explored, just like the botanist and the mineralogist will have to examine a plant or a pebble for years in order to study them inside out. It is not easy to come to the profound meaning of Jesus’ verse. There are many Christians who, while sitting in a chair, start contemplating over some issues. Solutions to problems do not come simply through contemplation. The key is hard work. A woman asks, “Do I have to cook for my husband?” Jesus answers, “Yes, you have.” The husband is your Caesar, so you will cook for him. If you cook him breakfast, he will go to work, and you will stay home alone, so you will have the chance to serve God. The woman says, “I wish I were a man.” – Even if you were a man, you would have to render Caesar’s wife the things that are hers. So, there is a Caesar and a Caesar’ wife. If you are a man, you will give Caesar's wife what is hers and to God the things that are God’s. One and the same thing is required of both men and women. In other words, as a human being, you have your duties both to this world and to God. If you go to a ball, you will have to consider the requirements for a ball. The woman has to dress up in accordance with the latest fashion; she should be wearing a white evening dress, special shoes, and make-up. The man will be in a dinner jacket, nice new shoes, and white gloves. – It is not my cup of tea. – Well, if you don’t like it, then you shouldn’t go. Even if you have to see God, you will have to put on a necklace, a tiara, and a bracelet. The necklace is Love. The tiara is Wisdom. The bracelet is Virtue. I have seen women in Romania wearing watches round their ankles. Then, to see the time the woman raises her foot. Many find this shocking. I say, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” You are here on earth – that is what life here wants from you. There are people who get angry or envious; they cannot get used to Life as it is. If you cannot accept it, go to heaven. Those who grumble that sugar is scarce or the bread ratio is insufficient should go to heaven. What are they doing here? Give Caesar what is his - pay him a tribute. This is what Caesar gives – nothing more.
Man’s first task is to solve Life properly. It is the solving of this problem that gives meaning to Life itself. One who cannot realise what Life is is nothing but a pygmy, nobody, an insect. The point is not in putting on airs or strutting like a peacock. It is enough to come close to them, to make them look down on you. Do not take offence – this is how they see it. You should not get hurt either, when I am telling you the truth. I say: While here, you should think hard and work diligently to find the right solutions to problems in Life.
When God expelled man from Eden, He appointed an Angel to guard it. – What did the Angel keep? – Man’s reason, i.e. the Divine beginning. Reasonability remained in Eden. The Serpent seduced Eve, who ate from the forbidden fruit. Then she gave Adam too eat from it too. So God expelled them from Eden and said, “As you do not deserve Life, you will leave Eden. One day, when you understand Life, you will come back to me.” People want to be happy. There is no happiness for people who squander their father’s wealth. I do not mean to expose you by saying this. I am just trying to make a principle clear. You needn’t take offence. All of you, who are attending this lecture, are not true human beings yet. I can see people dressed in clothes, having a certain appearance and weight, but this is far from being a true man. I think highly of man. There is something great hidden in you, which you are not aware of. There will come a day when the Divine in man will manifest itself, and then you will know what Life is and what man is.
Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” By giving Caesar what belongs to him, you will find freedom. Each bad thought or desire is not yours, they belong to Caesar, so you should yield them to him. – Who is Caesar in man? – The devil. You will say, “I got angry today.” Did you render to Caesar what is his? Well, you should. Don’t just give Caesar what is his. You should also render to God the things that are God’s. What is Caesar’s is human. We owe much to humanity. Therefore, we should render to anybody what we owe to him. This means understanding the point in Life.
A hermit lived in the desert for many years. Eventually, he decided to see a saint and ask him about the point in Life. The saint told him, “ Go to the nearest village and spend a whole day among the village people. You might learn something from them.” The hermit went to the village and visited the home of a man who was about to leave for work in the fields. The hermit decided to join him. On the way to the fields the villager said, “O God!” He then spent the day toiling the soil, ploughing and sowing and on coming back home for a rest, he said, “O God!’ The hermit came back to the saint to tell him what he had seen in the village. “What did you learn?” – “Not much. I saw a villager who uttered “God” twice during the whole day.” The saint gave the hermit an icon-lamp and told him to go round the whole village carrying the icon-lamp. He warned him to be careful not to spill a drop of oil. The hermit carried out the task quite well and came back to the saint, who asked him, “How many times did you remember God?” - “Not once.”- “Why?” – “All my attention was focused on not spilling a drop of oil from the icon-lamp.” Then the saint told him, “You see, the villager, who is providing for both his family and us, found the time to remember God at least twice during a day of hard work, while you, the hermit, could not remember God even once!”
I would like to ask today’s philosophers and scholars how many times a day they remember God. The reason for people’s misfortunes is that they do not remember God. That is why Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”. I say that you should think about yourselves, about your arms and feet, your heart and mind, about your progress. However, you should also think about what is lofty and noble, about how to improve life in store for you after death. Today’s life is ours; tomorrow’s life belongs to God. How can you be happy if you do not render to God the things that are God’s? People’s misfortunes come through giving only Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. He only takes; he does not give. God differs in that He both takes and gives. He will take the child from a mother, but in a year or two He will give her another better child. A husband abuses his wife. God will take this husband and give the poor wife another, better than the first one. So, you should not be sorry when God takes something from you. He is just, kind and compassionate. He will give you something better in return of what he has taken from you. In this respect God sets an example of giving.
Jesus said that your deeds should be so enlightened that whoever saw you should glorify your Father. – Why hasn’t the world improved yet? – Because your deeds do not glorify God. It is the learned and spiritual people that bear the responsibility. There are many learned people here on earth that are far from knowledgeable when they go to heaven. There are many saints here on earth who are no saints in heaven. There are many noble people one earth who are not noble in heaven. Appearance and reality are two different things. One has to distinguish between what is important and not in order to take the right path. One should be free from ambitions and obsessions.
So there are four things necessary for man to go straight: to distinguish between what is important and not, to get free from personal ambitions, to have a decent life, and to cherish Love in his soul. The Angel will not admit man to heaven until he builds up these four requirements. God says, “You know how to serve Caesar, but you do not know how to serve Me. Angry though you may be, I still cannot accept you as My servants.” Which musician will agree to teach your child, who still has not acquired basic skills? He will say, “I don’t have the time to deal with your backward child.” By ignoring ignorance, God let the ignorant grope about in their ignorance. Today, when people are better equipped to understand Him, He sends them His Son among them.
What does the modern person do? He gets up in the morning, washes his face, combs his hair, puts on clean clothes and starts some other job. His first job is serving Caesar. Then he asks himself, “Should I serve Caesar?” – Yes, you should serve Caesar, because you are in his kingdom – you need to be just. Someone decides that he should not take care of his body. – Who told you this? If you live in a rented house, you should keep it clean and tidy. – I am a holy person. – No matter whether you are holy or not, you should do the cleaning. If you have come here to earth, even if you were a saint, you would have to do the cleaning. A teacher gives a student a poor mark. The student is displeased with the teacher and threatens to beat him. There are many teachers beaten by their students. My advice to the student is to do his lessons to avoid getting poor marks. My advice to the teacher is to check the student’s progress regularly before giving him a poor mark. The teacher should be sensible in all respects. By living properly, both the teacher and the student lay the foundations for better service. God is gracious and kind. If you serve Him, you will serve in Spirit and Truth. All this requires perfection. It is easy to serve God, but only if you have the deep inner striving to do it. Without that striving it will be difficult for you to serve God. You may say, “I want to see God and learn from Him.” – This is possible only if you are worthy of God. A wife gives her husband a hiding several times a day, and yet she is eager to see God. Well, she can’t. - Why? – Because she hasn’t coped with her husband yet. A husband bullies his wife, but he also wants to see God. His way to God is blocked. The husband and the wife stand for two principles that need to be reconciled. If you are a man, you should pay tribute to Caesar’s wife. If you are a woman, you should pay tribute to Caesar. What happens to the man and the woman on the outside occurs inside people too. Caesar and his wife exist both outside and inside man.
Many claim that the world is evil. I don’t believe this. What I tend to believe is that it is people who are bad, so whether the world is good or bad is determined by people. The world is just as bad as people are. When speaking about the world, you should mean your personal world and not the world created by God. If you are indisposed, do not think that the same refers to all people. You have no right to infer from your disposition or indisposition about all people. As for the Caesar in you, you should be kind and gentle to him, ready to give him what rightly belongs to him. You will study his character to treat him properly. – He is a tax collector. – Never mind. You will apologise for being behind with the money and give it to him. You should not swear, nor grumble. You will be calm and quiet. If you are short-tempered here, you will be the same in heaven. People remain the same when in heaven. They will be extremely strict with you there. You can be expelled from there only for knitting your brows, or sulking. You can wear your sulky expression here as much as you want, but this is unacceptable in heaven. An Angel was sent back to earth for a thousand years for frowning just once. Caesar is more lenient in this respect. He fails to see the constant frowning and scowling of man.
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” This means: Fulfill your duty to God. If you fail to perform your duty to God, you will be pretty much like the American whose chief priority in life was money, but in his death bed he became aware of his situation and told his sons, “Do not follow my example. I lived only for my wealth and now I cannot count on anybody in the other world. So, you should put in my coffin all kinds of money. I hope it helps me.” When he went to heaven, he soon felt hungry and thirsty and stopped at a refreshment stall where roast chicken, fish and fruit were sold. He asked how much the chicken was – “1 rupche1. Everything here costs 1 rupche.” – “Well, it is so cheap here! I can buy anything!” The rich man took out twenty levs and wanted to buy everything on the stall. – “We do not use such currency here. The coin of exchange here is the rupche.” The rich man called his sons to send him a bag full of rupches. On receiving the rupches, he went to the stall to buy something. – “We do not take such rupches here.” And this time they kicked him out.
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” This is the only way man can get rid of suffering. Anyone leaving for heaven unprepared tends to suffer. It is important for everyone to live. – How should one live? – Sensibly. There are people who lose their temper at trifles. Learn from the Sun. When you see it in the morning, it greets you with a smile. On setting in the evening, it turns its back on you. Should you be angry at it? You are often cross at each other without a sound reason. You are often angry that someone has not given you a proper welcome.
Once a writer visited a rich man’s home to ask for a loan. The rich man pretended not to be at home and told his servant, “Tell the visitor that I am not in.” Although the writer heard the man say this, he did not get angry. One day the rich man needed a favour from the writer. He went to his house and knocked at the door. The writer opened the front door and said, “I am not in.” – “How’s that? I can see and hear you. Don’t tell me you are not in.” – “How strange! I believed your servant’s words. Why don’t you believe me? I am here, but not for you.
So, when in future, you go to God, He will say, “I am not here” – “How’s that? We can see you.” – “ I am here, but not for you.” Now that you know this, you should not be angry with the Sun. It neither rises, nor sets. The sunrise and the sunset are nothing but an illusion created by the rotation of the Earth round its axis. Your earth and my earth rotate in exactly the same way. When coming to me, you should know whether my earth is rotating or not; whether my sun is rising or not. If my sun is setting, you’d better not come. Misunderstandings and sufferings occur as a result of untimely visits. Someone died. He died because his sun set. So sorrow suggests the setting of the sun. The sun sets in some direction – it means that one grows old and dies. The sun rises from another direction – one is born. Old age is to the west and youth is to the east. You will say that this is an allegory. No, this is alchemy. One day, when you get to know this art, you will transform according to your desires: you will get old or young; you will become a man or a woman. The same happens at the theatre: the young man becomes old and the old man becomes young. Such is the law of illusions.
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” Is this the way people act? Is this the way Christians act? There are Christians who do not stick to this law, yet they criticise others. It shows that they have not learnt the laws of the world. The world and people of the world are in their right place; they have their great predestination. I have respect for people of the world. Most of them are sincere. If they have something to tell you, they will say it directly and not behind your back. Most people speak behind your back. If you have something unpleasant to tell someone, you’d better say it in a straightforward way yet politely and candidly. People of the world are fond of sincerity and cleanness. They regularly have a bath, change their clothes, use scents – they love the fragrance of flowers. Religious people avoid doing this as they find it improper. If they do not use scent, they’d better have a bath more often so that they will not stink. We have to change radically. This is what Jesus teaches us in His parables.
“On hearing that those invited to the wedding refused to come, the king sent an army to destroy the killers and burn their town to ashes.”(-7) This is what I say: Forget about yourselves and think carefully. You will say that I am telling you off. I am not scolding anybody, as this is not my mission. I am not adept at this. Scolding is a dangerous job. It is quite similar to performing surgery, requiring Faith and Courage. What I am speaking about is calculus. It deals with the numbers from 1 to 10. When you grasp the inner sense of these numbers you will be able to determine your attitude to God and your fellow creatures. The biggest number is the unit. When you understand the unit, you will be able to comprehend all the remaining numbers and ratios. All the other numbers come as a result of the division of the unit into smaller numbers.
So, the unit is the tree and the remaining numbers are the branches, the twigs, the leaves, the buds and the blossom of a tree. Not being aware of his worth, man grumbles and loses temper. He does not have the slightest notion of being just a twig, a leaf, or a bud from the tree. No matter how loud his cries are, they cannot be heard. If you are a leaf you should try to get as much sap of life as possible. If you are a small root, you should try to give the tree more nourishment. – I want to know what people think of me. – Being part of the tree means that you serve God. It does not matter whether you are beautiful or not. What counts is what you do as being part of the tree. Do not look down on the fallen leaves; do not judge them. Falling down is not their fault. There is some force that has prematurely torn them off the tree. Nevertheless, they will pay tribute to Caesar. Later they will appear on the tree again, able to render to God the things that are His. This is how you should think. Then you will suffer again, only that your awareness of suffering will be raised. There are two types of sufferings – conscious, when one is aware of the reasons, and unconscious, when one grumbles and complains, exaggerating them. Therefore a clever, religious and cultivated man is one who can cope with sufferings and use them reasonably.
My understanding of culture is extensive application of religion. A truly religious person is one who does not live only with the mind and heart, but with the soul, too. Culture suggests thinning out of religion, while religion suggests thickening of culture. When saying that one has to be cultured, I mean that one should thin out by learning about all existent relationships among people and studying the structure of the state along with its regulations and institutions. This is Caesar’s culture. When one gets to the in-depth relations to God and Nature, discerning the insignificant from the significant, then he will be able to understand Christ properly and recognise Him. Jesus taught people to be interested in culture – how to show and apply it. Caesar stands for culture and Jesus represents religion. I say, “ Render to culture the things that rightly belong to it, and to religion the things that you owe it.” Religion is worthless without culture.
One should start from the visible, moving step by step towards the invisible. The personality you can reveal as a cultured man will be just the same as the one you will have as a religious person. If you are short-tempered and fond of lying in your cultured life, you will be such in your religious life. Fondness for lying means concealing the Truth. You should be pure and sincere. Such a person can face God at any time. How will you look at a person who is infectious? You give him a friendly welcome, while he is bringing in your home the germs of some contagious disease. You will be utterly displeased with such a man. You should bear in mind that any visit you pay is an appearance in front of God. You should face God clean and pure. There are religious people who are cursed to bear malediction to the world – the most appalling bacillus. All that can be unintentional, yet they have to be wary of danger and clean themselves. Therefore, if you are not in the right frame of mind or angry, do not pay a visit to a friend. You should visit a friend only when God is with you. This is what Jesus taught people.
What is Jesus’ teaching? It is a Divine book, from which anybody could read. I am looking through it every day. Some people say that they have spoken to God. It is possible but only if one has reached a high step on the ladder and purified himself. You will say that you are a learned person and you have access to God. You may be knowledgeable about your surroundings, but certainly not about Christ. Your knowledge does not open the path to Christ. One needs humility. Learned as you are, can you tell me how long you will live, how many children you will have and what they will be like? – I do not know how long I will live, nor how many children I will have. – You do not know about things that refer to you. How can you speak then about things that are far from you? You have to study. There is a teaching about the heart and a teaching about the mind. The heart belongs to Caesar, and the mind is God’s. Some times it is vice versa – the mind is Caesar’s and the heart belongs to God. Therefore, you should devote your mind to what belongs to it, and commit your heart to what is pertaining of it. Do not stop the springs. Do not stop the flow of rivers. Correct and clean their beds so that they can flow freely. Do not dry up your rivers. Do not cut down the forests. A lot has to be said to modern people so that they can understand matters according to their stage of development.
Consciousness can be revealed in three aspects: mechanical, physiological and psychological. In mechanical consciousness processes run from the inside to the outside. These processes occur in Nature. Many rivers flow into one big muddy river. Processes in the mechanical consciousness are not Divine. The processes in the physiological and psychological consciousness run from the outside to the inside. You needn’t drop the bucket into the well to pull out water. The water flows naturally by itself. Thanks to this outward flow, the mud goes out and the spring gets pure. This is the spring on which Jesus works. It is this spring that He wants you to have. But as soon as you see Jesus’ desire, you block the spring in defiance to Him. In the end, you have to settle for the small rivers flowing into one big river, saying, “I am big enough.” – Yes, you are big but meddled. You’d better be a small and pure spring rather than a big and muddy river. This is the path leading to God’s Kingdom.
You should make a free choice. It is up to you to decide whether to opt for the small and pure spring or for the big and muddy river. Your welfare depends on your decision. This is what rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s means.
11. A lecture given by the Master on 31st December, 1916, Sofia
1 An old copper coin, five stotinki