Give to Caesar What Is Caesar’s
By Steph Nickel
When the Pharisees tried to trip Jesus up with questions about taxes, he told them to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. But what does this have to do with us?
The Pharisees Plot
Matthew 22:15-22 says,
“Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ They said, ‘Caesar’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.”
I would like to take a moment to tell you about one of my pet peeves. When someone uses flattery and what I consider insincere compliments, I immediately go on the defensive. My first thought is “What do they want now?”
And if I can see through this tactic, how foolish it was for the leaders in Jesus’ day to think He couldn’t. Their words really leave me shaking my head: “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.”
Now, if these words had been honest and sincere, that would have been a different story, but they weren’t. They were trying to trip Him up, this time in matters of civic responsibility rather than theology.
Give to Caesar What is Caesar’s
While there are times we must fight injustices in society, Jesus didn’t come to get involved in politics. He hadn’t come to overthrow the government and take His place as king, though this is what His followers hoped.
When he was asked if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, His answer surprised them. In fact, “they marveled.” They didn’t even stick around and try a different tactic. They walked away.
Why did they marvel? Well, actually, He simply stated the obvious, but it wasn’t what they expected. After asking whose image was on the coin, He said to pay Caesar what was Caesar’s—and God what was God’s.
Approach God Sincerely
So just what does this have to do with us? What can we learn and what can we teach our children from this account?
Though it may not be one of the main lessons God would have us take away from this passage, I would say that the first thing we can learn is that it isn’t a good idea to approach God insincerely, trying to get Him to do what we want, trying to force His hand.
Pray For Our Leaders
The Bible overflows with instruction that we are to make our needs known to God and request that He meet those needs, but we must do so humbly. We must have confidence in His character, confidence that He will do what is best even if it’s not what we would want Him to do. Right before His death, even the Lord Jesus said, “Not my will but Yours be done.” That is our ultimate example when it comes to prayer.
And Jesus made it clear that we have civic responsibilities. We should fulfill them without grumbling and complaining. Instead of criticizing our government officials, we should pray for them and teach our children to do the same.
Please note that I realize some countries are ruled by oppressive, abusive powers, but most of you who are listening today are free to speak up and make your voice heard. While we may have to exercise our rights and responsibilities to see that it stays that way, we must do so in a God-honouring way, remembering that our leaders need lots of prayer.
After all, it says in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 that we are to pray for our leaders. It says,
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
Give to God What Is God’s
And there is one more lesson I would like to share today, a lesson I believe is even more important than the previous two. In fact, it should mark every decision we make every day of our lives.
Romans 12:1-2 says,
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
And Jesus said in today’s passage that we are to give to God what is God’s—and that means all we have and all we are. If we remind ourselves and our children of this truth often, it will change everything.
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Dispute Between Jesus and the Pharisees- Gustav Doré
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