In chapter twenty-two of the Gospel of Matthew, there is a discussion between the Pharisees and Jesus. The Pharisees are not interested in learning anything from Jesus. They want to trip him up and discredit him before the people.
Matthew writes, “Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’”
Jesus already knew that these men were plotting against him and only desired to discredit him to those who followed him. They didn’t want anyone to upset their place in society and change anything in their world. They were quite content with the way things were. They had power and worked a very fine line between their faith and the might of Rome. The last thing that they wanted was Rome sending more and more soldiers to subdue the people and threaten their world. Rome tolerated them and allowed them to keep their place in society. In short, a balance was struck and anything that could upset that balance was something the Pharisees weren’t going to have.
Jesus responds, “You hypocrites! Why are you trying to trap me? Here, show me the coin used for the tax.”
The Pharisees showed Jesus a Roman coin.
Jesus next asks them a simple question, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
The picture of Caesar was on the coin.
At the time, the denarius was a coin used as tax money and for commerce. It was made of silver and featured an image of the emperor with an inscription calling him “divine.” The Jews considered such images idolatry, forbidden by the second commandment.
If Jesus answered, “Yes,” he would be in trouble. His acceptance of the tax as “lawful” could have been seen as a rejection of the second commandment, thus casting doubt on His claim to be the Son of God.
On the other hand, if he rejects the paying of taxes, he could be jailed for telling people that they should not pay their taxes.
The Pharisees thought that they had him. In either response, Jesus would have either been discredited for rejecting the second commandment or been jailed for telling people not to pay their taxes.
Jesus blows up their little plot by saying, “Well, then, give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
His answer is more than just about giving Caesar his due and paying taxes. He was drawing a sharp distinction between two kingdoms. There is a kingdom of this world, and Caesar holds power over it. But there is another kingdom, not of this world, and Jesus is King of that. Christians are part of both kingdoms, at least temporarily. Under Caesar, we have certain obligations that involve material things. Under Christ, we have other obligations that involve things eternal. If Caesar demands money, give it to him. But, make sure you also give God what He demands.
Caesar had the right to have coins minted for use throughout the world. They were his to give and also his to take. It’s nothing more than metal stamped with his face. But, when you consider that, God has “minted” us. We are given salvation and we have a value far and above a gold or silver coin. No amount of money can purchase salvation. It is a gift that is given to us by God and it is our responsibility to accept or refuse that gift.
When you think about this discussion and its deeper meaning, you see that it is more than just a bunch of words being exchanged. It tells us about our place and value in God’s kingdom. The things of this world are fleeting. Nothing lasts forever. Our homes, cars, boats or whatever we own will one day rust, break or crumble. Our real treasure which cannot be purchased by gold or silver coins comes directly from the heart of the Father through His son, Christ Jesus.
So, in the end, it’s only money. God provides for all that you need and blesses you every single day. You don’t have to worry about things. He is always there for you and you don’t have anything to fear. As long as you keep your heart, mind and soul focused on Him and follow His plan for your life, you will walk in righteousness and be able to stand firm in His grace.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.