So What Is Caesar’s??

renderuntocaesar-nomadicpolitics

A well known exchange here between Jesus and the Pharisees surrounding the question of whether or not the Jews of the day should be paying taxes to Caesar or not. Historically, we have read this and used this to say that, yes, clearly Jesus says we should be paying taxes. I’m reading this today, and I don’t think it’s clear at all.  I don’t think Jesus actually answers the question, He simply laughs at it.

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Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. So, we see that the whole purpose of the question is to try to catch Jesus saying something which they could report to the Roman government. They were trying to create their own “gotcha” moment we might say today.
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?” Actually…the Herodians came with them…this really is a setup!! And such sweet words, appealing to the ego of Jesus. You teach God’s word so truthfully, you are just and true.

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But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” Is it any wonder He called them hypocrites? 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.” And there we have it…Jesus says render to Caesar that which is Caesars, pay your taxes!! But reading this, I don’t think Jesus is telling these Pharisees to pay their taxes. I’m not sure He’s telling us to pay our taxes. I don’t think He even answered the question put before Him. I think He took the opportunity here to do what He did (and does) best – to give those asking Him the question a window into their own hearts, their very souls. This is why it ends with When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. Not because Jesus had just outwitted their fancy scheme to entrap Him, but because in his answer he showed them the emptiness of their pursuits and priorities. It showed them where their hearts really lie.

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Because – Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Their coins have Caesar’s picture and inscription, right? Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” If Caesar’s picture is on the coin…then give him his silly coin!! It must be his anyway!! Do you see what Jesus is saying here? These Pharisees, and I’m sure the rest of God’s people, have their hearts and desires set on the wrong treasure. They (and we) forget that they are supposed to be trusting in God, not Caesars coins. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew‬ ‭6:26‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We forget where our true value comes from. We forget where our blessings come from. We forget how we were made. We forget whose image is on us. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭20:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Some trust in chariots and some in horses. Some trust in aircraft carriers, some in nuclear warheads. Some trust in Navy seals, some trust in F-35 fighter jets. Some trust in “straight cash homie”, some trust in 401(k). But we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Make a list. In fact, make two lists. In one, list that which belongs to Caesar. In the other, list that which belongs to God. Check them twice.

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Now take them both to God. What does He think of your lists? “The earth is the Lord ‘s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭24:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“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.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭22:15-22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.22.15-22.esv

John Lewis

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10 thoughts on “So What Is Caesar’s??

  1. Good insight and writing, John! The parables and questions Jesus asked were wonderful….and like you did here, each could and should be read again….so often I tend to speed read scriptures and I’m sure miss much of the intended meaning. Thank you for inspiring a reminder to slow down!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, I just love this post John! I’ve thought about this before believe it or not. I thought why on earth would Jesus tell us to pay our taxes. Haha.. no, not in those words- but what I questioned was the fact that taxes are a worldly thing that should have nothing to do with the Kingdom of Heaven! And I believe you hit the nail on the head. I hope that came out right. Anyway, thanks for sharing- as always. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much!! Yes, I think it came out just right. I think focusing on taxes is focusing on the irrelevant on Kingdom matters. Of course….we should pay our taxes!! It’s a very poor witness to the kingdom to be locked up or having assets seized for not paying them. That, too, would show a focus on wrong things….our own money!!

      Liked by 1 person

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