13 Later the religious leaders sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus. They wanted to trap him with his own words. 14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of honor. You don’t let other people tell you what to do or say. You don’t care how important they are. But you teach the way of God truthfully. Is it right to pay the royal tax to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” But Jesus knew what they were trying to do. So he asked, “Why are you trying to trap me? Bring me a silver coin. Let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin. He asked them, “Whose picture is this? And whose words?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. 17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. And give back to God what belongs to God.” They were amazed at him.
Once Jesus told the parable of the talents, the religious leaders could see the people were turning against them – v 12. So representatives (Luke 20 v 20 refers to them as spies) of two of the major Jewish sects, the Pharisees and Herodians, came to Jesus to corner him with a challenging question. Their purpose – to have Jesus arrested for treason or to have the people turn against him.
The question is all about authority – social or political and divine. Being occupied and subjugated by a foreign power, most Jews were keen to see the back of their Roman rulers. One particularly odious aspect of occupation was paying tax, once per year, so if Jesus said there was no obligation to pay it he would be a hero to the people. However he would also be arrested for treason, the Jewish Herodians being allied with the Romans.
Jesus teaches something important in his answer. Authority comes from God, so I am to respect those God has established and pay what I owe (Paul expands on this theme in Romans 13). However I am also “to give to God what is God’s”. God has the ultimate authority over my life, whether I recognise it or not. What am I “to give to God”? It’s more than a question of money. I give God honour and praise because he is my wonderful Lord who saved me when I was his enemy. I give God my disappointments and struggles because he lifts me up and strengthens me. I give him my future because he loves me and has a plan for me. I give everything to God.
Thank you Jesus for your humility that when trickery was played out against you, you showed grace and pointed us to the Father. I recognise your authority over my life and the whole world. Amen
Written by Claire Moore