The financial pastor for a church got a call from the IRS one day, “Thank you for taking my call. We are auditing the taxes for a member of your congregation, Mr. Jones. We see that he donated $129,0000 to the church last year. Can you confirm this please?” The financial pastor replied, “Give me one moment and I will gladly take a look.” He looks and finds no gift that big to the church and goes back on the line and told the IRS ,”Sure thing. He certainly will!”
Mark 12:14b-17 (TNIV)
14b Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. 17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.
I am always amazed at what Jesus says when His detractors are trying to trick Him. Here, Jesus is being asked by a group of Pharisees and Herodians who are clearly attempting to trap Jesus, yet again, with words. They ask Jesus this question about paying taxes to Caesar, yet they really aren’t looking for an answer. They simply want to put Jesus in a dilemma, a dilemma between the religious and political ramifications of their question. Interestingly enough, the Pharisees were against these taxes on religious grounds while the Herodians supported taxes based on political grounds.
They know that if Jesus agreed to pay taxes to Caesar, the Pharisees would say that He was opposed to God, and the people would turn against Him. You see, the Jews hated to pay taxes to Rome because much of the money went to maintain heathen temples and the luxurious lifestyles of Rome’s upper class. And indeed, Caesar demanded to be worshiped as a God which of course was extremely offensive to Israel.
They know also that if Jesus said that taxes should not be paid to Caesar, the Herodians would then be able to hand Him over to Herod and Jesus could be charged with rebellion.
They thought they had him this time! No way of escape! They laid a fool-proof trap! NOT!
Jesus did just as they initially said when they approached him with flattery, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.”
Jesus taught that our citizenship in our nation requires that we pay money for the services that we receive. Additionally, Jesus taught that our citizenship in the kingdom of God/the kingdom of heaven requires that we pledge to God our heart and our commitment to His love and wisdom. In short, we have obligations to both God and our government. Indeed, when the two conflict, God must always come first.
1 Peter 2:17 (The Message Version)
Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.
I want to point out something interesting here, in verse 14b, “Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”, as well as verse 15, “Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”, the word “pay” is translated from the Greek word, “didomi” [did-o-mee] which simply means, “to give”. However, when Jesus replies, he says, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” The Greek word Jesus uses that is translated as “give” is “apodidomi” [ap-od-eed-o-mee], which has a fuller meaning of, “a payment on an obligation” or “to pay a debt”. Note that Jesus says to “apodidomi” to both Caesar and God.
I saw it best said in the NIV Application Commentary, “Jesus does not divide life into two realms, the sacred and the secular. ‘The things that are Caesar’s’ should not be interpreted to mean that Caesar has control of the political sphere while God keeps control only of the religious sphere. Obviously, Jesus would not regard Caesar and God to be counterparts. There is only one Lord of the world.”
I love the ending of verse 17, again, and again, and again………they were “AMAZED”. To read more about this “amazement”, click here.