15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”
18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
In Jesus’ days the Essenes were a religious group who had cut themselves off completely from daily life. They would not associate themselves with politics because it was beneath their religious calling. The Sadducees and Herodians were the complete opposite. They were in bed with the political powers of the day and if they had any religion at all they had emptied it of its power. Jesus takes a middle road where a person takes care of both their religious and political obligations as citizens of the State and of the Kingdom of God. He does not advocate separated living. He advocates a life where one’s political obligations are a function of the integrated life of discipleship.
Would you then consider yourself as taking care of obligations to the state in a God-honouring way? Are you engaged in local politics? What does local politics attempt to solve? Do yu resent paying taxes? Should Christians be in any way interested in what their tax dollars are supporting? The emphases of our political involvement are up for debate – even the strength of involvement. However, we do not have the option of detaching ourselves from political life. For example, we should not refuse to pay taxes because it supports and earthly kingdom.
- Why did the Pharisees ask Jesus about taxes?
- What did Jesus’ response teach?
- How would people of Jesus’ day be challenged by Jesus’ response?
- A recent study showed that graduates of Christian schools were involved less in politics than their peers. Why do you think that might be?
- In what ways are you involved in local and national government – do you just pay your taxes or do you do more?