‘Give to God what is God’s’
By David Malcom
In all three synoptic Gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke, we are given the account of a group of religious leaders sent to Jesus with the intent of presenting a question.
There are a couple of things that should immediately catch our attention. First, whenever an account is mentioned in three gospel accounts our ears should immediately perk up; God is stressing something! Secondly, two groups, the Sadducees and the Herodians, are said to be represented (Mark 12:13), both are groups adamantly opposed to Jesus and His teaching.
So what is this all important question? ”Is it lawful or right in God’s eyes to pay taxes to Caesar?” At face value it seems simple enough right? Almost harmless. These pious people want to do what’s right in the eyes of God regarding their money. However, the underlying question is much deeper.
God’s people are under Roman rule and are expecting the Messiah, the Savior, to come and set them free from oppressive rule. So for Jesus to answer “Yes” would put Him in immediate opposition to His own followers, causing them to discredit His claim to be the One. However to answer “No” would give just cause for him to be imprisoned for treason.
So what does Jesus answer? He asks for a coin, an example of the currency used to pay these oppressive taxes. He takes the coin and holds it up for all in the crowd to see. He then turns the tables and asks the inquirers, “Whose image and inscription is this?” The answer: Caesar’s. Jesus then says, “Rend to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” making the simple observation that what they are concerned with clinging to already belonged to Caesar, on account of it bearing his picture and name. However He doesn’t stop there, Jesus finishes the sentence saying, “… and to God what is God’s.”
To the casual onlooker it seems simple enough, pay taxes and pay to God what He is owed.
We often read the text that way, as if this was an economics lesson on tithing and stewardship. The text is so much deeper though. When Jesus brought to attention the image and then responded, “Give to God what is God’s,” He was cutting to the core of their question. You see, the Bible tells us in Genesis that man was made in God’s image.
So Jesus’ broad statement was much more serious. He was in essence saying, why do you question what you have to do? You have issues with an oppressive government? Concentrate on being the people of God, all of you, and these things will take their respective place.
Why worry about a coin with a man’s image on it? It already belongs to him, it only has value in his economy. In the same way, the value of man is in the image placed on it.
Today, we could separate ourselves from much of the questions about what is required of us and what we must do, if we simply walk in the earth bearing His image. With all in the media regarding freedom from religion, persecution of Christians and the blatant mockery of our beliefs as being irrelevant in a post-modern culture, it can be easy to be anxious for God to establish His Kingdom as rule over the land.
That’s my prayer, “Lord, establish righteous government.” We want God to right our economy and our justice system.
Could it be though, that the Lord is looking to establish righteous image bearers given to God? Then He will have righteous government.
David Malcom is the pastor of Trinity Gospel Church. He can be contacted at email@example.com.