Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?” Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” His reply completely amazed them.
Mark 12:13-17 NLT
A combination of Pharisees and Herodians come to question Jesus. They are not seeking the truth but simply trying to trick Jesus into saying something that would be either a religious or legal problem for Him. The Pharisees did not like Roman taxation because it reminded them that they were subjected to Roman rule. The Herodians favored the tax because they supported Herod and the public services provided by Rome. The Roman denarius was a small silver coin and was the only coin acceptable for imperial tax payments. On one side of the coin would be an image of the present Caesar with his name, probably at his time it would have said, “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, Son of the Divine Augustus.” On the other side would be his title, “Chief Priest.” In the Roman world they had elevated the emperor to divinity. Something that was very repulsive to the Jewish religious leaders. When Jesus asked to see a coin, He asked whose image was on the coin. They replied, “Caesar’s.” Jesus then said to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. This would mean that Jesus was not denying the benefits of civil government or the right of such a government to receive taxes from the citizens to whom they serve. But Jesus added something else to His answer. Jesus said, “Give to God what belongs to God.” With this statement Jesus was stating that while Caesar had the right to rule in civil matters, God was the true ruler over the universe including Rome and Caesar was not God. Mark was writing his gospel to a primarily Roman audience. This exchange would have been important for them to see that Jesus made a distinction between God and Caesar. Jesus recognized Caesar’s right to rule on earth through a civil government. But Caesar did not have spiritual authority. He was not divine. As children of God we have a responsibility to respect the laws of our land. We receive benefits of living in a country that provides laws, roads, utilities, and benefits to us as citizens. Therefore, we have an obligation to pay our part for these services. But we also have a responsibility to God. We must recognize that there is a higher power than our local government. Our first loyalty is to Jehovah God and His Word and will. When there is no conflict, we can serve both. When there is conflict, our priority is to please God.
Holy Spirit help me to remember my civil and spiritual responsibility. Help me to know how to properly navigate the challenges of living in an increasingly secular society that wants to remove You and Your influence.
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