20And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” 21They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:20-22)

 

The image on the denarius, the only small silver coin acceptable for imperial tax payments, was probably that of Tiberius Caesar (reigned ad 14-37). The inscription on one side of the coin read, “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, Son of the Divine Augustus,” and the reverse side read, “Chief Priest.” This inscription was a claim to divinity and, as emperor, the right to be worshiped.

The religious Jews had tried many times to trap Jesus on issues of the Law and had always failed. Now they approached Him about paying taxes, hoping His answer would give them the opportunity to deliver Him to Pilate for prosecution. They reasoned any answer He gave would be wrong. If He approved of the Roman taxes, then He would lose popularity with the masses. If He spoke against the Roman taxes, then the Jews would hand Him over to the Roman government and Pilate would dispose of Him. It looked like they finally had Jesus in their power.

Jesus, however, answered with such simple wisdom that these Pharisees and Herodians were caught in their own trap and made to look like fools. He declared, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17). People are made in God’s image, so they must render to God the things belonging to God (our lives) and to Caesar the things belonging to Caesar (his money and other benefits of his rule).

People today tend to grumble a lot about paying taxes and bills, but even Jesus saw the need for these things. When you know that God is your source and your life belongs to Him, then you want to give to and bless others like He does. The next time you pay your taxes and bills, honor God and do it joyfully, knowing you are contributing to the lives of others.