A TRAP OVER TAX
God, give me wisdom today.
Read Luke 20:20–26
Paying Taxes to Caesar
20 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
25 He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.
New International Version (NIV)
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ReflectAre there times when your loyalty to Jesus is in conflict with your duties toward someone else?
Entrapment is the name of the game here. Aware of the adulation of the crowds, there’s little opportunity for the authorities to seize Jesus openly. Perhaps he can be made to look stupid or disloyal to Caesar? Emperor worship was widespread – reinforced everywhere with inscriptions, images, statues, altars and, of course, coins. Technically it was illegal for a Jew to carry a coin since it was a graven image of a “god,” although it didn’t stop them (23)!
Taxation of the Jews was crippling – Roman historian Tacitus called it onerous. Most people in the Roman Empire lived in some degree of poverty, so that a minority could flourish. Yet if Jesus recommends deliberate disobedience by withholding taxes, there will be military action against an already suffering people. His answer is simple: if you use Caesar’s coins, pay what you owe – and the same applies to God (25).
At its heart, this incident is again about authority. In Luke 20:2 Jesus is challenged about the authority on which he himself acts and speaks. Here, it’s an outright contest between him and the authority of Rome.
Do you give to God all that belongs to Him? Or do you keep what He has given you for yourself and your own use? How can you live with open hands and heart today?
My God, all I have belongs to You. May I never live in a tightfisted way, but may I realize Your ownership over my life.