PAY ME MY MONEY DOWN
Lord, you are the source of all things good. Help me to focus on what I have rather than what I may lack.
Read MATTHEW 22:15–22
Paying the Imperial Tax to Caesar
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.
- Matthew 22:17 A special tax levied on subject peoples, not on Roman citizens
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectPraise and worship God for his creation and reflect before him on what it means for you to be made in his image (Genesis 1:27).
Quite apart from anything else, this encounter demonstrates the futility of pretending before God. Jesus sees straight through the feigned praise of the Pharisees and Herodians (v 16) and exposes their hypocrisy, not only verbally (v 18), but also visually.
By inviting his questioners to produce a denarius (v 19), Jesus forces them to reveal that they carry Roman currency. This was held by the Jews to be idolatrous on account of the coins bearing the image of the emperor and an inscription declaring him to be both a divine son and high priest. Suddenly, those who came to trap Jesus as an enemy of the state look suspiciously like friends of Rome and therefore, opponents of God. Jesus, however, has no objection to paying the poll tax; to do so is to give back to Caesar what is due to Caesar (v 21), with no suggestion that the payment in any way compromises devotion to God. We therefore need to consider very carefully under what circumstances might civil disobedience be sometimes a faithful expression, and sometimes a failure, of true worship.
God must also be given what is due to him (v 21). In the immediate context this likely refers to the fruit of obedience, including that of accepting and submitting to Jesus as Messiah and Lord.
How might Jesus’ teaching here inform Christian action to address contemporary political and societal issues?
Eternal One, I pray that you will keep me from hypocrisy. May my words and actions be truthful expressions of my inner feelings.
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