WHAT CAN I GIVE HIM?
Lord, Your enemies don’t stand a chance.
Read MARK 12:13–17
Paying the Imperial Tax to Caesar
13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him.
a Mark 12:14 A special tax levied on subject peoples, not on Roman citizens
New International Version (NIV)
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“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us” (Eph 1:7,8).
Attempts to frame Jesus having so far failed, a different set of antagonists step in with a new strategy. The Pharisees and the Herodians, ordinarily sworn enemies, now address Jesus with platitudes, hoping to disarm him before springing their trap: “Is it right to pay the poll-tax to Caesar or not?” If Jesus answers “yes”, He will appear to endorse the Roman ruler – the man who through the inscription on his coinage claims to be the son of a god and the highest priest (Hendriksen, 1975, p483). Such an endorsement would enrage devout Jews. But if Jesus answers “no”, He risks enraging the Roman authorities. Either way, He stands to lose, or so it might seem.
The duplicity of man, however, here confronts the wisdom of God. “Yes”, Jesus answers, without committing himself to the word: if you are to benefit from the state, pay your dues to the state, the argument goes (17) (Hendriksen, 1975, p483). He has answered their question, yet has something of greater import to add: give back to God what is God’s. As with the cursing of the fig tree, the cleansing of the temple and the parable of the tenants, Jesus is yet again passing judgment on Israel for failing to return to God what is due (Hendriksen, 1975,p475–476). The Jewish people have been enjoying the benefits of being God’s chosen nation but without giving God His rightful return. This challenges us to assess how we also, as God’s chosen people, have responded to his goodness and grace.
What, then, ought we to give back to God? Appropriately rephrased, is there anything that we ought not to give back to God? It is difficult to imagine even one thing that we should withhold from the God who gave us all things (1 Chr 29:14).
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you anything you may be withholding from God – finances, trust, devotion… Ask for help to give back to our generous and gracious God.
Lord, I give to You what is Yours and to the government what is theirs, as You have commanded.