The tax deadline for Americans is April 15th. I know no one likes to talk about taxes, but we are looking at them from a Biblical perspective.
That makes it ALL better, doesn’t it.
In Matthew chapter 22, some religious leaders sent their cronies to ask Jesus what he thought about paying Roman taxes.
If Jesus answered to pay Caesar, he would be called a traitor. Any Jew who was pro-Rome was seen as a collaborator for the very government that was oppressing them. This would have easily turned the people against him.
If Jesus said not to pay taxes, they could report him to the Romans where he would be labeled a rebel.
Rebels were punished by death.
So, the Pharisees sent their disciples along with some Herod loyalists to try and trap Jesus. They asked the question. Here we see Jesus’ response, after he calls them hypocrites for trying to trap him…
Jesus said, “Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “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.” When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away. (NIV)
Caesar asserted his authority over conquered nations in every way possible. He would destroy their financial system and incorporate the country under Roman currency. Thus, they were expected to pay Roman taxes. One of the taxes was one denarius a year (a days wage) per person.
This bothered the Jewish people a great deal for many reasons. The most prominent was the coins had Caesar’s face engraved on them.
This was repulsive to the Jewish people because they considered the coins a “graven image”.
Graven images were not allowed in the temple. They were against God’s commands. People worshipped graven images then, as some do today. But today people aren’t as aware they are doing it.
When the leaders asked Jesus the tax question while in the temple, they had a coin available to show him. This alone shows us the twisted hearts of the questioners. And the fact that they had been… busted.
They had forgotten to fear God and instead were clinging to graven things.
In that day, everything under Caesar’s rule was considered his. Coins had his face on them. There were temples where people were expected to go, toss a coin in and say “Caesar is Lord”.
But the Jewish people knew everything was not Caesar’s, but God’s.
Jesus was well aware of the true pecking order, even if Caesar and the Romans were not.
When Jesus said give Caesar his due, he was saying respect those in power. This concept is echoed by Paul in 1 Timothy 2:1-4. Jesus was not about overthrowing the government as some suspected.
But then he also said give to God what is His.
And God has claim to everything.
He created the earth, moon, stars, and space.
He created power structures, families, and time.
He created our minds, bodies, spirits, and personalities.
We are created in His image. That is what defines us. Not some cheap engraved something that can de destroyed, or worse, destroy us when our priorities get out of whack.
So be sure to pay your taxes to the government.
But more importantly, remember in whose image you were made. And make sure you give to God all that is His.
To learn more about this passage, go to http://jcstudies.com/resourceDetail.cfm?productId=234&quicksearch=true&searchForm=In%20Whos