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Matthew 22:17-22


17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. 22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

The disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians came to Jesus with their question, which they thought would cause Jesus to give an answer that would discredit Him to either the common people or the government. The Pharisees were adamantly opposed to the taxes of the Roman government, and the Herodians were probably a group who were loyal to it.

They came to Him with compliments (vv. 15-16) in order to soften Him up, but Jesus saw beyond their external courtesies and knew their hearts. The hypocritical hearts of men cannot be hidden from Him and will not earn us any compliments from him. "Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?" He knew that they were not honestly seeking His opinion, but were putting Him to a test. Jesus is not deceived by man's wickedness and He never covered up the truth for courtesy's sake. He called them what they were, "Ye, hypocrites."

The question that they asked Him was cleverly conceived,.. or so they thought. If He answered that they should pay the taxes, the common people would condemn Him as a traitor to Israel. They were expecting Him to lead a rebellion against the Romans. If He said they should not pay the taxes, the Roman government could arrest Him as a rebel.

Jesus, however, did not recognize their controversy. Asking to see one of the coins by which the taxes had to be paid, He had them identify it by the inscription and image that appeared on it. The money belonged to the Roman government. Legally, the use of a government's money as the currency of the land subjects the people to the jurisdiction of that government. The principle is simple: If you want to enjoy the privileges afforded by the government, you must submit to their jurisdiction and abide by their laws.

On the other hand, Jesus' kingdom was not of this world. He had instructed His followers to give spiritual matters a much higher priority than material wealth. Spiritual matters were under the jurisdiction of God, who was the supreme authority even over the Roman government. The Roman tax was calculated according to the estimated material wealth of a man. Those men, who focused their lives on laying up heavenly treasures, would probably have little material wealth and would pay very little tax.

Obedience to the government is only required so long as it does not interfere with our allegiance to God. When government tries to control the exercise of our faith or to limit the free exercise of the same in any way, our loyalties must be to God, and government must be disobeyed. "We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)

Although they probably did not understand the depths of wisdom that were contained in Jesus' words, the people marveled at the way He answered. He had escaped yet another trap and had used the occasion to teach them a profound truth on which to meditate.

It should also give each of us something on which to meditate. There are too many Christians who are so entwined in worldly affairs and so obligated to governments and corporations (mini governments) that we have difficulty giving Christ the allegiance that we owe. We do not belong to this world nor to ourselves. We have been bought with a price. " What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" (1 Cor. 6:19) You cannot serve two masters, especially considering the spiritual warfare that we are called to fight. "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." (2 Tim 2:4)

Before the Throne:

Pray that God would help you throw off your worldly entanglements. Obligations of debt and of unnecessary political and social commitments should be placed before Him today. Seek His guidance and commit to making Him the sovereign authority in your life. Stop rendering to Caesar the things that are God's. Pray for our nation as it continues to stray from the recognition of God's sovereign authority.

For Further Study:

** What. Jer 42:2-3, 20; Ac 28:22; ** is. De 17:14-15; Ezr 4:13; 7:24; Ne 5:4; 9:37; Ac 5:37; Ro 13:6,7; ** Caesar. Lu 2:1; Joh 19:12-15; Ac 17:7; 25:8;

(v.18) ** perceived. Mr 2:8; Lu 5:22; 9:47; 20:23; Joh 2:25; Re 2:23; ** Why. Mt 16:1-4; 19:3; Mr 12:5; Lu 10:25; Joh 8:6; Ac 5:9;

(v.19) ** a penny. Mt 18:28; 20:2; Re 6:6;

(v.20) ** superscription. Lu 20:24;

(v.21) ** Render. Pr 24:21; Mt 17:25-27; Lu 23:2; Ro 13:7; ** and. Da 3:16-18; 6:10-11, 20-23; Mal 1:6-8; 3:8-10; Mt 4:10; Ac 4:19; 5:29; 1Pe 2:13-17;

(v.22) ** they marvelled. Pr 26:4-5; Mt 10:16; Lu 20:25-26; 21:15; Ac 6:10; Col 4:6;


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