“Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”” (Luke 20:22, NIV84)
Jesus has taken over the temple on the biggest week of the Jewish church year (Passover). There is nothing that they can do about it. Can you imagine how infuriating this was to the religious leaders? Jesus was upsetting everything. So, the religious leaders begin to conspire. They sent spies into the temple to listen to what Jesus was teaching. Their hope was to catch Jesus in some kind of false teaching. If they could do that, then they could shut down Jesus’ popularity and regain control of the temple and the entire passover week.
They finally come to Jesus with the perfect question. They are certain that this question will force Jesus into a conflict either with the Roman state or the Jewish believers. The question: “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” If Jesus says it is not right to pay taxes, they can get him in trouble with the Roman government as an insurrectionist. If He says that it is right to pay taxes, then the religious leaders can claim to the Jewish believers that Jesus is pro-Rome.
How does Jesus answer the question? He asks for a coin, and then asks, “Whose inscription is on it?” They respond Caesar. Jesus says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Note, they do not ask the question what should be given to God, but Jesus provides an all encompassing answer. Jesus was asking them, and is asking us, to understand that God’s name is inscribed upon us. God has created us, redeemed us, and has a right to claim us as His own. We are called to understand that all we have is a gift from God. The state may claim some of what we have for its services, but God has claim to our hearts.
So let’s give to Caesar (the government) what it has claim to, but let’s give the rest to the service of the kingdom of God.