Matthew 22:15-22 - Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle Him (Jesus) in His words. And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that You are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and You do not care about anyone's opinion, for You are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what You think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why put Me to the test, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin for the tax." And they brought Him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said, "Caesar's." Then He said to them, "Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard it, they marveled. And they left Him and went away.
You've probably noticed that life is full of tricky questions. Do I eat the cupcake my granddaughter made for me, or do I stick to my diet? Do I glide through the intersection as the light changes from yellow to red, or do I stop? Or 2020's favorite: do I wear a face mask in response to COVID-19, or just wing it, assuming I (and everyone else) will be all right?
Here Jesus is given His own sticky question, courtesy of the Pharisees' disciples and some crony Herodians (Greek culture-loving Jews)—both fierce opponents of Jesus. They asked Him, "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" With a "No," Jesus might look like a rebel, scorning Roman rule and ready to fight the occupying power. With a "Yes," He might look submissive, yielding to Rome's tyrannical might to keep the peace.
Yes, life is full of difficult questions.
Jesus then, fully aware of their aim to test Him, takes a coin and asks them a question: "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" It was the face of Caesar. If they were looking to Jesus to get out of their tax obligation, they were misguided. He told them not only to pay the tax, but that the rest of what they possessed wasn't theirs to keep either. "Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
Any Jewish scholar in the first century knew what that meant: the coin might have Caesar's face on it, but the emperor, the nation, and the world itself belonged to God (see Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 24:1; Job 41:11). No matter how tight was Rome's grip on the Jews was, they were God's chosen people, set aside from long ago. "For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth" (Deuteronomy 14:2).
This is where the believer's true joy lies—in knowing we are God's, along with all we possess. Redeemed by the Father through Jesus' blood, we yield our lives to Him in faith, trusting His grace to supply us with everything we need.
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, remind us that we, and all we have, are Yours to keep. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Paul Schreiber.
1. What tricky question have you faced recently?
2. Why were the Pharisees always trying to ensnare Jesus in some word game or question about the Law?
3. How do you give to God the things that are God's? Are some things more difficult to turn over to Him than others?
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