“Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Luke 20:22, NIV84)
Jesus had taken over the temple on the biggest week of the Jewish church year (Passover). There is nothing that the religious leaders could do about it. Can you imagine how infuriating this was to the them? Jesus was upsetting everything. So, the religious leaders began 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 came to Jesus with the perfect question. They were certain that this question would 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 said it was not right to pay taxes, they could get him in trouble with the Roman government as an insurrectionist. If He said that it was right to pay taxes, then the religious leaders could claim to the Jewish believers that Jesus was pro-Rome.
How did Jesus answer the question? He asked for a coin, and then asked, “Whose inscription is on it?” They responded that is was Caesar’s. Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Note, they did not ask the question, “What should be given to God?”, but Jesus provided 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.