Mat 22:15 Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which He could be arrested.
Mat 22:16 They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with Him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest You are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites.
Mat 22:17 Now tell us what You think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Mat 22:18 But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” He said. “Why are you trying to trap Me?
Mat 22:19 Here, show Me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed Him a Roman coin,
Mat 22:20 He asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
Mat 22:21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” He said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
Mat 22:22 His reply amazed them, and they went away.
To pay or not to pay. That is the question?
Here we have the religious/political leaders of the time seeking to trap Jesus by presenting Him with a seemingly unsolvable problem. They do everything by the book. They bring witnesses to allow them to charge him with a crime. They bring people from both sides of the argument; a group of Herodians and a group of Pharisees, so that no matter which way Jesus answers they will be able to charge Him with something.
They had no idea that there was a third option. The truth.
The Herodians: The Herodians were an organized political group which worked for Herod, a vassal of Rome, and believed that Herod should be fully empowered to rule Judea without the governing influence of Pilate. The Herodians were concerned with any messianic figure that might enter the scene which could arouse the people and cause the eye of Rome to be turned in their direction.
The Pharisees: The Pharisees were also an organized political/religious group who were concerned with there own maintenance of power over the poeple. They saw Jesus’ actions as a direct attack on their influence as well as on the law of God, which they felt is was their job to protect.
Why did these two groups come together against Jesus?
You have probably seen this rhetoric in movies or on a tv show. It is the idea of two enemies joining hands together to defeat a common foe. Here we see this in action. The Herodian and Pharisee ideologies were naturally opposed to one another, but when Jesus came on the scene He threatened both. They come together and plot to trap Jesus so that they can charge Him with a crime or turn the crowds against him. The common goal is to remove this irritating person who is making a mess of their system, but, His time had not yet come.
Did the flattery set off an alarm?
As we look at the interaction between these two groups and Jesus, we see that they start off with praise for Jesus using flattering words and statements highlighting His impartiality. Was this a big red flag to Jesus. I think so. Jesus never seeks flattery or false praise from other men. I think he would have immediately seen it for what it was. He quickly recognized that they were not really looking for an answer to the question, but were instead looking for a way to trap Him. Did knowing this change how He answered the question?
Would Jesus have answered this question in any other way?
He knows why they are there. He understands what they are really after. Do you think that He devised an answer that was merely intended to befuddle them into submission? I don’t think so. I think He gave them the actual spiritual answer to their question, and spiritual truth always trumps physical truth.
Ask yourself this question. What is the best defense against trickery, lies and deceit? Spiritual truth. Jesus answers with the spiritual application to the problem. The Pharisees had been doing things in the physical realm for so long, that they could no longer see the spiritual application; not even to a problem they were using to trap Jesus with.
So, should I pay taxes or not?
Now that we’ve learned from the Master what we should do when posed with a question intended to trap, let’s look at the actual question and see what we can learn. To apply this to our time we could simply phrase the question this way, “Should I pay taxes to the government or not?”
Here’s the beauty of having a Bible. If you were someone who had this question in your mind; you now have your answer. Give to the government what is the governments and give to God what is God’s. Isn’t that how Jesus would answer you right now if you asked Him this question? I think so.
What is the underlying spiritual principle that is more than just ‘to pay or not to pay’?
The underlying principle is this. A worldly government, built on a sinful planet, whether it is a theocracy, democracy, or a monarchy runs on a system of laws. That system doesn’t care whether or not you want to follow it’s laws it cares only if you follow the laws.
For example; I know that the law demands that I drive 55 mph on many roads. I hate to drive 55 because it seems too slow to me. If I get behind someone who is going 55 I want to pass them and go faster. I even understand the principle of driving 55. It saves gas. It is safer and there are fewer accidents when people follow the speed limit. But what is in my heart? The law says 55 but my heart says 75.
Now, if I pass a cop going 55 he will ignore me because I am following the law, but he doesn’t know my heart. (Well, he might be able to make an educated guess but you get my point) The law leaves me alone because I am outwardly obeying it. The earthly law doesn’t care if your heart is in it, it just cares if you do what your supposed to do.
God’s law is different. God’s law works on and through the heart. God wants us to love his law; in fact, it is the only way to really keep His law. Here’s the real kicker. He even provides a way for us to keep His law the right way. By believing in His Son Jesus Christ and by asking for Him to change our hearts. Can you believe it?! He even provides the way to gain a heart that obeys Him from the point of love instead of the point of works. Amazing!
Apply this principle to everything in your life. Put God first and surrender to Him so that He can change your heart. Stop fighting to keep His law but instead learn to love Him and see if you don’t start keeping and really understanding His law of love.
In conclusion, do this. Pay your taxes. Give to Caesar what is his and give to God what He wants….your heart.
Dear Father in Heaven,
Lord, give me a new heart today, one that loves Your law and allows You to live in it. Thank You for supplying the means of keeping Your law. Thank You so much for Jesus Christ. Please be with me today and fill me with the Holy Spirit. I want to be more like You today. Thank You for all that You provide and please forgive my children of their sins. Watch over them and keep them safe. Lead their hearts to You. Heal my wife. Thank you for answering my prayers. In Jesus’ name. Amen.