No this post is not about tithing! Fear not! And for those of you who know this passage, I’m not going to talk about paying taxes either! Sweet relief, right? This is an examination of Christ’s response to the questioning by the Pharisees who attempt to trap him in Matthew 22. They asked Him:
“Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
It’s important to understand that both Roman soldiers and Jews were present, and the Roman Tax on the Jews was a highly controversial issue at this time. The Romans were taxing the Jews as much as 80% of their household income. People were being arrested, impoverished, and dying as a result of this tax. If Jesus were to instruct that the Jews should not pay taxes, the Roman Soldiers would have had cause to arrest Him. At the same time, the Jews were highly vexed by this situation, and these taxes were being used to fund the army that was enforcing the oppressive rule of Rome over them. If Christ simply instructed the Jews to pay the Roman tax, they would have turned on Him.
18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.[c]
20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…”
It has been discussed ad nauseum that Christ says here that we should pay our taxes. Given. What I would like to draw your attention to is the coin. Specifically the image on the coin and its implication. The coin was created by Caesar, and his image is what gave the coin its value. By the image and inscription on the coin it was not simply a piece of metal, but was made and marked specifically in such a way that all would see that this coin had a specific purpose, a designated value, and belonged to the man whose image it beared. Christ was not terribly concerned with the money, or with Caesar’s desire to take the money back from the Jews. (Christ of course knows that The Father provides what is necessary for His children.) But…what is more important is what Christ said next.
“…render unto God the things that are God’s.”
What is he talking about here? What are the “things that are God’s?” Brothers and sisters, you and I were created in the image of God. We bear His image. He has placed his inscription on us. “Imago Dei” – in Latin, translated – “Image of God.”
God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).
If the image of Caesar on a denarius gives it such value, how much more value then does the bearing of God’s image place upon His children? This is what Christ is communicating here. The tax, and money in general, are not important. What is important is that you are God’s. You were created by Him, and you are valuable to Him. He expects you to return to Him. “Render unto God what is God’s.”