Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Matthew 21:22
Notice the Pharisees and the Herodians are coming together. It’s sort of like a bear and an eagle coming to say Hi to the salmon that jumped up on the river bank.
The Pharisees were the religious leaders who wanted no part of Rome’s control. The Herodians are the group that supports Rome’s control over Israel. This is sort of like two brothers fighting over a toy who come to ask dad who should have it. Notice they say, we know you don’t take sides. Both come to get Jesus to agree with them; but both are looking to crucify Jesus for his answer. They ask him whether it is right to pay tax to Caesar.
They ask hoping to catch him off-guard. The Pharisees will say he blasphemes if he denies the authority of God over them. Yet, if he affirms God’s sole control, the Herodians will accuse him of being disloyal to Caesar. So, how does Jesus answer?
Jesus responds first by acknowledging their sinful hearts. He lets them know that he knows what they are up to. Next he places the burden of discussion back on them. He asks for a coin and asks whose inscription is on it.
We see that as Christ answered, the questioners left him. Many people who have questions simply want to argue, they really don’t want an answer. Many who come with a question simply want to debate theological viewpoints: they really don’t care about serving God.
We should render to Caesar his things, so we also render unto God His. What are we giving back to God out of all that He has blessed us with?
Whose image and inscription do I bear? Whose image and inscription do I bear?
In Genesis 1:26-27 we read, Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
If Caesar has authority to demand payment, how much more authority does God have over those who bear His image? We are God’s coinage. We all belong wholly to God. Everyone must “render to God what is God’s.” Everything belongs to God. Everyone is under His authority whether we like it or not. He is the Ruler, King, and owner of all things. All things were created by Jesus and for Jesus.
But for those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, as Peter says in 1 Peter 2:9-10” we are a special possession of God; His holy nation and royal priests.
This is a truth that is difficult for us to swallow at times. As God’s people, we do not belong to ourselves. We are God’s. We are His temple. The Spirit dwells within us. The Holy Spirit is God’s seal as we read in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22. Seal in New Testament times was a sign of ownership and authenticity. A king or ruler would have a signet ring or some way to mark something as being from them or belonging to them. This is one of the many benefits God giving us His Spirit. Am I given myself completely to Him as I belong to Him?