15当时，法利赛人出去，商议怎样就着耶稣的话陷害他，16就打发他们的门徒同希律党的人去见耶稣，说：“夫子，我们知道你是诚实人，并且诚诚实实传 神的道，什么人你都不徇情面，因为你不看人的外貌。17请告诉我们，你的意见如何？纳税给凯撒可以不可以？”18耶稣看出他们的恶意，就说：“假冒为善的人哪，为什么试探我？19拿一个上税的钱给我看。”他们就拿一个银钱来给他。20耶稣说：“这像和这号是谁的？”21他们说：“是凯撒的。”耶稣说：“这样，凯撒的物当归给凯撒； 神的物当归给 神。”22他们听见就希奇，离开他走了。
Matthew 22:15-22: 15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words.16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” 18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
They thought they could trap Jesus with the perfect question. If Jesus said it was O.K. to pay taxes to Caesar, he would look bad in the eyes of the Jewish nationalists. If he said it was not O.K. to pay taxes to Caesar, even better. They would report him to the authorities.
Jesus gave them the perfect answer to what they thought was a well laid trap. He pointed to the image of Caesar on the coin and said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. In doing so he laid down the principle for us we call the “separation of church and state.” We can be thankful for what the state gives us – protection good roads, schools, and many other things. We owe taxes to the government and should pay them willingly in keeping with the fourth commandment. Paul in Romans 13 says that we also owe those who govern our honor and respect. That seems to be in short supply lately, and we should not be drawn in by these things.
We owe to God what is God’s. And what is that? It is our very life. Where would we be without God’s protecting hand? What hope would we have without our faith in Jesus? Even under severe persecution by the Roman government, early Christians distinguished themselves by their love, respect and their good works. In the same way, as we live our lives in a contentious political climate, our light can shine even brighter.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for the government you have given us. We take for granted so much, the police to protect us, the leaders who make our laws, the men and women in armed services who keep watch against our enemies. Make me a good citizen both in the country I love and in your kingdom, where I find the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.