Today we see religious leaders of Jesus’ time try to trap him with a trick-question about paying taxes. The corrupt Roman government doesn’t deserve our taxes! The follower of God, we find out, is to be more concerned with God’s expectations than political activism…
20 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
25 He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.
It will be difficult for me to stay away from American politics as I reflect on the story of Jesus and taxes. These teachers of the law wanted to trap the Lord Jesus. He wouldn’t have any, simply pointing out that Caesar’s image was on the coins. Therefore, Jesus said, give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.
More importantly, he said, “Give back to God what is God’s.”
I believe this story says something about the separation of church and state. It’s a story about the difference between relationship with God and the relationship with the world. The follower of God in this story doesn’t become political and refuse to pay taxes to the oppressor. We see in Jesus’ response that the follower of God focuses on God’s expectations and relationship with the Lord.
I understand that our world is very complex and there is a desire to influence government and the selection of government. It seems, however, that some organizations which claim to be followers of Christ are spending more time on Caesar than they are on Jesus.
Perhaps we could take a page out of the Lord Jesus’ book. Focus on living like Jesus and loving our world with Jesus’ message more. In a perfect democracy, the government reflects the people. In a perfect church, the people reflect Jesus.
When people start reflecting Jesus more, our government will likely reflect Jesus more. Until then, the grassroots focus for followers of Jesus ought to be on living like him.
Let Caesar be Caesar.
I’m following Jesus.