Paying Taxes

This post is part of a series that will take us up to the Easter holiday that celebrates the Resurrection of our Lord.

Mark 12:13–17 (ESV)13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.

The Pharisees and the Herodians went to Jesus to trap him. In order to do this, they asked him about paying taxes to Caesar. Of course, the Jewish people saw Rome and Caesar as the enemy of the Jews. So, if Jesus were to say that people should pay their taxes, it would anger the people. If Jesus were to say that people should not pay their taxes, it would anger the Roman authorities. That was the trap.

Jesus’ answer surprised everyone. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” he told the people. We are citizens of two kingdoms and we have an obligation to both. We must obey and submit to the authorities of this world, but we also obey and submit to God. The only time we are right to disobey our authorities is when doing so would cause us to disobey the word of God. The people of God should be the best citizens in the world as we stand for love and justice and compassion. As we live in this way we point others to the glory and grace of God.

Lord, help us to be good citizens of this world so we can point others to the eternal kingdom and to the grace you give to all who trust in you. Amen.


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