It is interesting to note that nowhere in the gospels is Jesus represented as having used money. Nowhere do the gospels show Jesus using money, yet almost 40% of Jesus’ teaching involves metaphors or dialogue regarding money.
The Pharisees were basically the good church people of their day, they were concerned with the keeping of the law, with the sanctity of the temple, and with the full restoration of
For this reason they often looked at Jesus with confusion. Jesus taught many
things about the Israel Kingdom of God that they agreed
with, things like, God will judge evil doers and condemn them. Yet Jesus
associated with people who were obvious doers of evil. The Pharisees could not understand that.
They were uncertain about exactly how to classify Jesus. He was a teacher who taught that obedience to God was necessary, yet he broke the rules by healing people on the Sabbath. He was a Rabbi who taught the importance of holiness, yet he kept condemning the very people who seemed to them to be the most holy, people like teachers of the law and the chief priests.
So one day after having decided that Jesus was a danger to their religion, the Pharisees decide to trap him in his own words so that either the people would reject him or the Roman authorities would arrest him. They decided to question him about his position on the poll tax, the tax that every person in the
Roman Empire had to
pay to Caesar. (see Mt. 22:15-22)
They thought their question was exceptionally clever, and it was. It was brief yet tricky. "We know you are a man of integrity," they said to him (a well-known ploy, butter him up first), "Since you are a man of integrity, tells us, we value your opinion, we want to know: "Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
And so a coin is produced and Jesus cleverly turns the table: "Whose Image and Inscription is on this Coin?" "Caesars," they reply. Well then, Jesus says, "Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and give unto God what is Gods."
In that statement Jesus reminds us that what we have is dual citizenship. We are citizens of the country in which we live. But the Christian is also a citizen of God’s Kingdom. We are one and at the same time being challenged by Christ to be a good citizen of our country and a good citizen of The Kingdom.
Society places obligations on all of us, but we must not confuse
those obligations with our obligation to God.
Maryland bridge photo by J. Royle