Luke 20:20 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.
(Coin with Caesar's picture on it)
Thoughts: The coin Jesus talked about was inscribed "Tiberius Son of the Divine Augustus." Jesus' point was that we who bear the image of God should give themselves to God alone (Archaeological study Bible). Jesus was not the radical zealot/patriot that some wish he was. His teachings invited conversion and radical spiritual change. But he was not fomenting a rebellion against Rome. If the people had Rome's money, and were using and enjoying Rome's benefits, taxes were due. In a subtle way, Jesus was contrasting Rome's lordship with God's. While Rome provided many benefits, they did not compare to what God renders to us. Too much talk and credit is given today to what governments can or cannot do. Governments are limited at most to the here and now, but God's government goes deeper- to our soul; and longer- to eternity. It is not the Son of the divine Augustus but the Son of the true God who deserves our ultimate allegiance, energy, and hope.
Prayer: Help me O Lord, to know where my loyalties are, and to render to you my heart, soul, mind, and strength.
John Calvin abridged: The coin was stamped with Ceasar's likeness. So it was evident that the Jews had already given up their voluntary service to the Romans for they had given them the power of the sword. Christ lays down a clear distinction between spiritual and civil governments. Outward subjection does not prevent us from having a conscience free in the sight of God. So he refutes those who thought that they had to be free of every human yoke in order to be the people of God. Paul also agrees with this- that we can serve God alone while obeying human laws (Rom. 13:7). So too, every person is called to perform the duty they owe others. Children should listen to their parents; employees to their employers. Those who seek to destroy the political order are rebellious against God. But if rulers claim God's authority for themselves, we should not obey them when it offends God.