Mark: According to
Taxes and Death: part 1
It was the American founding father Benjamin Franklin that is credited with saying; “But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Over out next two posts, we will be talking about both items, taxes and death. Neither is a subject any of us enjoy talking about much less having to experiencing it.
13 Then they sent to him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians to catch Him in His words.
This was a continuation of the earlier conversation that had taken place between Pharisees and Priests which we saw in our last two posts. When they failed to make headway against Jesus, they sent in other Pharisees and the Herodians. Usually these two groups were at odds with each other, even to the point of hating each other. Yet for both the Herodians and the Pharisees, they had been brought together by a common threat, and that threat was Jesus.
The Herodians supported the family of Herod as well as the Romans who gave them authority to rule. The Pharisees, however considered the Herodians to be the evil usurpers of the throne of David; For after all, Herod was an Edomite and not a Jew. The Pharisees also opposed the poll tax that the Romans had inflicted on Judea, and they resented the very presence of Rome in their land.
14 When they had come, they said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?” But He knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it. 16 So they brought it. And he said to them, “whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, Caesar’s. 17 And Jesus answered and 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.
There is the question. They were convinced that they had Jesus trapped, for there was not good way to answer that question without getting the Romans mad at him or the Jews made at him.
But Jesus moved the discussion from politics to the principle and caught the hypocrites in their own trap. We might state our Lord’s reply something like this: Caesar’s image is on his coins, so they must be minted by his authority. The fact that you possess these coins and use them indicates that you think they are worth something. Therefore, you are already accepting Caesar’s authority, or you would not use his money! But don’t forget that you were created in the image of God and therefore must live under God’s authority as well.
The word translated “render” in Mark 12:17 means “to pay a debt, to pay back.” Jesus looked on taxes as the citizens’ debt to the government in return for the services performed. Today those services would include among other things, fire and police protection, national defense, the salaries of the officials who manage the affairs of state, special programs for the poor and underprivileged, etc. The individual Christian citizen might not agree with the way all of his tax money is used, and he can express himself with his voice and his vote, but he must accept the fact that God has established human government for our good (Romans 13; I Timothy 2:1-6; I Peter 2:13-17). Even if we cannot respect the people in office we must respect the office, for God is the one that ordained they should be in office (Daniel 2:20-22).
Therefore, as Jesus accepted the authority of the Roman Government, so must we also accept the authority of the government in whatever country we reside in, yet, when the authority of the government crosses over and comes in conflict with God’s word, then the last half of Christ’s statement “And to God the things that are God’s” should become our driving source. God’s authority is supreme; therefore, the Christian’s supreme loyalty belongs to God. The Christian cooperates with “the powers that be” because they are ordained of God. But Jesus was saying that there are certain things in which Caesar has no right to interfere (see Acts 5:129). God’s jurisdiction is absolute and universal, Caesar’s subordinate and limited.
The Pharisees had anticipated either a yes or no answer, and had not considered the possibility of an alternative to the dilemma they proposed. They were forced to realize that they were no match for Jesus, in spite of their careful planning.