Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s must be one of the most quoted phrases from the bible – it’s even got its own entry into Wikipedia!
I suspect this oft quoted saying has more to do with Jesus’ frustration with those who kept trying to trick him, than a wish to make a profound statement on tax paying.
You can hear the exasperation in him:
You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Matthew 25:18
Jesus has just told the Parable of the Wedding Feast, which if they were listening, has suggested that those who thought they were “in” God’s Kingdom, may actually found themselves out.
Now, they’ve been away and had a think, and they are determined to trap Jesus. If they can’t get him any other way, they will trick him into saying something bad about paying taxes.
They give him some flannel about knowing that he tells the truth, and not caring what others think, and then they go for the jugular – what have you got to say about us having to pay taxes?
They clearly thought that Jesus was stupid! But he knew what they were trying to do – so he points out to them the obvious – if you’re going to use the facilities of Caesar, you have a responsibility to pay your share.
No joy there then for them in their plan to trap him.
I wonder if they even heard the next bit
and to God what is God’s
Jesus does not let them off the hook with their worldly responsibilities – but neither are they let off their responsibilities to God. We enjoy the benefits of having bins emptied, free health care, a benefit system, and it is our responsibility to pay our share for that. But…
God has given us far more than the state system ever does. How do we repay him?
It is not that we are required to buy God’s favour, but how do we respond to what he gives us – not in fear or duty, but in freedom and love?
you have given me so much.
What shall I offer back to you?