Our scripture this week is Matthew 22:15-22.
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
The religious leaders ask Jesus if it right to pay the tax to Caeser. It is a question that is much debated even today – how much tax we pay and for what purposes. Jesus knows that those gathered are not looking for a serious answer but He gives a very serious response.
This group hopes He will either say “don’t pay”, after which they could have Him arrested, or “do pay”, which would anger His followers. Jesus replies in a way that makes them look at how things are being done in the world. Instead of a hard answer, He makes them think.
Jesus opposes Rome not because of who they are but for their treatment of people, the violent oppression of occupied territory and the tax burden they levy, mostly for their own enrichment. Jesus doesn’t tell them not to pay but instead to leave earthly things to earthly powers and focus instead on our relationship with God. If we accept God’s gifts and His plan, we can worry less about everyday things. The song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” tells us “and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace”. When we trust God, we can live in confidence.
Loving Lord, it is hard for us to let go of control. Help us to be the people You created us to be, to put our faith in You and love each other. Amen.