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The Coin

““Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.””

Matthew 22:17-21

Speaking of taxes in Matthew 22:21, Jesus taught His disciples to “render . . . to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” enjoining His disciples to pay them. This teaching parallels the general principle that Christians are to be subject to the governments of this world (Romans 13:1) yet to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). In doing so, we are to be good citizens appreciating the privileges and opportunities extended to us. We are to submit to the nation’s laws and regulations, as long as they do not conflict with the commands of God. If they do, we must be willing to submit to their penalties.

One day a group of Pharisees and Herodians came to Jesus with a coin and asked him, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Mark 12:13-17). The two groups were bitter enemies, but they joined that day to trap Jesus. Was he loyal to God or Caesar? If his answer was “Yes, pay the tax,” he angered the Jews who refused to pay because it seemingly affirmed the inscription on the coin, “Son of divine Augustus.” If he said no, it would anger the government, who saw the tax as their due. But Jesus didn’t fall for the trap. He answered, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” In a sentence, Jesus legitimized the Roman government without de-throning God. It was a stunning answer. We can obey the government without compromising our Christianity. Obligations to church and state are not necessarily in conflict.

Above all, Christians must follow Christ’s teaching and example. Jesus neither attempted to reform human government nor use political means to forge a better world. Rather, He preached the doctrine of a radically different world to come, calling His followers out of this present evil world and to allegiance to His coming Kingdom.

Table Rock Fellowship

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Medford, Oregon 97501

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