On Paying Taxes or Not?
The presidential campaign and all the techniques of the politician-flattery, spin, dodging attacks, and joining hands with those you believe can take you the farthest are in play. As Matthew increases the tension in Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem, we discover that using flattery and then seeking to ask the deadly question that will bring your opponent down was not something invented by the present journalists in Washington. Neither was the explosive nature of asking questions about taxes.
Matthew sets the scene showing us two groups: the Pharisees and the Herodians who ordinarily hated each other, getting together to bring Jesus down. Instead of confronting their enemy face to face, they send some of their students to do their dirty work. The students are trained well and they begin with flattery. Ironically, everything they say about Jesus is the Gospel truth. He did speak truth. He did teach God’s way accurately. He didn’t give one message to one crowd and another to another. The students tried to stroke the Master Teacher’s ego. Then they popped the question that put Jesus on the horns of a dilemma, “Is it necessary (is it the divine will) to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Matthew 22:17)
If Jesus says “yes,” then the growing anti-Rome, zealot party will turn violently against Him. If He says “No,” then the Romans can arrest Him on the spot for insurrection. Jesus doesn’t hesitate. He confronts their hypocrisy, and then asks them for a coin. (They have one of the silver coins inscribed with Caesar’s image and they are carrying one of the supposedly blasphemous things in the sacred precincts of the Temple.) Jesus holds the coin up and asks, “Whose image is on the coin?”
The denarius used to pay the Roman census tax was marked with Caesar’s head. So Jesus replied, “Give to Caesar what belongs to him. Give to God what belongs to Him.” (Matthew 22:21)
At the end of the week Jesus’ enemies will get Him falsely charged with insurrection. It will be a lie. I have to decide whether I will use the deceitful, hypocritical, malicious techniques of the Pharisees and Herodians in this story, or whether I will remember that Jesus sees through all the games we humans play.
LORD, help me realize that I am stamped with Your image. By my faith in your Son He is renewing this image in my life today, so that I will be like Him. Using flattery, cloaking malicious hatred, making secret plans against another-Jesus will have none of this. Thank you that You see through all the spin and give me wisdom and courage to simply tell the truth about Your Way.
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