"Dual Citizenship" Matthew 22:15-22
This Week’s Core Belief: Authority of the Bible I believe the Bible is the Word of God and has the right to command my belief and action.
2 Timothy 3:16-1716 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Scripture: Matthew 22:15-22
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 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.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
The Message of this Passage:
From the Ligonier Ministry: “Pompey, a famous general during the last years of the Roman republic, brought the territory of Palestine under Rome’s control in 63 b.c. when his support allowed one side in a Jewish civil war to gain victory. From that point on, Israel ceased to be an independent kingdom and was ruled by client kings — like Herod the Great — who were loyal to the caesar. In 6 a.d., Rome began to rule directly that part of Palestine known as Judea through governors, or procurators. With this rule came also a yearly poll tax of one denarius, the normal daily wage, which was levied on every adult from puberty to age sixty-five. Most Jews loathed the poll tax because it symbolized Rome’s control of Judea.
This background sets the stage for the test Jesus faces in today’s passage. The Herodians and disciples of the Pharisees come to our Lord “to entangle him,” inviting Him to answer their inquiry about the poll tax by flattering Him insincerely. Most of the time, these two groups could not agree on anything because the Herodians accommodated themselves to Roman rule while these Pharisees represented those who wanted independence. Yet their common enemy is Jesus, and so they unite to test Him regarding the poll tax.
As in past episodes, Jesus is in a no-win situation. The Jewish populace will hate Him if He affirms the propriety of the poll tax. Yet if He declares it unlawful, He can be charged with treason. Jesus, of course, sees through the ruse. He asks for the coin used to pay the tax, which for pious Jews should be a special copper coin minted with Rome’s approval, not the silver denarius, which is seen as idolatrous because it depicts the caesar’s image and his title divus et pontifex maximus, Latin for “divine and high priest.” Jesus’ enemies are revealed as hypocrites when they produce the denarius (22:18–21). Those who hate idolatrous coinage are carrying unclean money themselves.
Because the coin has the caesar’s image, it is his and should be given back to him. What belongs to God, however, must also be returned to Him (vv. 21–22). This silences the critics of Jesus and shows that His community respects the secular authorities and does not promote rebellion.
Our Lord’s teaching is a useful principle for understanding when it is lawful to obey the state. As long as it does not claim for itself the rights that appropriately belong to God, Christians must obey the ruling authorities. This means we obey even when we do not agree with their tax rates, speed limits, or regulation of other parts of our lives. Do you obey the government when no biblical principle is violated even if you do not like the laws of the land?”
Questions to consider:
What makes the attempted flattery at the beginning of this passage so ironic? How were the Pharisees conducting themselves?
How might this interaction between the Pharisees and the Herodians be a foreshadowing of the events to come? The ends are about to justify the means…
How much of a say did these Jews in Judea have in how Rome governed them?
Why do you think the Pharisees’ disciples and the Herodians response was simply to be marveled and leave? What is it about the simple truth being spoken that is so shocking
Why did the Pharisees and the Herodians think their question would entangle Jesus? What made the question so difficult (even impossible) in their minds
Why does Jesus call them hypocrites for asking that question?
Jesus doesn’t answer their question directly, but his answer does suggest a lot. List two or three implications you see in Jesus’s answer.
What is the relationship between rendering to Caesar and rendering to God?
Do you ever find it difficult to discern when it is lawful or unlawful to obey the government?