Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. [ones who followed King Herod] â€œTeacher, â€œ they said, â€œwe know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You arenâ€™t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?â€
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, â€œYou hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.â€ They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, â€œWhose portrait is this? And whose inscription?â€
â€œCaesarâ€™s,â€ they replied.
Then he said to them, â€œGive to Caesar what is Caesarâ€™s, and to God what is Godâ€™s.â€
When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
Matthew 22:15-22 (NIV, my extra note)
So the church leaders got together with the people who supported the governor and plotted how to show Jesus as a hypocrite and traitor. Nice folks! Just the kind you want following you around!
These â€˜scum drinkersâ€™ begin their plan with what could be seen as flattery. It is really a verbalizing of their own frustration and bitterness that Jesus is a man of integrity and truth and they are not! Remember Peterâ€™s words about how we should be ready with an answer about Jesus but do it with such integrity that even those who speak maliciously about us â€“ will also feel ashamed. (1 Peter 3:13-17)
The question is then asked about the rightness of paying taxes. We here even in the 21st century hold our breath to hear Jesusâ€™ answer! Before the answer, however, comes His judgment, â€œYou, hypocrites!â€
When I come to Jesus and seek His will, His direction in a situation, Jesus is first going to respond to my heart-focus and then to my actions. Do I think I can hide my true agenda from Jesus and get Him to bless my actions? Do I remember the plea of the psalmist to:
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 (NIV)
Jesus looked at their heart, spoke His judgment, and then answered the question.
I believe that I owe the government in the country where I live:
my prayer support
my participation in the democratic process of electing officials
my obedience to the laws. And if I disagree with those laws then I work within the system to exact change or submit to the consequence of disobedience.
May I seek Jesusâ€™ answers today and not walk away but walk with Him.