Thursday, September 16, 2021

To pay or not to pay

Matthew 22:15-22 / Mark 12:13-17 / Luke 20:20-26…

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians. The religious and political leaders were not in agreement with one another about Roman rule, but they were in cahoots about Christ. 

The Pharisees were anti-Rome, being loyal to the religious establishment. They did not favor taxes to Caesar because it intruded on their dominion.  The Herodians were loyal to Herod, the political leader dependent on Roman rule. They favored taxes to Caesar because it expanded their dominion.

Both groups felt threatened by Jesus, and wanted Him out of the way. If Jesus were to say it is unlawful to pay taxes to Caesar, the Herodians would charge Jesus with advocating a political rebellion. If He said it was lawful, the Pharisees would charge that Jesus was advocating a compromise with Rome, and disloyal to God. They wanted to charge Him with either blasphemy or insurrection.

Jesus doesn’t avoid the question, but He doesn’t give them their yes or no answer either. His answer affirms the good purpose of civil government, and calls for us to be good citizens. Jesus would pay taxes to a pagan Roman government. He also paid taxes to a corrupt religious body, questioning its validity, but paying it anyway (Matthew 17:24-27 / cf. Romans 13:7).

The coin bore Caesars image, but humanity bears God’s image. We can support civil government and remain devoted to God, unless it commands what God forbids or forbids what God commands.

The Pharisees and Herodians were worried about what type of revolution Jesus was fomenting. They didn’t understand that His revolution was launched by putting Him to death. Ultimately the enemy is not the one we disagree with politically, the enemy is the sin inside.


Even So... said...

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Moose said...

"He also paid taxes to a corrupt religious body, questioning its validity, but paying it anyway." Good point. This reminds me of the Christian who somewhat recently refused to pay taxes to the IRS because the government funded abortion clinics. That Jesus still paid taxes to a government whom He disagreed with makes a strong statement of the importance of submitting to the God-ordained rulers set in place.