Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn't we?" But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. "Why are you trying to trap me?" he asked. "Bring me a denarius and let me look at it."They brought the coin, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. Then Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." And they were amazed.
I'm teaching through Mark in my 9th grade Bible class, and we came to this passage recently. Now I'm not sure about you, but I have almost always heard this passage dealt with in terms of what to do with your money. Jesus is giving the thumbs up to secular political authority. It has the right to tax and it's dishonorable to fail to obey that level of authority. That part of the passage is pretty clear. It's the second part of Jesus' statement that I'm much more interested in.
I have heard people preach on this and almost all of them connect this with the idea of paying taxes to the government and giving to the Lord. Now don't get me wrong here, because I think you can draw that application from the passage. But, I think there might be more here.
The passage reveals to us that the recipients of Jesus' words were the Herodians and the Pharisees (groups I discussed in a previous post). They're trying to get Jesus to say something that would anger his Jewish followers (if He tells them to pay Caesar) or cause him to commit treason (if He denies that taxes should be payed).
He uses an illustration for them to make a point that they clearly miss and I think we often do as well. He asks them in whose image the coin is made? The answer was Caesar and so what was made in his image was due him. The question is what is "due God," or what "is God's"? For the answer, I think we have to ask the same question that Jesus asked: What is made in God's image?
We are. Jesus was exhorting the Herodians and the Pharisees to pay Caesar what was his, but also to give to God what was His. Jesus was encouraging each group to turn from how they had each strayed from God through either religion or worldliness. The Apostle Paul elaborates on what this looks like in Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
God is the one who made us and ,therefore, we should offer ourselves up to Him. The cool thing is that when we turn over control of our lives to our Heavenly Father, we actually experience life in a better way. He loves us and knows what is best for us. How cool that we can turn things over to Him and abide, rest, dwell, and trust in Him.
May we give to God what is His.