People hated Jesus. They tried to trap him. They wanted to kill him. This passage represents one of their best efforts at trapping him.
13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, 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 the imperial tax to Caesar or not? 15 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.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him.
So now the religious leaders are pretty upset. They’re trying to trap Jesus with this question. If he said that it’s not right for the Jews to pay taxes to Caesar, then he would be arrested by the Romans, and potentially tried for insurrection. If he said that it is right to pay taxes to Caesar, then the people would reject him because they despised the pagan Romans, and deeply resented their presence in Israel. What’s he supposed to do? What can he say? There’s no way out of this conundrum.
Well, you can’t trap Jesus. He knew exactly what was going on, and he wasn’t going to be caught in their trap. So he had someone bring him one of the Roman coins, a denarius. “Whose image is this?” he asked.
“It’s Caesar’s,” they responded.
“Well then, give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
But he left something out. Where is God’s image inscribed? On us. On every human being on the face of the earth. Genesis 1 says that we are made in God’s image. We bear God’s inscription.
So everything that has Caesar’s image on it belongs to Caesar, but everything that has God’s image on it belongs to God. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Go ahead and give your money to Caesar. God doesn’t really care about that anyway. But give yourself to God. That’s what he wants. He’s not concerned about your taxes. He’s not concerned about the pagans collecting your money. He’s concerned about your generosity toward him. How much of yourself are you giving to God?
Are you being generous with yourself—your thoughts, your actions, your heart, your will, your talents, your gifts, your being, your future—are you being generous in giving yourself to God? You are made in the image of God. You belong to God. All of you.
There have been some dominant themes that, I believe, God has been trying to pound into our heads and hearts throughout the course of Ember’s existence. One of those themes is that God can change us at the level of our deep heart desires. He changes us through the power of the Gospel, through his grace and mercy seeping into the cracks of our hearts, our minds, our wills.
But in order to be changed we must give ourselves over to his grace. We must throw ourselves down at the foot of the cross, placing all of our trust, all of our hope, all of our dreams, all of our desires upon the broad and broken shoulders of Jesus. We must abandon our way of doing things, our agendas for this life, and throw ourselves fully onto the grace of God found only in his son, Jesus Christ.