Matthew 22:15-22 (Tribute to Caesar 6: Rendering to Caesar)

Consider the “either/or” question that the disciples of the Pharisees asked Jesus, and its implication to their minds that they supposed would ensnare Him because of his reputation of being truthful and for which they had just flattered Him: should they pay the poll tax to a pagan ruler who was oppressing their nation and especially the lower classes Jesus advocated for and so dishonor God, or not pay so as to honor God even though it would offend the Romans and incur their wrath?  What was Jesus’ “both/and” answer, and how did it deliver Him from their trap?  See Mat 22:21 and think: was their perception of paying taxes to Rome and honoring God as mutually exclusive as they supposed?  Is it possible that our own perceptions on various issues that galvanize people today may also not be as clear cut as we suppose because we are missing other principles in God’s perfect law that also apply?  What does this teach us about our need for much prayerful wisdom and humility from God when dealing with such issues?  What part does the media play in galvanizing people’s perceptions about various issues, and why?  Think: is news from the center of public opinion more likely to be read and so generate profits?  By what means may one guard against being manipulated by the media?  Cf. Deut 7:26.

What does it mean to “render”?  Notice from the context and the Greek word used (avpodi,dwmi) that it means to give or pay back what belongs to another, to recompense what is rightfully due to another.  What does this help us understand about why paying taxes to a governing authority and honoring God are not mutually exclusive, even if that authority is a carnal, worldly government as Rome was to the Jews?  Think: Do God’s righteous laws of rightful ownership no longer apply to a person because that person is wicked?  I.e., is it lawful to steal from a wicked man because he is wicked, or is it just as wrong to steal from a wicked man as it is to steal from one who is righteous?  Think too: What governments of this world are not carnal and worldly?  See Luk 4:5-6, 2Co 4:4, Eph 2:2, 1Jo 5:19, Joh 18:36 and consider: Was the Roman government any less righteous and just than the limited self-rule that the Jews had under the Romans?  Cf. Luk 23:4-5,13-16,20-22.

What things do civil governments provide those whom they govern for which they deserve to be paid back or rendered what is rightfully due?  Cf. Rom 13:6.  Although an oppressing nation, what many things did the Roman government provide the Jewish nation that were good from an eternal perspective because they allowed for the propagation of the gospel?  Consider the Pax Romana that provided stable government and relative security from bandits or usurpers who could upset the peace; compare this with the relative peace the people of Iraq, including many Christians, had under the tyrant Saddam Hussein compared to the upheaval experienced when his rule was overthrown.  Consider too the infrastructure of roads and harbors that made travel and commerce possible, and the public works like aqueducts that increased public health and leisure; etc…  In what manner had God already spoken to the Jews through their prophets regarding such blessings that he provides to men, including His own people, even through the Gentile nations?  See Eze 31:3-9, Dan 4:10-12,20-22, Jer 29:4-7; cf. Mat 5:45, Jon 4:11.

Besides tribute or tax, what else does Scripture admonish is our Christian duty to render to the governing authorities?  See Rom 13:7, 1Pe 2:13-17.  What does this remind us that our attitude should be even toward an ungodly political leader?  See Exo 22:28, Act 23:1-5, Jude 1:8-9; cf. Rom 13:1.  What does Jesus’ answer teach us about true Christianity and its relation to civil government, even if that government is secular?  Need it be at odds with it as the Jews were with Rome, or may it support it within its lawful jurisdiction?  What American principal of government reflects this understanding?

What were the religious leaders who were trying to trap Jesus in what He said especially hoping He would answer in regard to their question about paying taxes to Caesar, and why?  See Luk 20:20.  Although He didn’t answer as they had hoped, did that prevent them from accusing Him of doing so?  See Luk 23:2.  What does this remind us about the urgency with which they were seeking to get rid of Jesus, the lengths they would go to accomplish their evil intent, and their culpability before God on the day of judgment?  What does it teach us about how important the truth is to those who are godless in heart?

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