And Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’
– Mark 12:17
Whose image is stamped into your soul?
They slithered into the Temple, snakes on the hunt. A group of Pharisees and Herodians sent by the Jewish leaders conspired to catch Jesus in a statement appearing to foster rebellion against Roman authority. The Pharisees were a sect of the Jews. The Herodians were a political party of affluent Jews who backed Herod Antipas, the ruler in Galilee during Jesus’ ministry.
They put on their most sincere faces and circled Jesus as they sprung the question.
Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay or not pay?
– Mark 12:14,15
Jesus saw the trap. He wasn’t fooled by their deceit. He asked them to bring Him a denarius. This common first century coin represented a day’s wages to most people. Jesus didn’t even have that much money to His name. Someone produced one for Him, and He asked, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” (Mark 12:16)
They were confused. Jesus had neatly sidestepped their trap. It was obvious whose inscription was on the coin. “Caesar’s,” they answered.
“Pay to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” He replied. (Mark 12:16-17)
The Bible tells us that those present that day were “amazed” at His answer. It’s no less stunning two thousand years later.
The Greek word for “render” means “to pay back.” It implies a debt is owed to the one whose image is reflected. Money bears the image of government, so we must pay our taxes to the government.
Our souls, on the other hand, bear the image of God.
Our bodies belong to God. Our minds belong to God. Our children belong to God. The Body belongs to the Head.
To God we owe our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. The Bible commands us “To present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1)
To others, we owe a debt of love. We are commanded to “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another.” (Romans 13:8) This is not a Scripture forbidding the borrowing of money, but an admonition to pay all debts when they are due.
True submission to God’s authority rises above personal and national politics. It both frees us and reminds us of where our true allegiance should lie. Now, at a time when more and more people live for themselves and withdraw from the lives of others, God commands us to give.
Now, more than ever, it’s time to “pay back.”