PRAY: Humbly ask God to give you wisdom to understand this portion of the Bible and the faith to live out what He reveals to you.
READ: Mark 12:13-17
Another trap! Time after time, Mark shows us how the religious leaders try to trap Jesus with unanswerable questions (or so they think). Here they ask Him if they should pay taxes to Caesar or not. Caesar was the leader of the Roman Empire, which controlled Israel and the Jews at this time. If Jesus said that the Jews should pay taxes to Rome, the people would turn on Him. And if He said they shouldn’t pay the tax, He could have been arrested for stirring up an anti-Roman rebellion. He ends up catching them in a trap when they produce the coin; it shows they actually possess something that was considered blasphemous and idolatrous: the coin had Caesar’s picture on one side and said “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, Son of the Divine Augustus,” and on the other side it had Caesar’s mother’s picture and said “High Priest.” Both of these were deeply offensive to the Jews.
In the end, Jesus affirms that citizens should pay to the government what is the government’s and give to God what is God’s. While there are so many implications of this, at least one is worth considering now. We bear God’s image, and based on the principle Jesus gives here, we should give ourselves to God. Fully. He made us for Himself and it is right and good for us to live for His glory.
Government, as an extension of God’s ordination of the family, can have a good role in increasing human flourishing. Jesus teaches us to submit to it, even if it is a corrupt government like Rome was. This does not mean we endorse corruption. And while Jesus tells the religious leaders to pay the tax, this doesn’t mean all taxes are just. Christians should not support taxes which take from some to give to themselves or others. Such policies often flow from envy. We should support programs and taxes which benefit all as equally as possible. Even if we are exploited (as those under Rome were), we should never use the government to exploit others. This often amounts to using the government to steal from its citizens on behalf of ourselves or others, which breaks the 8th and 10th commandments.
The government may justly require part of our money, but God requires all of us, our life, and devotion—our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.
1. How should my attitude toward government and those in authority change in light of Jesus’ words here?
2. Am I first a Christian or an American? What is your first allegiance?