Give to God what belongs to God

Jesus’ enemies set a trap for him. The Jews lived under  the Roman Empire and the Romans taxed them harshly. The people resented paying taxes to the occupying power. So if Jesus says ‘Yes’ to the Pharisees’ question about paying taxes to Caesar, he will be seen as a traitor to his own people. But if he answers ‘No,’ he may be arrested by the Romans as a troublemaker.

As always, Jesus gives a reply that goes straight to the point. He asks to see the Roman coin, which bears the image of Caesar and describes him as a god – an insult to the Jews. By saying ‘Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,’ Jesus tells his disciples that they should respect proper authority. By adding ‘… and to God what belongs to God,’ he reminds them that even the Roman Emperor is answerable to a higher power.

Jesus commands us to love our neighbours. We should obey the law and respect legitimate authority, for the common good. But as Christians we know that every authority in this world will ultimately answer to God. Obedience to God comes first.

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