Rendering unto Caesar is both a treat and a trick

Published 5:47 am Sunday, October 24, 2021

C omedian Bob Orben once joked “’At Halloween, there was a knock on my door and it was someone from Congress saying, ‘Trick or treat!’”
I said, “What’s the treat?”
He said, “Tax reform.”
“What’s the trick?”
He said, “I just told you!”
Many comedians joke about taxes.
After all, it’s something we all have to deal with. In fact, taxation has been a touchy subject for a very long time.
In Mark 12:13-17, the Bible tells the story of how the Pharisees and Herodians joined forces one day to try and trap Jesus with His words. They asked Him this question in verse 14: “Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar or not?”
Now the Pharisees were great sticklers for the liberty of the Jews, and, if Jesus said: ‘It is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar,’ they would turn the common people against Him.
The Herodians were great sticklers for the Roman power, and, if Jesus discounted the paying of taxes to Caesar, they would enrage the governor against Him.
It’s interesting to note that the Pharisees and Herodians couldn’t stand each other but they joined together to take down Jesus.
Their philosophy was “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
And it seemed like the perfect plan to trap Jesus.
However, they forgot one small detail: Jesus was no ordinary man; He was the Son of God!
Verse 15 tells us “… Jesus knew their hypocrisy.”
The tribute money was a poll-tax imposed by Rome on every Jew that went directly into the emperor’s treasury.
The Jews wanted to know, If God gave the land of Israel to them, and if God meant for them to live there, and if He received their sacrifices and offerings in acknowledgement of His relationship to them…then why should they pay tribute to any other power?
How could anyone who claimed to be Messiah agree to such a tax?
Jesus answered: “Bring me a penny.”
It wasn’t an American penny, but a denarius which was equal to a country worker’s daily wage. It was imprinted with Tiberius Caesar’s image on one side with the inscription “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, Son of the Divine Augustus.” The reverse side pictured Livy, Caesar’s mother and claimed Caesar was high priest. Caesar’s claim to be divine infuriated the Jews every time they looked at that coin!
Then Jesus said in verse 17: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.”
With those words, Jesus cleverly avoided the trap they had laid for Him and the people marveled at Him.
You see, Jesus didn’t want to just avoid a trap, He took this opportunity to teach them all a lesson:

render unto God what belongs to Him, their hearts and their devotions. But they missed it!
It doesn’t say they believed on Him, they praised God, or they were converted… they simply marveled at Him.
Many people will marvel at the intelligence of a sermon, but will not commit to obey the commandments of a sermon.
Yes, God wants us to pay our taxes as law-abiding citizens but, above all, He wants us to give Him our lives and obey Him!
Have you given to God what belongs to Him?

Rev. Doug Johnson is the pastor at Raven Assembly of God in Raven, Virginia.