Luke 20:19–26

Read the passage.

It’s kind of a big deal for the chief priests to be told that they aren’t actually going to be inheriting the kingdom of God. They and the scribes (other experts of the Scriptures) were understandably upset by this, but instead of wondering what could be done about that situation, they instead try to destroy the one who said it. But they didn’t want public opinion to turn on them, so they tried to come up with a way to get the Romans to do it for them.

Being a conquered, oppressed people, the Jews did not appreciate the taxes Rome imposed upon them. If they could get Jesus to take a public stance on taxes, either the people would hate Him for encouraging people to pay the tax, or the Romans would arrest Him for saying they shouldn’t. They send in spies to be part of His audience while He teaches at the temple, and with flattery they pose the question to Him. “[According to the Law of Moses,] is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” (v. 22)

Instead of answering directly, Jesus asks him to show a denarius. This was a silver coin worth a laborer’s wages for a day, that was appropriate to pay Rome’s tax. Whose name and face are on this coin? Caesar’s, of course. Who does the tax belong to? Caesar, of course. But then Jesus also says to give God what He is owed as well. By pointing out the similarities between civil government and God’s authority, Jesus can thus not be accused of being disloyal to His own people or the governing authorities.

There are many places in the Bible where God’s people are commanded to obey the civil authorities. The main reason for this is that everyone who is placed over us was put there by God in one way or another. Whether we like it or not, whether we agree with the policies implemented or not, whether they do a good job of it or not. The only exception is when they order us to go against God’s commands, and then we appeal to the higher authority, even if the earthly government doesn’t recognize it.

Let us be wise and gracious in our speech like Jesus.

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