So the Pharisees came to Jesus with a question, "Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar?"
Matthew reports that they were doing this purposely to trap him. What can he say... if he says no, then they have him for opposing the law. If he says yes, then what about God, what about the temple and compassion for the poor? Surely this would be undermining the message he came to give.
They approach him with words of truth and flattery. "We know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You do not allow yourself to be swayed by others."
Notice how Jesus was not caught up with the situation but rather seemed to stand apart from it, almost as if he were a bystander looking at it from a distance. The flattery was all too clear and Jesus showed them up for their motives. Why do you try to trap me you hypocrites?
This was more of an opportunity for the self righteous to reflect and admit the truth about themselves. Their problem was that they had a form of godliness but denied God in their existence, thus being without any real power. Like the rest of us, they were sinners too, but rather than repent, they chose to hold on to their image thus continuing their pretence.
A consistent message from the Prophets throughout history, is to Tell God you are sorry for your sin and he will forgive you. It is in repentance that mercy and reconciliation is to be found. God freely offers the hope and power not only to survive this age but the ability to fulfil His will in our world.
The Pharisees didn't like Jesus, they were not prepared to enter the gateway that God provided for them and for everyone... so they were against him, they needed to defeat him and if necessary kill him. Choosing to hold onto their pride would take them to extreme measures and to their ultimate destruction.
Jesus asked them to show him a coin, so he asks, "Whose head can you see on it?"
They said Caesar's. So Jesus said, give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what is God's. Not the direct answer they were hoping for. It was also a statement that this world and His world were very different places. This world is Caesar's for a short while but in the end it will be God's. By Caesar, I refer to the evil ruler of this age. This world however, belongs to God in its complete fullness.
What does this mean for today? For me, there is a choice about who to serve. I would love them to be one of the same thing but they always seemed to oppose each other.
1 John says: Don't love the world, neither the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the Father's love is not in him.
Yes, we should pay our taxes and I long for HMRC get their act together, not being bound by awkward regulations which makes communication difficult. The world by both subtle and blatant means, presses people to conform to their ways, which often distance us from God. Many of our young today believe that they must try to look the same, dress the same, talk and act the same otherwise prepare to suffer rejection or bullying. Through fear or convenience, the temptation is to lie, embrace the quick fix, so taking our eyes away from Jesus and eternity to come.
That gateway to the Father remains open, face the truth, confess our wrongs and shortcomings, as John said repent, amend our ways and God will forgive us and keep us in peace with Him. Was the pathway intended to be easy? No, but the destination is assured and sometimes we experience joy as we journey along.