But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him.
When people ask you to do something, to join them, there are different possible reasons behind it.
Neutral – there’s really nothing behind the request, it’s just an opinion poll that no one will read.
Positive – they want you to experience the best, to receive a blessing.
Negative – they want you to experience the worst, they want you to fail, they want you to fall.
You’ll never guess which one of these options the Pharisees and Herodians had in mind? That’s right, they were trying to trick Jesus. They were trying to trip him up so that he would fail and fall.
Jesus saw through their mask and saw the real reasons behind their questions. He wasn’t fooled for a second. He saw their trap and brought it to light. But Jesus doesn’t stop there, he publicly gives an illustration that they and everyone around them will remember.
He doesn’t point to the sky, describing God’s creation, power, and might.
He doesn’t give them a three-point sermon about paying taxes.
He doesn’t point them to his website or social media outlets.
He makes them dig into their own pockets. He doesn’t make them look far away. He gets very personal and practical with them.
Jesus is always looking for an opportunity to share and communicate with as many people as possible. While he’s speaking just to the people that brought up the question, they’re not alone. Other people are all around, watching, listening.
And he does more than engage their minds, he gets their whole person involved. He makes them hold the coin. He makes them look at the coin. He makes them read the coin.
The lesson is that since Caesar owns the coin, it belongs to him. So, it’s good and proper to use it for Caesar and in his realm. There is nothing evil about the coin just because it’s “filthy” money. On the contrary, it is to be used for Caesar. After all, it was for a lot of good reasons.
Roads built to connect cities throughout the world.
Water brought to cities through aqueducts.
Local and national security provided.
They all require resources, and Caesar’s money is to be used for that. And that’s a good thing.
But God’s “currency” is different. It’s not minted or printed. Its value isn’t measured by weight, or the number engraved or printed on it. God’s economy is very different. Jesus said as much himself.
I desire mercy, and not sacrifice
It’s easy for us to jump all over the Pharisees and Herodians. We get a self-righteous sense of pride when we point out the faults of others. And yet, where would Jesus’ point to in our lives where we have our values all messed up?
We eagerly point out the faults, failings, and flaws of others. We jump on them like a toaster pops up.
But how does God deal with us? Does he only pop up when we do something that he wants to thump us on the head for? Is his priority to punish at the first sign of disobedience?
Yes, God does correct, even punishes. But his intent and reasoning are to turn us and return us to him. It’s not primarily to inflict pain because he’s all about pain. No, God is love, so that means that he wants nothing but the best for us.
And to get us to his best, there’s just about nothing he won’t do. I know this because when we were at our worst, when we were his enemies, what did God do?
while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son
That’s his reason for wanting to reconnect with you. He’s the God who made the universe. Who loves you. Who’s reaching out to you right now.