Final Thoughts on Mark 12:13-17
Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words. When they had come, they said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?” But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.” So they brought it. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And Jesus answered and said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at Him. NKJV
There is a huge contrast in philosophy between the two groups that are attacking Jesus in our passage. The Pharisees, a conservative religious party, hated the Roman rule and the Roman-backed Herodian dynasty of kings. The Herodians, a political party consisting mostly of Sadducees, supported the Roman-backed Herodian dynasty. The Pharisees and the Herodians were polar opposites and normally would never be joined together in a common cause. To see these two groups come together is to imagine Barack Obama and Mitt Romney joining forces because they are afraid of Ron Paul. Politics frequently makes for strange bedfellows, especially when the quest is for power and influence which may, or may not, have anything to do with truth, justice, or the good of others.
The Pharisees and Herodians were not interested in truth. They united their forces in an effort to trap Jesus, who they saw as a threat to their position and power over the people. If Jesus said, “No. The Jews should not pay taxes,” the Herodians would have charged Him with treason against Rome. If He said, “Yes. The Jews should pay taxes to Rome,” the Pharisees would have accused Him of disloyalty to the Jewish nation and He would lose the support of the Jewish people who hated Roman rule and taxation. Jesus sidesteps their trap by showing them the image and inscription of Tiberius Caesar Augustus on a Roman coin and tells them to give to God the things that are God’s (the things commanded in scripture) and to give the things that are Caesar’s to Caesar (the obeying of civil laws, including the paying of taxes). To give to God the things that are God seems quaint foolishness to our current politic world of liberal, ungodly Herodians, who would like to see God’s morality and influence completely removed from government.
God is God of all creation – sex, religion, and politics all fall under God’s domain. We might find it difficult to decide together what that means for us but stony silence is no more the answer (nor is it possible), than hiding behind the smokescreen of theocracy. God knows that when broken people come to share life together in community they will need leadership or they will live in chaos. Christian stewardship includes our care over all things in our lives, and yes, that includes paying taxes. But listen carefully to Jesus’ answer and there is no doubt, although the emperor is listed first, a denarius is trivial. The ultimate authority remains God, whether the emperor likes that or not. Pastor Kerry Nelson