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Luke 20:19-26 – Paying Taxes

In a previous parable Jesus had told a story of tenants working in a vineyard. This represented the chief priests working among God’s people, Israel. They had rejected their landlord’s prophets and would soon his son. Jesus had spoken of how God would dispossess the chief priests of their work among God’s people. In hearing this parable, the chief priests become even more insistent on having Jesus killed.

They have two problems with carrying out their plan: (1) they fear the people who are favorable to Jesus (2) they lack the authority to put someone to death as that authority belongs to the Romans.

The solution is to attempt to flatter Jesus: “we know that you speak and teach rightly … [and] truly teach the way of God.” They then ask if it is according to the Law of Moses to pay taxes to the Roman Caesar. If Jesus says ‘yes’ then he will lose the favor of the people, if he says ‘no’ then he will come under the death penalty by the Romans for sedition. It seems a perfect verbal trap.

Jesus, ever the wise man, perceives their crafty shrewd earthly wisdom. His wisdom is superior to theirs as he answers: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” It is masterful line.

We are to respect the government institutions placed above us sovereignly by God while also ensuring that we live and breathe the kingdom of God in our lives.