19 October 2014Matthew 22:15-22
“Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (v. 21)
Jesus asks for a coin. Why doesn't he get one out of his own pocket? The answer may well be that he was a faithful Jew. The "coin used for tax" (v. 19) was Roman money. It was the enemy's money, a brutal enemy that had conquered and now oppressed the Jewish people. Jesus was an 'exile' in his own land. The money also had an image on it; the image of the emperor, and in the cult of Roman emperor, Caesar was a God. This was enemy money and idolatrous money. Strict Jews wouldn't carry it and even ordinary Jews had to change their Roman money for special money if they wanted to buy sacrifices at the temple. The story of the money changers in the temple (Matthew 21:12-17), reminds us of how Jesus viewed that particular custom.
What is interesting in this passage is how Jesus talks about dealing with the enemy. As in the book of Jeremiah he teaches an attitude to those who have power over you (eg Jeremiah 29:7). But not only that, Jesus explicitly rejects the Caesar cult - and distinguishes between what we give to an emperor and what we should rightly give to God.
- We can often feel we are no longer in a 'Christian country' - almost as if we were in exile: "How could we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land'? (Psalm 137:4). How does Jesus' teaching resonate with your experience now and how does it challenge it?
- Is paying tax a moral issue? And if so, what difference does that make to how you view your own paying of taxation?