They sent to Jesus some Pharisees with members of Herod’s party, with the purpose of trapping him by his own words. They came and said to Jesus, “Master, we know that you are truthful; you are not influenced by anyone, and your answers do not vary according to who is listening to you, but you truly teach God’s way. Tell us, is it against the Law to pay taxes to Caesar? Should we pay them or not?”
But Jesus saw through their trick and answered, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a silver coin and let me see it.” They brought him one and Jesus asked, “Whose image is this, and whose name?” They answered, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus said, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
And they were greatly astonished.
Undaunted allegiance to what is true demands nobility and courage. Noblesse oblige. Noble ancestry constrains to honorable behavior; privilege entails to responsibility. (Oxford English Dictionary). At first glance, the Pharisees looked as if they are in favor of Jesus. Perhaps, they were soliciting him to condemn the Roman Empire and its unjust rule of Palestine. But a closer scrutiny shows otherwise; it reveals their hypocrisy. Jesus’ answer exposed their evil intent. Since the Jews are under the Roman sovereignty, the rule requiring paying taxes must be observed. But he also gave a never-heard-before teaching.
In his answer Jesus wants to teach also that giving to Caesar what is his due is noble and demanded of every law-abiding Hebrew. Though this obligation to the emperor can be an honor to God, it is never equated with worship. Some people remark that they always pay their tax, never defrauded anyone and robbed anything, why still call on God? Civil obligation is for the “City of Men,” love of God belongs to heaven. While keeping one’s feet on the ground, one needs to fix his eyes to heaven. “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor.” (1 P 2:13-17)
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