Jesus didn’t get involved in the politics of His time for He was sent to this Earth for the sole purpose of eternally saving mankind (Luke 4:43). At His time, Israel was under Roman rule as a direct result of failing to be obedient to God and His covenant (Deuteronomy 28). The religious leaders of Israel had also rejected Christ as the Son of God and were plotting to kill Him, thus adding to their guilt and sin against God. In their attempts to try to trick Jesus into making a mistake that was punishable by death, they one time asked him a political question to trap Him: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17)
There was a poll tax imposed by Roman jurisdiction. The payment of the tribute was hated by the Jews, not because it was heavy, but because it was a reminder of their subjection and lost independence. Jesus knew right away that this was a trap for Him. And He said to them show Me the tax money. So, they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, whose image and inscription is this? They said to Him, “Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:19-21). The fact that the Jews had the money in their possession and used it was in itself evidence that they acknowledged Caesar’s authority. Therefore, the Roman emperor had a right to claim their resources.
But then Jesus added His famous statement, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Here, Jesus established the basic principle that determines the Christian’s relationship to the state. Although God’s authority is supreme and our ultimate loyalty belongs to Him, we are not to ignore the legal claims of the government or state upon us.
We must cooperate with “the powers that be” because they are “ordained of God” (Romans 13:1). Therefore, to pay tribute to Caesar cannot be contrary to the law of God, as the Pharisees claimed. However, there are certain things in which governments have no right of jurisdiction over and these include spiritual matters (Acts 5:29). Thus, God’s jurisdiction is absolute while civil authority is subordinate. Jesus showed by example that the Christian is called for spiritual pursuits not earthly ones.
In His service,
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