Render to God the Things that are God’s

Roman Coin

Matthew recorded an encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees in which they came to test Jesus (Matthew 22:15-22). They were trying to “trap Him in what He said” (Matthew 22:15). So they sent some of their disciples with some of the Herodians to question Him. They prefaced their question with flattery. “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any” (Matthew 22:16). Though they had evil motives (Matthew 22:18), their statement about Christ was true. He taught the truth regardless of how some might react to it. We should emulate our Lord’s attitude.

Their question designed to trap Jesus was this: “Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17). They probably figured any truthful answer might be able to be used to accuse Jesus. They knew Jesus would give a truthful answer and not sidestep the issue like others might. But Jesus knew their evil hearts (Matthew 22:18) and gave them a truthful answer they could not use against Him. He asked for a coin that would be used for the tax. Upon receiving the coin, He asked, “Whose likeness [image, KJV] and inscription is this?” (Matthew 22:20). They answered, “Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21).

Jesus first told them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21). Though Jesus came to establish a kingdom (Matthew 16:18-19), His followers are still expected to “be in subjection to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1). Since Christ’s kingdom was a heavenly kingdom (John 18:36), the citizens of that kingdom could submit to His law and that of the earthly rulers, provided they did not conflict (Acts 5:29). So they were to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” How would they determine what belonged to Caesar and what was due him? Jesus asked for a coin. The coin bore the image and inscription of Caesar. Therefore it belonged to him and was due him.

He then told them to render “to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). How do we determine what belongs to God and is due Him? Much the same way they were able to determine what belonged to Caesar. That which bears His image and inscription belongs to Him. We were made “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27). As Christians we wear the name of Christ (Acts 11:26) and have His law inscribed on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10). We are to render ourselves to God because we belong to God.

We are to “present [our] bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1). While we are expected to give back a portion of our material blessings to the Lord (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), we are able to give acceptably when we have the attitude of the Macedonians who “first gave themselves to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5). Paul reminded the Corinthians that as Christians they belonged to God. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Those who questioned Jesus were amazed (Matthew 22:22). Some today might be amazed at the great sacrifice God expects of us. We cannot be pleasing to God if we will not serve Him completely (Matthew 6:24). We need to render to God that which belongs to Him and live our lives as a sacrifice to Him.

This article is one of the fifty articles included in the book Plain Bible Teaching: The First Ten Years. Click on the link to read more about the book.

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