Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dual Citizenship

A group approached Jesus. First, they tried to butter him up: "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are." Then the question: "Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

The question itself is perfectly reasonable. Jesus could have put on his teacher hat and led a great discussion. Instead, he responded by calling them hypocrites because he recognized this was an attempt to trap him verbally. A "yes" would trigger a response from the Pharisees who would accuse him of supporting Caesar's delusion of being a god; a "no" would have gotten him arrested for rebellion.

Jesus responded to the question, but not as they'd hoped, and not just to the question. He really responded to their hearts. Always one ready for an object lesson, he asked them for a denarius (coin) and asked, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?" It was Caesar's, so "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" (Matthew 22:15-22). The Jews were part of both the Roman Empire and the kingdom of God. Caesar could rightfully claim their tax money, but not their souls.

"Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king" (I Peter 2:7).

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