The Question Concerning Tribute to Caesar
The Lord Jesus Christ continued to teach in the Temple, and the Jewish elders took counsel among themselves how to entangle Him in His speech in order to accuse Him in front of the people or before the Roman authorities.
Having thought up a crafty question, they sent several Pharisees to the Saviour from among their young apprentices and Herodians, recognized lawyers of Roman authorities. Pretending respect, they began flatteringly to say to Him, “Master, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and favour no man, for you do not regard the position of men. Tell us then, is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
The enemies of Christ who thought up this tricky question reasoned thus: if Jesus Christ answers that it is appropriate to pay the tribute, then he calls upon Himself indignation among the people, as the Jews recognized only God as their king. They considered it to be unlawful and against God’s will to be subject to a foreign king, moreover a heathen, and only by coercion they did render tribute to Caesar. If Jesus Christ answered that it was not necessary to pay tribute to Caesar, then in that case, He would immediately be guilty before the Roman authority as one who stirred up the people against the Roman powers, against Caesar.
But Jesus Christ knowing their malice said to them, “Why do you tempt Me, you hypocrites? (Hypocrites — people who affectedly, for some advantage, try to present themselves before others as pious and virtuous) Show me the money for the tax.”
They brought Him a denarius, a Roman coin.
The Saviour asked, “Whose likeness and inscription is on it?”
They said, “Caesar’s.”
Then, Jesus Christ said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” This means, give back to Caesar that what you receive from him, pay tribute to him for that which you use from him (money, armies, etc.), submit to him in everything that is not against God’s commandments, paying taxes is a sign of submission, a legal obligation and necessity. But at the same time, steadfastly fulfil everything that God requires from us in His commandments and lovingly serve Him; for to God, you owe your existence, your very life.
The answer of the Saviour amazed them all by the wisdom and unusual simplicity, so that the questioners fell silent and went away in shame.