Wednesday, July 31: Is it right to pay the imperial tax?

Jesus SaidThis summer, we'll seek to understand Jesus' life and teachings by reading through the gospel of Matthew, complementing the teaching team's focus in their "Jesus Said" series. One of the most profound truths of Christianity is that Jesus was and is God. In order to know God, we can look at Jesus, for, as Paul wrote in Colossians, Jesus is "the image of the invisible God."

Read Matthew 22:15-22

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?"

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose image is this? And whose inscription?"

"Caesar's," they replied.

Then he said to them, "So give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.


Normally the Pharisees and the Herodians would have been bitter enemies. The Pharisees, a Jewish religious group, opposed the Roman occupation of Palestine. The Herodians, a political party, supported Herod and Rome's policies. Hatred of Jesus brought these opposing groups together. They weren't motivated by love of God's law or by love for Roman justice. Jesus exposed their evil motives and embarrassed them both.


Jesus avoided this trap by showing that we have dual citizenship. Our citizenship in a worldly nation requires that we pay for services and benefits we receive. Our citizenship in the kingdom of heaven requires that we pledge to God our primary obedience and commitment. There's an expected tension between these two. How do you experience this tension in your life?



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