What did Christ mean when he said, "Render Unto Caesar..."

Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by Caissie, Mar 21, 2004.

  1. Caissie

    Caissie
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    Please comment on the analysis below on what Jesus meant when he said "Render unto Caesar..."

    The phrase, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" is probably the one of the most misinterpreted phrase in the New Testament. Most people read this and think that Jesus is saying, "Give Caesar your money and give God your soul." In this article, I'll attempt to show you that the above interpretation of Jesus' statement is not a correct interpretation and that Jesus was actually saying that is was not lawful (at that time and place) to give Caesar anything. Let us look at this scripture more closely. Pay close attention to each verse.

    Matthew 22:15-22 states: Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Show me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

    Luke 20:19-26 states: And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them. And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly: Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no? But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? Show me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar's. And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's. And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace.


    Things to think about

    1. The Pharisees knew the law. They knew that Jesus knew the law. Why did they think that they could have Jesus arrested, by His answer, if it was [Biblically] lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?

    2. If Jesus said, "Yes, Give Caesar your money..." and nobody "laid hands" on Him, nor did the crowd leave Him, then that wasn't a very good trap they set for Him.

    3. And why did they marvel at this answer? Why did they hold their peace? (Whatever Jesus said to them was more of a shocker than "Yes, Give Caesar your money and God your soul.")


    Other Things to Keep in Mind

    1. The Pharisees asked Jesus, "Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar". This statement clearly shows us that just because a government "passes laws" does not make these laws "lawful".

    2. "And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King." [Luke 23:2]


    3. When Jesus spoke in front of mixed company (with sinners), he did not speak so that everyone could understand. [Matthew 13:10-17]

    "All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:" [Matthew 13:34] (It does not get any more clear than that. When Jesus said "Render unto Caesar..." He was speaking to a multitude!)

    4. Government tax collectors are always mentioned in context of sinners.

    *And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" [Luke 18:13 NKJV].

    *...Jesus said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you." [Matthew 21:31 NKJV]

    *"Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. [Luke 15:1 NKJV]

    *And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. [Matthew 18:7 NKJV]


    (Also see Matthew 5:46-47, 9:11, 11:19, 21:32, Mark 2:15-16, Luke 5:30, 7:34)


    The Setting

    Two thousand years ago, Israel and many other countries, were under Roman control. The Jews that followed Jesus did not like being an occupied people. They did not like the idea that Caesar made claim of ownership of all land, people, and even their holy buildings. They did not like the idea of paying tribute to an occupying country.

    The Romans allowed the Jews to continue using their currency to trade, but they had to pay taxes to the Roman Empire using Roman coins.

    They knew that only God can make laws and that the Israelite kings could only administer God's Law without adding to it, nor taking away from it.

    They knew that all things in heaven and in earth belong to God.
    "Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it." (Deuteronomy 10:14 NKJV).


    The Trap

    Obviously, when you set a trap for someone, you don't want to give that person an easy way out. When the Pharisees "took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk" so they might "lay hands on him", they knew if Jesus said that it is not lawful, that the Roman soldiers would arrest Jesus, and throw Him in prison. If he said, "Yes, it is lawful to pay tribute to Caesar", then the Jews would know that he was not the Messiah and at least leave him, or maybe even stone him. The Pharisees knew the law better than most anyone in those days. They already knew the correct answer, before they asked. They knew that Jesus and his followers knew the correct answer. They knew that Jesus would tell his followers that it was not lawful to pay tribute to Caesar. Again, the reason they asked the question is not to learn the answer. The reason they asked the question was so they could "deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor" (What is more logical? Jesus getting arrested for teaching people to pay taxes, or for teaching people NOT to pay taxes?)


    Jesus Answers the Pharisees

    "And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's. And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace."
    Notice that Jesus did not define what belonged to Caesar. He did not say that the coin in question belonged to Caesar. He also did not define what belonged to God. He didn't need to. That was defined many times in the Old Testament. (The Pharisees and His followers knew the Old Testament. The Roman soldiers did not.) "Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it." (Deuteronomy 10:14 NKJV). "The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein." [Psalm 24:1]. That leaves nothing left for Caesar. Also, Haggai 2:8 states "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts." [The coin mentioned in this verse was the denaruis (silver)]


    Why the Pharisees Marveled at His Answer, and held their Peace.

    Remember, the Pharisees "took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk" so they might "lay hands on him". They thought they had a real good trap. They did not think it was even possible to get out of it. If Jesus said, "Yes", his followers would at least leave him. If He said, "No", the Roman soldiers would take him. Then Jesus answered the Pharisees in a nature that was typical of Jesus. His answer was so clear to everyone that knew the Old Testament (the Jews) but, just as it is not clear to many people today, it was not clear enough to the Roman soldiers for them to arrest Him. (Jesus was not afraid of getting arrested, but He was not going to let Satan decide on when and where.)
    After Jesus basically told the people that Caesar should get nothing, His followers probably cheered. His followers probably increased in number after that statement. The Pharisees were in awe, because they thought they had Jesus in their "check-mate trap", but Jesus came out of the trap unharmed and with the Pharisees' queen. After seeing that their wits are no match for Jesus' in this game, they "tipped over their king" and held their peace.


    The Superscription on the "Penny"

    The Roman coin in the above verses, had, on the front, a graven image of Tiberius Caesar and read, "Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the Divine Augustus" and the other side would read, "Pontius Maximus" which means "High Priest" or "Chief Priest". After knowing this, I believe that it is very questionable that Jesus would even possess such a coin. Maybe that is why He called them hypocrites and then asked to see a penny. It is possible that He did this for at least two reasons. One, is that it he did not have a Roman coin on him. And the second reason was to expose their hypocrisy and validate his accusation. In no other verse in the Bible did Jesus accuse someone of being a hypocrite without showing them the reason for His accusation. (Matthew 7:5; 15:7-9; 16:3-4; 23:13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27-28, 29; Mark 7:6-9: Luke 6:42; 12:56; 13:15;) When they produced the coin, it showed everyone the reason for Jesus' accusation.







    One More Thing to Think About

    If Jesus was alive today and living in Canada, where babies are killed (abortions) with tax money, which of the two sentences below sounds more like what Jesus would say:
    1. "I am going to pay the tax (help kill the babies), but I am going to write my Congressman and tell him that I don't like this one bit."
    2. "You will have to kill me, before I will help fund the killing of babies!"

    If you picked number 2, great. Now, using that same logic, would Jesus have helped fund the expansion of the Roman Empire that currently occupied [by force] the land God gave to His people?


    What am I saying?

    I am not saying that God does not want us to pay taxes. I am saying that it is clear after much study on this subject that Jesus did not pay taxes to Caesar because it was unlawful to do so. Maybe it was because of the graven image on the coin or because the superscription was essentially claiming that Caesar was God. Maybe it was because Rome had no legal right to claim ownership of Israel. (Just because a nation is stronger than another, does not give that nation the right to take over the weaker nation.) Or maybe it is a combination of the above, or something not mentioned. Whatever it was, I believe that it is clear that at that specific time it was unlawful for the Jews, living in Israel, to pay taxes to Tiberius Caesar. (Again, no one gets arrested for claiming that it is lawful to pay taxes.)


    I am looking forward to your comments on the above statement. Do you agree, disagree, am I totaly off? Thankyou [​IMG]
     
  2. robycop3

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    Different people were charged differing levels of taxes by the Romans, according to their occupation, or their favor with the local nabob. Jesus also said to obey the laws of man that didn't clash with God's law, as all govt. officials were there by God's will.

    The publicans were tax-collecting officials appointed by the Romans from among the people they ruled; thus the publicans with whom the Jews dealt were themselves Jews-and were known for their dishonesty in charging much more tax than was actually due in strict accordance with Roman law.

    I believe Jesus was quite plain in His statement, that it means exactly what it says.

    BTW, this thread may be moved to another forum, as this one is for the discussion of Bible versions & translations.
     
  3. Bartimaeus

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    Interesting. Your post has a few points I had never considered before.

    robycop3's statement,"...all govt. officials were there by God's will" is a .....get ready..."cop-out".

    Thanks ----Bart
     
  4. Pennsylvania Jim

    Pennsylvania Jim
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    Cassie,

    EXCELLENT post!!! A very concise summary of the subject. You should consider doing something else with it such as a booklet or having it published somewhere.

    And I agree that it makes much more sense than the standard shallow "give your money to the government and your time to the church" treatment.
     
  5. GrannyGumbo

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    Don't know if this will fit in here, but son'n'law, my pastor, wrote an article for our local paper which may be of interest to some:

    TAXED TO DEATH

    Government say, “We have problem, need money to fix.” The people say, “O.K.” Government say, “Still problems, need more money.” The people say, “O.K.” The people find that the problem gets far worse. Government say, “We fix. Need more money.” And thus was invented the property tax. Make the rich man pay! This is nothing but theft. Perhaps this hog known as government should be slaughtered instead of being fed more. Did you know that when God ran the government, the people never paid taxes of any kind to government? They only paid a tithe for the promotion of religion. Only when they insisted on having worldly government were they taxed. Read 1 Samuel 8:10-22 (KJB). It is evil for the rich to take the goods of the poor (2 Samuel 12:1-4 KJB) and equally wicked for those who have not to take from those who have. Such is property tax. A few pay for the benefit of many. They have no say, for the many simply vote more tax for the few to pay. ROBBERY! Unjust balances! If men desire the services of government, then they should pay directly for what they receive.

    Liberty Baptist Church
    P.O. Box 718
    Winnsboro, Louisiana [71295]
     
  6. Pennsylvania Jim

    Pennsylvania Jim
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    Good letter. The property tax is a particularly evil form of theft. It taxes people on past accomplishments and penalizes responsibility, with no regard to ability to pay or equity between citizens. It amounts to confiscation of private property, something that Karl Marx himself would be proud of.
     
  7. GODzThunder

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    I completely agree with your logic but I think Jesus did pay taxes in the Bible (it is assumed that all taxes went to the Roman Empire). Jesus told peter to go catch a fish and check its mouth to find a coin for their taxes. That tax was either Jesus of his disciples. Either way it was paid!
     
  8. Helen

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    A couple of points, Caissie -- and, by the way, I enjoy reading your essay.

    1. One of the reasons tax collectors were so hated was because they could demand as much as they wanted and keep whatever was not owed to the government. They were 'legal thieves'.

    2. The Bible says we are to live at peace as far as possible, and that we should obey the authorities set over us. The Romans were in authority over the Jews by God's permission. It was right to pay taxes.

    3. Jesus never worked or spoke against a political system, or even the evils it engendered. His Kingdom is NOT of this world. He was furious with the Pharisees and teachers of the law for their hypocrisy in adding to and administering God's law and the Temple, but their political power was long since gone as a nation.

    4. When you refuse to pay taxes, you mark yourself as a lawbreaker, whether or not you agree with those taxes.

    To P. Jim -- property taxes are generally used for services you, as a property owner in the aread being taxes, enjoy. They include roads, education, and other services. Paying for these services in proportion to the land you own is not an evil form of theft. It does protect those who are poor and cannot afford land, however, from being taxed an extra amount.

    GzT -- when Jesus got the coin from the mouth of the fish, it was for the Temple tax. That was different.
     
  9. go2church

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    It doesn't cleary show that at all. The context is that the Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus in is own words, this was the best question they could come up with.
     
  10. Pennsylvania Jim

    Pennsylvania Jim
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    Maybe where you live that is true.

    Where I live, property taxes are used mainly to fund the public schools, which many do not use. Other more moral forms of taxation are used for roads, police, etc.

    You are ocncerned about the poor? How would you like to see elderly folks evicted from a modest home in which they lived for many decades and raised their family, because they cannot afford to pay $3000 to $4000 in property taxes for schools which they have not used for decades, or perhaps ever? That's rather common here.

    I've heard, with my own ears, well-off people propose driving property taxes UP to, quote, "get rid of the riff-raff".

    That, my friend, is THEFT, pure and simple.
     
  11. Caissie

    Caissie
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    It does not show up good on the article but click on "The Roman Coin" (right under The Superscription on the "Penny" title) for a link to see the coin for your self.

    Also you can go here http://www.biblegateway.com/cgi-bin/bible?search=tax+collector&SearchType=EXACT&version=NKJV&restrict=&StartRestrict=&EndRestrict=&rpp=25&language=english&searchpage=0&x=12&y=8
    to see all the verses about tax collectors.

    Challenged Also, in reply to tax collectors being thieves and therefore sinners. Aren't you categorizing all tax collectors.

    If green people lived on the earth and 90% were thieves, wouldn’t it be wrong to speak as if they were all thieves? Do you think Jesus would do something like that?
     
  12. Caissie

    Caissie
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    The verse in question here is Matthew 17:24. That tax was the temple tax. I thought at first that it meant the Roman tax (I use the KJV, some bibles specify that it was the temple tax). But I looked up the Greek word used there for "tribute". And that is a different Greek word than the word used when Jesus was asked if it was lawful to pay "tribute". In fact, the word used in Matthew 17:24 is "didrachmon" which is for one half a shekel. And guess how much the temple tax was? One half shekel. Also it could not have been a Roman tax because the coin in here is a half shekel, not a Roman Denarius.


    For the word "tribute" used in Matther 17:24, click here:
    http://www.apostolic-churches.net/bible/strongs/ref/?stgh=greek&stnm=1323

    After knowing the above...This verse makes a lot more sense.

    Matthew 17:24-26
    24 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
    25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
    26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
     

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