Pharisees Ask Jesus About Paying Poll Tax

A little boy wanted $100 very badly. He prayed for weeks, but nothing happened. So, he decided to write a letter to God requesting $100. When the postal authorities received the letter to “God, USA”, they decided to send it to the President. The President was so amused … More


Herod the Great ruled all of Palestine as a Roman King. When he died in 4 B.C. his kingdom was divided into three parts of which Archelaus was given Judea and Samaria. He was a failure and in 6 A.D. the Romans stepped in and made Cyrenius governor with direct rule. This placed them under Tiberias who was the reigning emperor and all emperors were called Caesar.

It was under this system that the Jewish Sanhedrin sent a delegation of Pharisees and Herodians to ask Jesus a catch question (v. 13). “Is it lawful to give tribute (pay a poll tax) to Caesar or not” (v. 14)? They thought they had Him trapped. If He said no, they would report Him to the Roman authorities as a dangerous teacher who was trying to turn the people against the government. If He said yes they would tell the people that He was not really for them, but was selling them out to foreign oppression. Either way He would be in trouble.

Instead of answering them He asked for a coin and asked them a question, “Whose image is on this coin” (vv. 15-16)? When they said,” Caesar’s” He said, “Give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (v. 17). He was teaching that we owe something to the government for the protection that it gives us, but at the same time God created us in his own image (Gen. 1:26-27) and therefore, we belong to Him and owe Him our loyalty. The inevitable conclusion is that, if the state remains within its proper boundaries and makes its proper demands, the individual must give it his loyalty and his service. But in the last analysis both state and man belong to God, and therefore should their claims conflict, loyalty to God comes first.


I need to make sure that God is getting what I owe Him. Then I need to have each person in my family make a list of both the things that belong to God and the things which belong to Caesar?

Mark 12:13-17 (English Standard Version)

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