Paying Taxes to Caesar

In a newly created nation in Africa, an elderly native was told that he was going to be taxed to support the government. “Why?” he asked. “To protect you from enemies, to feed you when you are hungry, to care for you when you are sick, and to educate your chi … More



These religious leaders knew that they were the ones Jesus had just referred to as murderers in the parable He had given (v. 19). Jesus comments were veiled, but the religious leaders had no trouble interpreting them. They immediately wanted to arrest Him. When they had permitted John the Baptist to be killed, and when they asked for Jesus to be crucified, they were murderers. As a result, they were looking for a reason to turn Jesus over to the Roman authorities for execution.

Jesus turned his enemies attempt to trap Him into a powerful lesson. Jesus knew that these men who questioned Him were sent there by the Pharisees and the Herodians (v. 20). These two groups were usually fighting each other but now they had a common enemy and this had caused them to join forces. They asked Him a question about taxes and Roman authority (vv. 21-22). They hoped to get Him to either offend the Jew by saying they needed to pay the poll tax, or the Romans by saying they didn’t need to pay the poll tax. It is important that we keep our priorities straight when it comes to God and Government. Our duty is always to God before Government.

Jesus told them that to pay the tax meant simply to give Caesar back that which belonged to him. Governmental authority has been instituted by God and must be respected (vv. 23-24). Even if we cannot respect the people in office, we must respect the office. These verses form the basis for the doctrine of the separation of church and state (vv. 25-26). Both are to exist but neither one is to lord their authority over the other as supreme.



It is unfortunate that some Christians seem to think that the more obnoxious they are as citizens, the more they please God. It is true that I must never violate Scriptural principles, but I should seek to be a peace-maker and not a trouble-maker.

Luke 20:19-26 (English Standard Version)

The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. So they asked him, "Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?" But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, "Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?" They said, "Caesar's." He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.

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