We’ve already filed and have received our refund so April 15th is just an ordinary day for me. The passage below, however, is relevant for us on any day of the year.
And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him, (Mark 12:13-17, ESV).
This was a sticky situation. The Pharisees stood for strict obedience to the law in its written and oral forms. They also did not like Roman rule, though they were not revolutionaries. Then on the other hand you have the Herodians who benefited from Roman rule, so they were supportive of Roman authority.
Then there were likely Zealots in the crowd who felt the tax shouldn’t be paid at all. That view likely had the support of many people in the crowd surrounding Jesus. This was a recipe for disaster. It would seem whatever He was going to say it would alienate one of these groups.
Jesus asserts His authority when He demands a coin, and then asks His questioners a question of His own, “whose likeness and inscription is this?”
By showing Jesus the coin they answered their question. They were being hypocrites. They were carrying around Roman money. By using Roman money they were acknowledging Roman authority and their obligation to pay the tax.
Jesus uses the word “render” or “payment”. His questioners approached the issue of the tax as though it is a voluntary choice, but Jesus pointed out that it is an obligation to pay for services received.
Jesus’ answer avoids the trap the Pharisees and Herodians were trying to lay. Caesar has a rightful claim as does God. Give to each his rightful claim. Obedience to God does not abolish obedience to the state. Jesus does not say here that the claims of God and of the state are the same, however.
So while we pay taxes (and yes we need to as much as it pains us) to give our governmental authorities their due for the services provided. We should not forget that God is in ultimate control and we should give Him his due in our time, talents and treasure.