The Gospels – The Gospel According to Matthew
The separation of the spiritual from the material
Matthew 22:15-22 Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.
16 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.
17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
21 They say unto him, Cæsar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
The die was cast and His enemies had finally made up their minds to destroy Him. They set about their plans then. They wanted an opportunity. If only Jesus could speak out of turn? Then they would have their excuse to arrest Him and would be able to justify this to their people and also to the Roman authorities. They set about then to try to entrap Him in His words. Because Jewish religious law carried no weight with the Roman authorities, they tried to see whether He would say something against Roman law. Jesus would not oblige however and He rebuffed them.
Render unto God’s what are God’s. This is a clear separation of the spiritual from the material. If they would enjoy the protection which the Roman empire bestows, then they had the obligation to pay their taxes. At the same time since they were creatures of God, they must also conduct their lives in such a way that was pleasing to Him. They could raise no argument against this Wisdom and they left in shame.