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Matthew 22:20-21

Jesus Confronted by Pharisees

In this episode, Jesus was confronted by a team of Pharisees who stood for theocracy, and another of Herodians who wanted the dynasty of Herod to be re-established in the place of the Roman procuratorship. If Jesus concluded that it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, then the people would be angry; if Jesus sided with the Pharisees, then He would be charged with sedition by the Romans. It seems there was no way to win.

What a predicament! But, what an opportunity! Jesus’ answer was to render tribute based on ownership. If taxes were based on money and that system was Roman, then we should obey the constraints of citizenship and pay the tax. On the other hand, whatever is due to God because of ownership should be paid to Him. Interestingly, the marks of ownership were “image” and “superscription” of the object under question. The image of God was a special gift of God to man at the creation (Genesis 1:26).

We are warned against making graven images of God or of any creature, because there will almost inevitably develop a desire to worship that image as a “god.” The true God is invisible—not body, but spirit. Man is the unique expression of the divine image among living organisms. That image has been marred by sin, but can be renewed by Christ.

Regarding titles or ownership, we decide how we shall be labeled. If we have decided to follow Christ, we gain the superscription “Christian,” which implies a relationship to Christ in some way—behavior, commitment, love (Acts 11:26; 1 Peter 4:16). Paul put it simply when he was in the midst of the storm at sea: “For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve” (Acts 27:23). Even though he was at the time imprisoned by Caesar, (v. 24) and was in no way advocating rebellion against Caesar’s authority, there is no doubt as to where his true allegiance lay. - KBC

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