Mark 12:17 (ESV) — 17 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.
Hoping to trap Jesus and catch him saying something that might incriminate him, the Pharisees and the Herodians, so full of themselves, question Jesus over taxes. The simple fact that the Pharisees and the Herodians are working together goes to show the level of hatred they have against Jesus. Pharisees are purists, a reform movement seeking fastidiously to uphold their traditions. The Herodians are the aristocrats, the politicians supporting Herods dynasty. These were not allied on other issues, but as the saying goes, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” They didn’t realize that they were stepping into the ring with the one in whom all wisdom dwells (Col. 2:3), who knows the end from the beginning. They thought that they had him trapped because if he said they should pay taxes to Caesar, the Pharisee could accuse him to the elders and high priests of thinking Israel should be subject to Rome. But if he said don’t pay taxes, the Herodians could accuse to Pilate of not being under willing subjection to Rome. They have caught him, or so they think, between a rock and a hard place. Jesus tells them to bring him a piece of their money. When they do, he asks them whose image is on the coin. Clearly, it is Caesar. So he tells them to render to Caesar the things that belong to him and give to God the things that belong to God. Implied in Jesus’ statement is a truth that subjection to human authorities is not at odds with our subjection to God. Paying Cesar the things that are his, does not negate our being ultimately in subjection to God. What are the things that belong to God—everything. But particularly notice Jesus language, “whose likeness and inscription is this?” He then tells them to give the things made in Caesar’s likeness to Caesar, but give to God the things made in God’s likeness—namely us. We are to render to God ourselves for we are made in his image and likeness and owe him glory, honor, and fidelity. Cesar can have his coin, but Christ will it all.
Father, teach us to render to you the things that are yours. You have called us to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, which is our spiritual worship. But we have divided loyalties. We want control, and we struggle against submission. Teach us to honor the authorities that you put in place over us, but always to recognize that they are to be in submission to you. You are our Lord, and we give you our lives, for they rightfully belong to you. May Christ sit as king over every area of our lives. In his strong name, we pray. Amen.