Today’s Bible reading is 2 Chronicles 26 and Mark 12.
“Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
Trap him in his talk. That was the goal behind the Pharisees’ question.
“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?” (Mark 12:14)
Jesus–seeing through the question, past the trap, all the way to the hypocrisy at work in their hearts–responded with a question of his own.
“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?” (Mark 12:15-16)
That small coin, worth a day’s worth of labor, bore the likeness of Tiberius Caesar. The inscription? On one side: TI. CAESAR DIVI AVG. F. AVGVSTVS (“Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus”). On the other side: PONTIF MAXIM (“Chief Priest”).
What was Jesus’ point? Lean in with the rest of the crowd, anxious to hear what he will say about this symbol of Caesar’s authority…
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17)
And they marveled at him.
“Whose likeness and inscription is this?” That’s a question worth chewing on this week, especially in light of Jesus’ final statement–“Render to God the things that are God’s.” How can I do that today?
Just as surely as that first century denarius bore the image of Tiberius, you (and every single person you cross paths with) bear the image of God. Caesar’s coin bore the inscribed boast of his supposed divinity. What about us?
My son, keep my words
and treasure up my commandments with you;
keep my commandments and live;
keep my teaching as the apple of your eye;
bind them on your fingers;
write them on the tablet of your heart. (Prov 7:1-3)
You bear the likeness of the one (and only) God. You ARE God’s. But much more than creating you to use you as a mindless, soulless, loveless tool, his intense desire is to inscribe his good will on the tablet of your heart–the heart he has provided–for your good and his glory.
For all time, the words of the one (and only) truly divine Son have been preserved. They apply today, to me and to you. “Render to God the things that are God’s.” Your life. Your body. Your time. Your resources. Your heart.
Let’s do more than marvel at Jesus’ answer. Let’s follow Jesus’ lead this week.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained, will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)