“The leaders sent some of the Pharisees and some of Herod’s followers to Jesus. They wanted to trap him into saying the wrong thing. When they came to him, they said, “Teacher, we know that you tell the truth. You don’t favor individuals because of who they are. Rather, you teach the way of God truthfully. Is it right to pay taxes to the emperor or not? Should we pay taxes or not?” Jesus recognized their hypocrisy, so he asked them, “Why do you test me? Bring me a coin so that I can look at it.” They brought a coin. He said to them, “Whose face and name is this?” They told him, “The emperor’s.” Jesus said to them, “Give the emperor what belongs to the emperor, and give God what belongs to God.” They were surprised at his reply.”
Mark 12:13-17 GW
I first want to say that this is not intended in any way against giving. My personal belief is that as the Church, we are representatives of a coming Kingdom far greater than any form of governance or command the world has ever known. Therefore we should be the most giving people on earth. I’ve seen this section of scripture used countless times in a way that really robs the reader of its significance and beauty. Not to mention it shows just how witty Christ is which I find so awesome.
I have heard this countless times used for paying taxes to the government while at the same time paying tithe to the church. However I believe we are missing the point of what Jesus is really trying to say. Let us examine.
We see Jesus here being tempted by the Pharisees and the Herodians, He was set up to fail, in their eyes. He was set up to fail because if he would have answered to you pay to Caesar then the Pharisees would condemn and vice-versa. However, the very moment this question was asked Christ immediately knew of their hypocrisy and thus asked for a simple denarius coin. This coin was Roman currency, on this currency was the stamp of Caesar, His face. These coins were strongly forbidden in the temple, but why?
Well Caesar claimed to be divine and people in fact worshiped him. These coins also would be used to pay tribute to him. This coin was a graven image, it is a simple a that, and it was for that reason it wasn’t allowed into the temple. So the fact that a Pharisee had this in his pocket, that was a serious offense. It would have been very interesting to see the crowds reactions to this event. Now let’s examine this coin, because it has a very deep meaning here.
A king would engrave his image to show right of ownership, these coins were Caesars and wherever this coin was circulated you can be guaranteed that he had ownership and authority of that territory, state, village, or province etc etc….
Now ask yourself this question, in whose image are we made? Let that stir in your spirit for a bit.
Jesus isn’t merely talking about paying tithe. He is saying let Caesar have his stupid little coins. And you, you Pharisee, give God your life because you are made in His image. He takes it way above ten percent.