(Photo courtesy of Fr. Bill Kempf, Saint Juustin Martyr)
Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.
The Pharisees and Herodians went to Jesus to try and trap him with his words. They asked him whether it was right to pay tax to Caesar or not. Jesus responded by asking them whose image and inscription appeared on the coin. He then instructed them to give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what is God’s.
The Herodians derived their name as the followers of King Herod. They were a political party who wanted to restore Herod to the throne in Judea and other areas and were against the Pharisees who wanted to restore the Kingdom of David.
In ancient times, the image of an object showed ownership. The denarius was a coin that was used as the tax money at the time. a coin used as the tax money at the time. Since the Roman emperor also viewed himself as a god, some Jews objected to paying taxes with Roman money, calling it idolatry. By acknowledging the image of Caesar but not condemning it, Jesus confirms that this perspective was flawed.
When Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” He was drawing a sharp distinction between two kingdoms. There is a kingdom of this world, and Caesar holds power over it. But there is another kingdom, not of this world, and Jesus is King of that.
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.
The second part of His answer, to give “to God what is God’s”, serves as a reminder to focus on our relationship with God. Whether the Jewish audience paid their taxes or not, it was more important for them to focus on honoring their relationship with God.