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The Question About Taxes

Mark  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:06:04
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The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend

Mark 12:13 ESV
And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk.
Pharisees and Herodians were enemies politically and socially.
Pharisees were conservative nationalists who begrudgingly consented to Roman rule.
Herodians were liberal “sellouts” who were in favor of Roman rule.
Jesus had become the enemy of both of these groups causing them to form an alliance to try to trap him.

A Question With No Right Answer

Mark 12:14 ESV
And they came and said to him, “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?”
The tax in question was the head tax. This was an annual tax of 1 denarius, the equivalent of 1 days wage.
It was basically a subjugation tax. This tax was a symbolic gesture that every citizen had to pay to acknowledge that Rome was their ruler, but more specifically that Caesar was their ruler.
The tax had to be paid with a denarius, a coin stamped with the image of Caesar.
The trick of the question was twofold:
The question went beyond asking for a moral judgment, it asked for an advisory on how to act.
If Jesus supports paying the tax then the Pharisees can slander him and the people could turn against him. If Jesus rejects the tax the Herodians can arrest him and put him on trial.

Jesus Frustrates the Plans of the Wicked

Mark 12:15–17 ESV
But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “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?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 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.
Jesus knows their motives and their plan.
Jesus asks them about the denarius. The coin had Caesar’s image on one side, with the inscription that said, “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus” (or “son of god”), the other “high priest”
The image on the coin showed who the coin belonged to. Legally all the coins in belonged to Caesar.
Jesus answers in a third way that none of his opponents thought possible. This is shown by how they marveled at him for his answer.

Render to Caesar

Jesus teaching here is specific enough that we can learn from it, but vague enough that we need to be careful exactly how much we read into the text.
Jesus shows us that we are to be obedient to our government, even if the ruler thinks he’s a god.
Jesus shows us that we should pay our taxes. He does not comment on the justness or injustice of the taxes, only that we are to pay them.

Render to God

Just as Caesar owned all the coins because his image was on the coins, God owns every life because we all bear His image.
Jesus very broadly teaches us that our lives ultimately belong to God, and that we should live for God.
Jesus taught that obedience to God supersedes obedience to country.
Jesus taught that Obedience to God and obedience to Country are not mutually exclusive.
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