15Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 16They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites.17Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”18But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me? 19Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin, 20he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”21“Caesar’s,” they replied.“Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”22His reply amazed them, and they went away.
What’s the Real Question?
My wife, Kia, is a professional portrait photographer. When it comes time for clients to pay, she occasionally receives some variation of this question,
“Do you offer discounts for orders paid in cash?”
Have you ever noticed how some questions aren’t the real question? The question is meant to ask another question – in a non-direct way.
When a client asks Kia, “Do you offer discounts for orders paid in cash?” they usually mean this,
“Can you remove my sales tax? It is paid in cash, so you won’t claim this income.”
The question is all about deception and integrity.
Deception & Integrity
Which leads to our Scripture passage for the day. Jesus is asked a question by the Pharisees. The question is pretty straight forward, “Should I pay my taxes?” But what was the real question behind their question?
To understand this, we need to take the question in context. Their question is in response to a story Jesus just told about a king and a wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14). Those invited to the feast blew the king off. Some even killed the king’s servants. Jesus tells of how the king exacts judgement on these people.
The Pharisees know who Jesus is talking about – them! They aren’t very happy about it, so they develop a plan to trick Jesus. They want him to speaking poorly of Caesar, taxes and Rome. This will allow them to present Jesus to the authorities as traitors.
What’s the question behind the question? Deception and Integrity. The Pharisees attempt to deceive Jesus. They try to destroy his integrity.
Commands of Christ
All month we’ve been focusing on the Commands of Christ. This command from Jesus holds true today. Give to the government what belongs to the government. Give to God what belongs to God.
When it comes to us paying our taxes, usually it comes down to this same issue. It’s not about ability, it’s about deception and integrity. Can I deceive the government? Will I keep my integrity?
If you enjoy the rights of citizenship, pay for it. If not, be involved in government. Make a difference. You don’t have to agree. You just have to obey.
Don’t be deceptive. Keep your integrity.