Whose is it?

We’re about to see a whole set of new currency produced including coins and banknotes. The death of Queen Elizabeth II means that new coins and stamps must carry the image of King Charles III.

Read Mark 12:13-17

Jesus is approached by a group of people trying to catch him out. The group is an unlikely alliance of Pharisees committed to strict purity laws in the belief that this will force God’s hand to act against the Romans and Herodians, those who have thrown in their lot with Rome’s puppet king.

They ask him if he’s in favour of paying taxes. They are hoping to trap him. If Jesus says yes, then he’ll be unpopular with the people, seen as siding with the establishment. If he says no, then he will be guilty of treason and subject to arrest by the Romans.  Jesus sees through this  trap but notice as we’ve seen before that his answer is not intended to sidestep and avoid the trap. Rather, he meets their hypocrisy full on and confronts their false thinking.

He gets them to bring him a coin.  It’s a Roman one and so it has Caesar’s image on it.  His conclusion is “if it belongs to Caesar give it back to him and give God what belongs to him.”  I want you to capture the full force of that both in its political and convicting power. You see, this passage has often been used to teach an approach referred to as “Two Kingdoms”. The idea behind that is that there are two spheres of authority, human and spiritual.  We should under that principle leave secular, pluralistic governments to rule as they see fit and stay out of politics. Christians should be concerned with God’s business in the church.

But the hearers of Jesus’ day would not have known such neat distinctions and indeed, their problem was that with the Roman occupation, Caesar was trampling all over God’s territory. That’s why they wanted an answer about taxes. 

However, here was their problem.  For all of their concern about Roman influence, they were quite happy to comply with it suited them. They enjoyed Roman wealth when it came to trade.  They were more than happy to align themselves politically with Rome’s representatives as seen here by the alliance between Pharisees and Herodians. And all of this was about acting as the wicked tenants we met in the parable at the start of the chapter.  Their very reason for aligning with Rome when it suited them was to deny God what was his.

Jesus’ response might be paraphrased as “There’s no point getting worked up about taxes.  You enjoy the benefits of Roman rule, so that particular king over the seas is entitled to come and collect his dues from you.  What is far more important is that you seek to rob God and deny him what he is owed.”

That’s the important question for you and me.  Are we giving all to God that he deserves.  Do we recognise that he is entitled to every aspect of our lives?

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