Whose image is on your coin?
There are many ways to understand and think about scripture, and as always, this scripture passage gives us much to think about. For many, the meaning of the passage lies in the final line of Jesus’ – “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” But before we get to that final line, there are some other things to think about.
Firstly, the Pharisees. This passage comes after a series of parables – the Two Sons, the Tenants, the Wedding Feast – where the people of the time were reminded of the lack of integrity of the Jewish leaders. In this reading, they are fighting back. They know that by asking their question – is it right to pay taxes – they are putting Jesus in a precarious position. If he says no, because Israel is a state under God’s leadership, then he could be put to death for treason. But if he says yes, he is implying that Israel is not under God’s leadership, which would be blasphemy.
They believed that whatever answer he gave would condemn him.
Of course, Jesus is not so easily tricked. It could be said that he takes the easy way out. By not saying either yes or no, he is giving an easy answer. After all, as good citizens of any community, we are obligated to give to our leaders what belongs to them – such as pay taxes – and also, as good Christians, we know our scriptures and we know we can also give our lives to God – submit to him as our faith asks us to do.
There is an additional way we can look at this answer. On the face of it, he was giving an answer that would satisfy every audience – both his followers and the Pharisees. But he also asks his audience the question: whose image is on the coin? And we must remember that we are all made in the image and likeness of God – even Caesar! Even if Caesar fails to recognise it. Ultimately, all good things belong to God, and with faith, will make their way back to him.