To bait-and-trap Christ, the Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, and teachers of the law pepper him with questions.
Can you pay taxes to the rulers of the world while still honoring the God of Israel?
If Jesus rejects the tax, the political leaders will arrest him for treason. If he endorses the tax, the religious leaders will prove he’s not the promised messiah sent to abolish the tyranny of oppression.
Jesus responds with a question of his own: Why are you all trying to trap me?
Then, he asks for a coin. Suspicious looks dart from face to face as they dig in their pockets and at scrape the inside of their purses. Someone pulls out a lint-covered coin—perhaps the Tiberian denarius.
How did Jesus know that someone would have a coin on them? Clearly, these religious and political men don’t take any issue with possessing Caesar’s money.
Jesus thumbs the coin between his fingers. Whose face is this? Whose name is on this coin? One side revealed the face of the emperor, the reverse an image of a woman goddess seated atop a throne. PAX ROMANA etched in the silver, recalling the forced subjugation of peace enforced by the Roman empire.
Jesus didn’t come to bring a forced pax, but a holy shalom.
Give to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s, Jesus retorts.
But is there anything that isn’t God’s?
Soon after this interaction, Jesus states the most important commandment: Love God with your entire heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Give to God what is God’s—all of you. From your emotions to your entrails, your fingertips to your finances, everything under the sun belongs to God.
Sure, give Caesar back his coin. But Jesus’ answer reveals that there isn’t a dividing line between the secular and the sacred.
Everything belongs to God—even and especially you.