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Turning Jesus Over to Caesar

• Greg Boyd

Jesus was being set up by some schemers who were trying to trap Jesus. They asked him whether or not Jews should pay taxes to Caesar or not. His answer undermined the game the schemers were playing and will challenge the way we relate to our own government.

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Jesus was being set up by some schemers who were trying to trap Jesus. They asked him whether or not Jews should pay taxes to Caesar or not. If Jesus had answered yes, then many in the crowd would turn against him because the common view of the messiah was that he would be a nationalistic and political hero who would free the Jews from captivity much like Moses bringing them out of Egypt. If Jesus answered no, that the Jews should not pay taxes, then the schemers could turn Jesus over to the authorities who would punish Jesus as a political zealot.

As we know, Jesus evaded this trap with an insightful—but radical—answer. Since the money of the day had the likeness of Caesar on it Jesus said that we should give to Caesar what is Caesar. This is denouncing any concern for the money and who gets to keep it or not. But then he followed that up with the assertion that we ought also to give to God what is God’s. By this Jesus was saying that all that we are and all that we own are God’s and it is to God alone that we answer for how we use it.

The main point of Greg’s message was that we (Christians) do not have dual allegiance or dual citizenship. We have only one Lord and that Lord’s kingdom is not of this world. Often the church has confused this by giving the impression that we serve both God and country. That being a good American is part of being a good Christian. This is not what Jesus taught. Read through the verses in the “Key Scriptures” section before engaging the questions that follow.

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Topics: Kingdom of God, Nationalism

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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 20:20-26

    Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

    He saw through their duplicity and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”

    “Caesar's,” they replied.

    He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

    They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.

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