Let’s begin by reading Matthew 22:15-17, “Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not’” (NKJV). Here we see the Pharisees plotting to ensnare the Lord Jesus. They hated Him with a passion and they would do anything to get rid of Him, even if it meant siding with their enemies (the Herodians) to accomplish it. Perhaps you’ve heard the old saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The Pharisees hated the Herodians because of their loyalty to the Romans who were ruling over the nation of Israel. But they hated Christ even more, and their common hatred for Christ brought them together to seek to trick the Lord Jesus into saying something that would cause the people to reject Him.

Notice how they began by saying nice things about Christ. In other words, they used FLATTERY. Proverbs 29:5 speaks to this: “A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.” This is exactly what the Pharisees and the Herodians were doing when they complimented Him on His truthfulness and impartiality. One is never more vulnerable than when they are being praised by others, but thankfully, as we shall see, the Lord was incapable of falling into the snare of pride. After flattering Him, they asked the loaded question, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not.” If Jesus had said “No” he would be accused by the Herodians of rebellion against Rome. If He said “Yes” He would be accused of being a traitor by the Pharisees and most of the Jews for siding with the Romans. They truly thought they had the Lord Jesus in a trap He could never escape from.

Now let’s read the verses 18-22: “But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, ‘Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.’ So they brought Him a denarious. And He said, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’ And He said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.” Jesus KNEW THEIR HEARTS and thus He knew the trap they were setting for Him. Instead of answering with a “Yes” or a “No” He has them produce a coin with Caesar’s image on it and then He states, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things are God’s.” His answer produced THREE RESULTS:

  1. He exposed the hypocrisy and failure of the Pharisees and Herodians, for though both groups were paying their taxes (and thus “rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”), they were failing to acknowledge God by “rendering to God the things that are God’s.” They were equally guilty of failing to regard God’s claims in their lives, for here they were openly rejecting the Son of God.
  2. He revealed the DUAL CITIZENSHIP of all believers. We are responsible, as “citizens of the country where we live,” to “be subject to the governing authorities…for there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1). We own the authority of the government of that land and we acknowledge this by obeying their laws, including paying taxes. But the believer is also a “citizen of heaven,” as we see in Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” As citizens of heaven, we gladly “render to God the things that are God’s” by willingly obeying God’s Word and living a life that is pleasing to Him and one that brings Him glory.
  3. His masterful answer served to silence His enemies and they were forced to move on. (260.9) (DO)