Summary: A sermon about giving back to God what is God's.
“A Hot Button Issue”
Have you ever been asked a “trick question,” a question which was meant to “trip you up”?
Or how about a question where, no matter how you answer it, you will make someone angry or get yourself into trouble?
Around election time when the politicians are out campaigning, journalists are everywhere, interviewing people, taking photos and setting up debates.
And the politicians, who seem only too eager to be on television better be careful because the broadcasters are out to get them.
If a politician slips up, people are interested and advertising revenue goes up.
It sure is an annoying thing, is it not?
Amazing that anyone would want to run for office.
Trick questions that put people on the spot have been around as long as there have been public issues and leaders offering new programs.
And this one that the Pharisees put to Jesus has an obvious double edge.
The issue of paying tax to the Roman Emperor was one of the “hot button issues” in the Middle East in Jesus’ day.
Imagine how you’d feel if you woke up one morning and discovered that people from the other end of the world had marched into your country and demanded that you pay them tax as a reward for having your land stolen!!!
That sort of thing still causes riots and revolutions, and it had done just that when Jesus was growing up in Galilee.
One of the most famous Jewish leaders when Jesus was just a boy had led a revolt because of this issue.
But the Romans had crushed it without mercy, leaving crosses around the countryside, with dead and dying revolutionaries on them, as a warning that paying the tax was not an option.
So the Pharisees question came, as we might say, with a health warning…kinda like on a pack of cigarettes.
But instead of saying, “Smoking causes cancer,” it said, “Tell people they shouldn’t pay, and you will end up on a cross.”
At the same time, of course, anyone leading a “kingdom-of-God movement” would be expected to oppose the tax, or face the ridicule and resentment of the people.
If Jesus had been a politician on the campaign trail, you can imagine the audience’s excitement and the producer’s glee when someone asked this question.
Notice all the false flattery that is going on here as well.
They come to Jesus with bright smiles on their faces.
Surely they have no bad intentions.
They are trying to look so innocent and pious in front of the crowd.
It’s kind of like the “bubble headed bleach-blond” news reporter who can tell you about the plane crash with “a gleam in her eye,” as Don Henley so aptly describes in his song “Dirty Laundry.”
“Teacher,” they say, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.
Tell us then, what is your opinion?
Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”