Let’s turn our attention to Luke 20:19-25. This section in my Bible is titled “Tribute to Caesar” – it is the passage where the Pharisees are once again trying to trick Jesus into saying something that will get Him tossed in prison or killed.
In this case, they pose the question about paying taxes to Caesar, is it lawful for the Jews to do this? In this instance, the tax is a “poll tax” and every person living in the Roman Empire was required to pay it. But that was the sticking point for these Pharisees; they didn’t want to give money to the Romans because they weren’t Romans! Also, it probably had a lot to do with their love for money, as has been pointed out many times before in Luke’s gospel. But here they are, hoping Jesus will agree with them – then they could go running to the nearest Roman soldier and have Him put in jail. Or, better yet, maybe He would say that the Jews do have to pay this Roman tax and then the people will turn against Him. They really felt they had set the perfect trap!
All my life I have heard this story, and it has always been taught to me as a message that good Christians will do both: pay their taxes AND give money to their local churches. Render to Caesar what is his, and give to God what is His. This passage has always been presented to me as a teaching on the proper use of our wealth and possessions.
Now let’s take a closer look at Jesus’ response; “Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” In my NASB Bible there is a little number next to the word “likeness” and looking in the margin, I see the word “image”.
Let’s connect the dots. In Genesis 1:27, we are told, “God created man in His own image”. When Jesus tells the Pharisees to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, He is saying the ownership is based on whose image is on the thing in question. Likewise, when Jesus says, give God what is God’s; He isn’t really talking about money at all. He wants these people to give themselves, their lives, and their every waking moment to the Lord God, whose image He stamped on each and every person when He created them!
I think the true sense of this passage is not about the stewardship of our money, but about the stewardship of our lives. The very image of God, stamped on you by God Himself, means He has ownership over you — and Jesus is saying, give to God what is His!