Minister's Thoughts


MATTHEW 22:15-22


“So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)

Whose picture is on the reverse side of a coin today, and what else does it say?  “ELIZABETH II  D.G. F.D  and date.”  This inscription is on the back of every ‘coin Sterling’ minted in Britain.  But what does it mean?  Well the initials are from the Latin: DG = Dei Gratia; REG = Regina and FD = Fidei Defensor and when we put it all together in English it means Elizabeth, by the Grace of God Queen, Defender of the Faith.

Our Queen, among many other things has been a defender of the Faith in her life and she has always acknowledged that it is by the Grace of God that she is Queen. So what has this to do with the ministry of Jesus?

The Conspiracy

In His parables Jesus had shown up the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of His time.  They placed heavy burdens on the people, whilst covering themselves with privilege and comfortable living.  This exposure by Jesus of the unworthy conduct of the religious leaders was seen by them, as a great threat to their prestige and their positions of honour, as they saw it, in the community at large.

They were impressed and discomfited with the effectiveness of Jesus’ teaching compared to theirs, and they feared that the people who heard the pure teaching of Jesus would turn against them and their schemes.  So the Pharisees and the Herodians joined forces to try and discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people and so undermine His teaching.  Isn’t it interesting how often people holding very different views can come together in an unholy alliance when someone with charisma comes along and exposes the truth about who they are, and who they really serve.  The Pharisees were essentially nationalists and they hated the Roman authorities of the day.  The Herodians were quite comfortable with Roman rule and they supported the Roman government.   These two opposing groups found common cause in their determination to conspire against, and to plan to silence Jesus – the eternal Son of God.

So, they thought of a way to use Jesus’ own words against himself and his cause.  That sort of thing still happens these days.  People with opposing views can come together to protect their privileged positions.  They don’t usually find it possible to come together in any good cause, but only to undermine someone who comes with the truth and the whole truth in a way that exposes their selfish intentions.  They conspired to catch Jesus out in His own words.

Flattery and the trick question!

First, they come to Jesus and praise Him with flattery!

“Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.  Tell us then, what is your opinion?  Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

Flattery often works doesn’t it?  You praise the person with congratulations and compliments and sometimes they are so mesmerised by it that they weaken their resolve, and they compromise their standards and beliefs.

Do you remember those lovely words of the Hymn:

“Some will love you, some will hate you,

Some will flatter, some will slight.

Do not heed them, look above you,

Trust in God, and do the right.”


“Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

They thought they had Jesus there!  If He answered it is not lawful, they would report him to the Roman governor and he would be executed for treason.  If Jesus said it was lawful the Pharisees would denounce Him to the people as disloyal to his nation.  They reckoned one way or the other that would be the last the people heard of Jesus.

There were three taxes actually; the ground tax (one-tenth of the grain harvest, and one-fifth of the oil and wine produce; Income Tax 1% of a man’s income; and the Poll Tax (or Imperial Tax) (remember that one?) which was paid by every male between the ages of 14 and 65; and every female between the ages of 12 and 65.  The Imperial Tax was probably the most hated of all the taxes.  It was only paid by the ‘subject people’ not by Roman Citizens.  Later, after the destruction of Jerusalem (which happened in AD 70 before Matthew wrote down his Gospel) the Roman governor wanted to take the half-shekel Imperial Tax and give it to the Temple of Jupiter Catolinus in Rome.  Anathema to the people!


The smile was wiped off His inquisitors’ faces when Jesus replied: “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.  Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s” they replied.

And they gasped when Jesus said: “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

And so today every Christian man and woman has a duty to the world and to people, to do what is right and good; and a duty to God creator and sustainer of all things!  We have a duty to both, but our highest duty is to God.  Let us never forget it!



Rev. Bob Anderson

Reading – Matthew 22:15-22
Matthew 22:15-22  New International Version Paying the Imperial Tax to Caesar  15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians.“Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”  21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.  Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”  22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.  
Minister’s Thoughts