Jesus and Taxes
Matthew Lesson #130
July 31, 2016
“Our Father, we are thankful, grateful, so pleased that we have certain, true, absolute truth, eternal truth, never changing truth in Your Word. That it is Your Word that has enlightened us to the truth of the gospel, and it is through Your Word, as our Lord prayed, that we are sanctified, we’re sanctified by Your truth. Thy Word is truth.
Father we pray that as we continue our study, that we’re always mindful of the fact that it is through Your Word, it’s through the teaching through the study, through learning and application of Your Word the God the Holy Spirit uses Your Word as His tool to challenge us, to transform us, to renew us, and to constantly direct our lives in the direction of manifesting the character of the Lord Jesus Christ to those around us.
We are to learn Your Word that we may learn to think according to reality as you have created it, and that there are many philosophies and religions that have reconstructed reality as they suppressed truth in unrighteousness, and that as they do that they may seek to elevate themselves, elevate man, but all they do is live more and more in a framework of fantasy and irrationalism. Help us to think clearly about our own thinking that we may transform it into the thinking that glorifies You.
We pray this in Christ’s name, Amen.”
We’re in Matthew 22:15, and this is one of those chapters that talks about taxes, political implications of economics in terms of government. One of the central passages—there are like three central passages in the New Testament—that are related to politics and government. The Bible actually has a lot to say about social issues, and they are not to be restricted to what is said within the four walls of the church.
That is becoming more and more of a common interpretation by the progressive and liberal left in this country that is inherently in opposition to the truth of God’s Word. They would wish to restrict the First Amendment. Maybe you haven’t noticed this, but they say, “Well, you have the freedom to believe and practice whatever you want to on Sunday morning. Just don’t bring it into the marketplace of ideas.”
Unfortunately, a lot of believers have not done that. They have been subjected and forced, and they have allowed themselves to be forced into a secular mold by secular companies for at least 50 years. And now it’s too late.
You start trying to go against that. Now you’re going to lose your job. Nobody’s going to listen to you. You know, Christians have given up territory, intellectual territory in this country because they bought into the same lie that there was this division between the secular and that which was sanctified. Ultimately there’s only one creation. God did not create two.
There’s a recognition that we’ll see in this passage that there are different spheres of authority, but that’s different. They’re not different spheres of reality. So what is ethical, spiritual, and true on Sunday morning is ethical, spiritual, and true on Monday morning, Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday at lunch, Thursday when you’re relaxing after work, and on Friday night when you’re celebrating the end of the week.
It’s the same truth, but that’s not what a secular society wants us to understand. So as believers, we have to learn to think biblically about politics. Actually, the word “politics” comes from a Greek word, the word for city, POLIS, which relates to how people in the small society that makes up a city or a certain location are to conduct themselves ethically.
So if ethics is at the root of politics, then the only place where you can get accurate ethical teaching is from God who created ethics. And so ethics that are not biblical are not ethical. They are not eternal. They are just based on relativism.
In this chapter we get into an interesting scenario, interesting situation. I think is helpful to go back and understand the context just a little bit.
Jesus has entered into Jerusalem, and He has been proclaimed to be king by His followers, by the multitudes who have come into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover; hundreds of thousands. In fact, by the end of the week there will be several million, one or two million that have come into Jerusalem, according to Josephus, to celebrate Passover.
About a week before, Jesus entered in riding on a donkey, a fulfillment of Messianic prophecy from Zechariah 9, that the King would come lowly sitting on a donkey. That’s quoted in Matthew 21:5.
So He comes in and the multitudes recognize this and singing from Psalm 118, they’re singing Hosanna to the Son of David, using a Messianic title, a recognition that He’s Messiah. These are not the same people in this crowd that are calling for Jesus to be crucified by the end of the week. That it is a different group. Most of these would be made up of the multitude that followed Jesus from Jericho, others that joined them as He enters into Jerusalem.
There is a political overtone to what begins. He is making a statement that He is the King of the promised Kingdom; He’s the Son of David.
And in fulfillment of that, He cleanses the Temple, demonstrating that He is God because He calls it His house, and He recognizes that He has the right to cleanse it. He cleanses and He heals, and this, of course, puts Him afoul of the religious leaders.
Then we have seen that as they challenge and question His authority in Matthew 21:23–27, Jesus didn’t answer them overtly, but He answered them through these three consecutive parables. In each of those, we saw that they developed a more subtle answer to that question.
Jesus is being extremely sophisticated in the way He’s answering these questions. He doesn’t want to create a situation where they’re going to grab Him or stone Him or anything like that prematurely. Everything’s got to work according to God’s timetable.
So He uses a lot of their own techniques; the question-answer dialogue, I’ve talked about that in the past few lessons. They ask Him a question, He says, “Well, I’ll answer your question if you’ll answer My question.” He asked them about the nature of the baptism of John, is it from Heaven or not. They won’t answer it because however they answer it, they’re going to get in trouble. And it’s interesting in terms of where we’re going to go this morning.
The Pharisees try to trap Him with a similar kind of question in our passage this morning. They weren’t sophisticated enough to avoid His trap, but He’s sophisticated enough to avoid their trap.
Each of these parables also involves a father, a son, and the rejection of the father’s authority. And each of these three parables is addressed to the unsaved nonbelieving religious leaders, not the multitude. He is confronting them with His authority, and He is condemning them because of their failures and announcing that judgment will come upon them. Each of these parables builds the case for God’s rejection of the religious leaders as they have rejected His Messiah.
Now that takes us up through where we ended last time with the third parable, the parable dealing with this wedding feast in the first 14 verses of Matthew 22, at the end of which and the point of that whole parable is that you have to have the right clothes on to be at the wedding feast. It’s a picture of the righteousness that we receive when we trust in Christ as Savior.
There is one man who shows up at the wedding feast without the right garments. He is removed. The king says, “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
All of that is a reference to judgment in first Torments, and then eventually into the into the Lake of Fire.
We’ll get to the more detailed study of outer darkness when we get to the more challenging passage, when we get into Matthew 25 in the parable of the talents and its parallel, the Parable of the Minas in Luke 19.
So now we shift gears. They recognize that Jesus is challenging them. So they go off, and they began to plot.
The next section, going down through the rest of this chapter, revolves around three questions:
- First, to ask Him if it’s lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. That’s Matthew 22:15–22.
Then they will marvel at His answer. And they leave Him, and they go their way; they have to regroup again before they come back.
- Then the Sadducees come, and they ask Him a rather convoluted question about a woman who has seven husbands, each of whom dies, and then is replaced by another one, and whose wife would she be in the resurrection. That’s Matthew 22:23–33. At the conclusion of that, the multitudes are astonished at His teaching.
- Third, He’s asked by one scribe, a lawyer scribe, “What’s the greatest commandment of the Law?” Matthew 22:34–40. So Jesus answers that, and there is no answer to that.
Then Jesus is going to counter them with the question that they can’t answer. He asked them, “Whose Son, then, is the Christ, the Messiah, whose Son is the Christ?” That’s Matthew 22:41–46.
This sort of concludes this confrontational examination of Jesus as the Messiah by the religious leaders.
Then Matthew 23 sets up these woes to the scribes and Pharisees, as Jesus pronounces a judgment upon them and upon Israel, which will conclude with a clear statement that there’s going to be judgment on Jerusalem, and then Jerusalem will be destroyed.
Then Matthew 24 comes up, and the disciples say, “Well, what then will be the sign of Your coming?”
Next we get into prophecy. Matthew 24 and 25 deal with prophecy before we get to the crucifixion. That ought to take us at least six months to get through all of that. Probably not quite that long, but maybe.
So they come up and they ask these questions. This is the beginning of these groups of three. What we’ll see in each of them is that they are concerned with a critical question about politics, about who’s in authority, about what right does an empire have to tax it citizens, or some other area related to theology or ethics.
In His answers, Jesus has to be cautious because if He goes one way or the other, He could offend one group or another and maybe even somehow exacerbate a situation that would cause them to take Him to trial a little early. So His answers are quite enlightening.
We’re told by Matthew that the first question is designed, it’s a setup, it’s a trap, and we’re told that the third one is also a test. The second one is asked out of such a framework of cynicism that it sort of goes without saying and that’s also a trap because the Sadducees are asking about what happens in the resurrection, and they don’t even believe in the resurrection. It just shows where their mind is that all of these are designed to somehow put Jesus in a spot.
So in Matthew 22:15 we’re told that “the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk.”
The language here is kind of interesting because they’re setting up a secret plot. We’re told that they went, and they plotted against Him.
Actually, that word “plotted” reflects two different Greek words in the original that combined together in the best way to express it in English is a simplified way of just saying they plotted or they conspired against Him.
They use the main verb LAMBANO in an active indicative that they actively receive something, and then the accusative of a plot. So it tells us, the Greek indicates, that somebody comes to them with an idea of how we can trap Jesus.
So in the English it sounds like they conspired together and sort of self-generated this idea, but the idea in the Greek is that they received a plot. That indicates that someone may have come to them with this idea of how they might entangle Him.
This is a word we see on the bottom right. It’s the word PAGIDEUO, which means to entangle somebody, to get them all wrapped up in an argument, because we’re talking about entangling Him in His talk, or literally in His words. I think all of us have had situations where we put ourselves in a trap by something that we’ve said. There’s a warning in James 3 about those who were teachers, that they don’t entangle themselves in their own words and get involved with sins of the tongue.
This is the idea here is that they want to trap Jesus. They want to set a trap and have Him walk into it and get Him in trouble. This is the idea of a conspiracy.
A plot is defined as a secret plan to achieve some end or purpose that is usually underhanded or illegal. That’s according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
What’s interesting is that’s almost word for word the definition that they give for conspiracy. Conspiracy is a secret plan or agreement to carry out an illegal or harmful act, especially with political motivation.
Some of you who are more cynical may say, “Well, that’s what a political convention is.” And you may be right.
But they have gone somewhere away from Jesus, somewhere in the Temple precinct where they have a room where they can gather together and figure out some way because Jesus has overtly challenged them and announced publicly that they are guilty, and they’re going to be bring judgment upon themselves and Israel. They understood this.
Matthew 21:45–46, which we studied, says that “when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes because they took Him for a prophet.”
Now this is the last week that Jesus is on the earth, but it’s not the beginning of this plot. We’re told, as we’ll see in a minute, in Matthew 12 when Jesus cast out a demon, and they claim that He did it according to the power of Satan. From that point on, they began to conspire more overtly to do something with Him and to kill Him.
This has been going on for at least six months to ten months earlier. So this conspiracy to kill Jesus has been going on. Now it’s really ramping itself up.
Now in verse 16 we learn the identity of these two groups that come to Jesus. The Pharisees who have received this plot send to Him their disciples with the Herodians.
I just want to stop there before we get into what they say. They had these different groups. Now why do they send their disciples? I think they send their disciples because they’ve got more prestige on the line, and they’ve already been hammered by Jesus a couple of times, and so this way, the leading Pharisees can save a little face. But they want to send their own students, their own disciples to be part of this Q&A.
Then there is another group that they’re associated with, the Herodians. This is really an odd collection here because there are probably no two groups that are more disparate and more at odds with each other than the Pharisees and the Herodians.
I think it’s important because of what they’re trying to do that both groups are there to witness what Jesus is going to say, because they are going to set a trap for Him, and He’s either going to go one way, which would be in favor of the Herodians, and then the Pharisees have Him; or He’s going to go the other way and that will be in favor of the Pharisees, and then the Herodians will have Him, and we’ll get into that in just a minute.
Now, who are these Herodians? Well, first of all, as I’ve indicated already, under normal circumstances, they were polar opposites. I mean, this is sort of like putting Ted Cruz followers and Hillary’s followers together and saying you guys get along together and let’s accomplish something. They just have totally different ideologies, totally different worldviews. But what we’re seeing is they do have a common enemy.
Second thing that we see is that the Herodians were Jewish leaders who were supporters of the Herods and the Herodian dynasty. Remember, Herod the Great is the Idumean who was the king for about 40 years. He was heavily supported by Rome. So the Herods are deeply in debt and involved with the Romans, and they are very much in favor of the Roman government and Roman taxation and everything that the Romans are doing. So they are secular, and they are pro-Roman.
The Herodians are more of a political party than a religious group. They are mentioned only three times in the Gospels.
In Mark 3:6 we’re told, “Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.”
What’s that talking about? That’s in Mark 3, so anybody who can count can pretty much figure out that’s pretty early in the Gospel of Mark. We’re seeing this joint conspiracy going on here, and it’s the last week of Christ’s life. So they can’t be talking about the same thing.
But if you take a look at the context of Mark 3, Mark loads this conflict up somewhat earlier in his narrative than Matthew did. But this is the same incident where the Pharisees are confronted by Jesus, that He’s cast out a demon, and they accuse Him of casting the demon out by the power of Beelzebub, which is a sort of a negative term that they have first for Satan.
It’s described in Matthew 12:9–14 immediately after Jesus healed a man with a withered hand. It’s the same episode. He heals a man with a withered hand, and He cast out a demon.
In Matthew 16 we have on this slide. So we have in this particular episode coming up, and in Matthew 12 and Mark 3 are the same situation, and we see that the Pharisees are plotting with the Herodians. In another chapter we’re going to see a different organization, but this is the turning point.
This brings up an interesting situation and an interesting scenario. Today we see something similar. You know, we have the saying that politics makes for strange bedfellows. If you’ve been watching, if you’ve been alert to what’s been going on in the culture as a whole over the last 10 to 15 years, since 9/11, immediately after 9/11, there was a lot of positive things that were beginning to be understood and beginning to be said at a public level across the country in relation to how jihad and violence was an outgrowth of a basic core Islamic theology.
That lasted for maybe a year, and it didn’t take us long before progressives began to water that down a little bit, and even President George W. Bush made statements almost immediately after 9/11 that Islam was a religion of peace.
And starting with that narrative, that fallacious fantasy that Islam is a religion of peace, we begin to see the narrative change until somewhere around seven or eight years ago, we began to think that nothing was really going on that was the result of Islamic terrorism.
Then we got a president who was brought up in an Islamic background and never has anything negative to say about Islam, but he refuses, and many on the left, many of the progressives refuse to say anything about Islam and connect it to terrorism. That’s even recognized by most of the conservative press, but of course MSNBC, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, and all the progressive news organizations that are in the tank for the Democrats refuse to use that language at all.
In fact, what we’re seeing is that those people tend to be more antagonistic to Christians. In fact, they are more concerned sometimes that there’s going to be some sort of right-wing Christian terrorism than Islamic terrorism.
This last week it was reported that a newspaper in Tennessee refused to print an ad in their classified ads for a Christian bookstore that was closing down. They were just saying, you know, we’re going out of business, we’re selling all the books, all the tables, everything that we have, everything has to go. And the name of the establishment was something “…….” Christian Bookstore. Then Sunday came around, and that ad was supposed to appear in the paper, and it wasn’t there.
So they called the paper, and they were told, “Well, we couldn’t print the ad because there was an offensive word in there.” They said, “Really? What was the offensive word?” And they were told the offensive word was Christian. “We can’t print an ad that has such a horrible offensive word in it.”
Well, the owners of the “………” Christian Bookstore decided to tell the story on their Facebook page. And starting on that next day, on that Monday, the newspaper began to get flooded with phone calls, and then they were immediately calling the people back and apologizing and said, “Oh, it was a technical error.”
You know, typical progressives. Let’s do something that violates the Constitution, and let’s lie about it. That’s their modus operandi. Republicans do that too, by the way, but we see it more blatantly on the left.
So we’re living in this environment that is more and more hostile to Christianity. And it comes from the progressive left.
Well about two or three weeks ago, I was talking to a businesswoman acquaintance of mine, and she was telling me that about a year ago—now what happened just a little bit over a year ago—about one year and one month ago. Anybody remember? There was a Supreme Court decision? Supreme Court decision validated same-sex marriage. So that’s the context.
Just after the week or two after that, she’s over here at Top Gun Range, and she is practicing her hand gun skills, and she noticed that not only is she the only woman lined up in all of the bays over there, all of the lanes are shooting, but she’s the only white woman and everyone else is a young 20- to 25-year-old Muslim male.
Now that should sort of get your antennae wiggling just a little bit. But she was listening to their conversations. She came back, and she said she said, “Robby, they hate homosexuals more than they hate Jews or Christians.” She said, “I tell all my liberal friends what I heard and what I saw, and they don’t believe me! They don’t want to believe me. It doesn’t fit the progressive narrative. So they just want to turn a blind eye to it.”
What we see is that the progressives seem to be coddling up to the Muslims more and more despite the fact that all of the liberal values that progressives hold so dearly, such as women’s rights, and the right to abortion, and homosexual marriage, and LGBT rights, and all the rights and freedoms that we hold dear in a liberal democracy. Those are proscribed by Muslims. They hate them.
If you are Muslim, you are committed by your faith to Sharia Law. You cannot say “I pledge allegiance to the Constitution” because the Constitution’s in conflict with Sharia Law. It’s one or the other.
Legitimately, no practicing Muslim can be a United States citizen. It’s a violation of the Constitution because they hold to a law system, Sharia Law, that is in direct violation of the Constitution.
But you see the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And the enemy of progressives are evangelical Bible-believing Christians, because we hold to an eternal infinite value system that is directly at odds with the fundamental beliefs and worldview that lies behind progressivism.
If you study the history of progressivism, this goes back into the late 19th century and into the writings of Karl Marx, and it’s basically a Marxist-Leninist philosophy. So this is what’s going on.
Remember in the broader scope of conflict, human history is part of the overall kosmic conflict between Satan and the fallen angels and the angels of God. And so in this world, as Satan’s seeking to dominate the world system and to destroy any system that allows for the freedom of Bible teaching and the freedom of the proclamation of the gospel, is something that he’s going to be against.
Progressivism and Marxism are just some of numerous ideologies that are a brainchild of Lucifer, the fallen angel known as Satan. And because the enemies of Satan are Christians, the enemy of those who hold to his ideologies, whether it’s Islam, Buddhism, Shintoism, any other kind of transcendental New Age religion, or are Marxist, if you hold those ideas, then you are at odds with Christianity.
So what we have is a one world system, Islam, getting in bed with another world system, which is political progressivism, in order to attack Christianity.
That’s the same thing we have here. We have the political arm, the Herodians, who want to get in bed with the religious Pharisees, and even though one’s conservative and one’s not, one thing they have in common is they both see Jesus as the problem. They want to track Him, and they want to destroy Him. So that’s what’s happening here.
In one other example of the use of Herodians in the Gospel of Mark, Mark 8:15, “Jesus charged them—talking to the disciples says—Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”
In Matthew 16:6, talking about the same situation as He’s talking to His disciples, He said, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”
So somebody might say, “Well, which is it? You have the leaven of Herod mentioned in Mark 8:15 and the Pharisees and Sadducees instead of the Pharisees and Herod in Matthew 16:6.”
You might ask what the difference is. It seems to be a contradiction. Did you ask that? Oh, I heard you do that. You’re going to regret it.
Matthew focuses more on religious parties that are in opposition to Jesus, and Mark focuses more on the political opposition to Jesus and brings that out. The Herodians were more of a political party than a religious party.
Some have suggested that the reason you have this difference between the two verses is that many of the Sadducees were also Boethusians. There’s a new word for you this morning. That’s spelled BOETHUSIANS, Boethusians.
The two were indistinguishable theologically. So that means they didn’t really believe in anything beyond the Pentateuch. They didn’t believe in the existence of angels. They didn’t believe in the existence of resurrection from the dead. Those were the basic components. The Sadducees were the religious liberals; the Pharisees were the religious conservatives.
So the Sadducees, though, were pretty much composed of two political groups that held to the same theology. The Boethusians supported the house of Herod. Those were primarily the Herodians. They wanted Herod Antipas and the other Herod, Herod Philip, to stay in power. They were pro-Rome and pro-Roman power.
Whereas the other Sadducees supported the Hasmonean Dynasty. These were the priests that had been a priestly family that had come into power during the intertestamental period with the revolt of the Maccabees against the Greek rulers and the Antiochene.
So that would be the basic difference.
The Pharisees are the religious conservatives. They’re looking for some sort of cataclysmic political Messianic Kingdom that’s going to come in and throw off Roman rule. The Herodians and the Boethusians are looking to preserve Roman rule through the Herodians. So that’s why you have these two verses in Mark and Matthew. That’s not really a contradiction since the Herodian’s were part or a subset of the Sadducees.
So the question that they’re going to ask in the trap that they set, they say, “Tell us, therefore, what You think?”
Before we get to that verse, let me go to the end of the previous verse. I want to say this in a way where it sort of drips with irony and sarcasm because they don’t believe this. They’re just trying to set Jesus up with flattery.
They say, “Oh, Teacher,” –So they’re going to flatter Him by calling Him teacher, acting as if somehow they listen and believe He’s a Teacher.
They say, “We know that You’re true”—no, they don’t! They don’t believe it’s true at all. They think that He’s an enemy of the state. They said—“we know that You’re true and you teach the way of God in truth.”—Yeah, right. They’re not interested in the truth.
You know, a typical approach is to try to use flattery to turn someone and to get their ego involved, but that doesn’t work with Jesus. He’s not egotistical because He’s not a sinner.
So they then say, “You don’t care about anyone.” In other words, you don’t care about people’s opinions. You are impartial. You don’t regard the person or the face of man. That’s what they’re trying to get. “You think objectively, Jesus.” So they’re buttering Him up in order to set the trap and they’re baiting the trap.
So now Matthew 22:17, “Tell us, therefore, what do you think?”—We know you’re true, Jesus, so tell us what You think—“Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Here’s the trap. If the Pharisees resented having to pay taxes to Caesar, the nationalists, now they weren’t as radical as the zealots. The zealots just wanted to foment a revolution and fight off Rome. The Pharisees won’t go quite that far. But they’re nationalists. They don’t want a dime of their money going to support to support Rome.
So the Pharisees are on that end, and see if Jesus says, “Well, it’s not lawful,” then that’s in favor of the Pharisees. But then that would put Jesus in a trap because that would put Him in disfavor with the Romans. So now Jesus is in trouble.
The Herodians, on the other hand, because they support Herod’s family and they are supporters of the status quo and the Romans, that if Jesus says that it is lawful, then they’re going to be happy, but that’s going to anger the conservatives and the nationalists and the Pharisees and the zealots and most people who are suffering under this onerous taxation from the Romans.
Some of you think that we live in an onerous taxation system in this country, and compared to what it was 50 or 60 years ago, it’s rather onerous. But it was much worse under the Roman Empire. In fact, the further you were away from Rome, the heavier the taxes. If you’re on these outlying countries and regions, like in Judea, you’re bearing the heaviest tax burden. You not only had the temple tax, which was required by the Mosaic Law, but you also had to pay this head tax or this poll tax, and you also had to pay a number of other taxes; things that would be comparable to our sales tax.
If you had a caravan, and you were going from, let’s say, Beersheba to Dan, then every time you got on the road, you’d have to pay a tax, every time you crossed the bridge, you’d have to pay a tax, every time you went through a village or town, you’d have to pay a tax, and you’d have to pay numerous other commercial taxes related to that, so that it is estimated that an item would quadruple or quintuple its cost just because of all of these various taxes. So something that cost a dollar would end up costing five or six dollars by the time they got through paying all the taxes.
That, of course, makes it almost impossible to make money, makes it hard for people to purchase anything that they need because everything is terribly expensive because of the taxes.
We had the same kind of thing today. We have, fortunately, in the great state of Texas, we don’t have a Texas state tax. Some people say that what you have is an onerous sales tax. Trust me, you go to Connecticut or Massachusetts. The sales tax is marginally less than we have for a sales tax in Texas, and then they have a bad state income tax. So you have federal, state taxes; you have local sales taxes; and they can get bad.
Then you have all those fees, if you want to do anything. If you want to have a church here, you’ve got to pay for a certificate of occupancy, you’ve got to do all of these other things that are basically taxes under the guise of fees.
It’s estimated that the average American that is paying taxes, paying income taxes as a homeowner and paying property taxes, is probably paying somewhere between 30% and 35% of his income, depending on where you are in taxes.
So what we’re paying is a lot of taxes, but let me see, under the Old Testament Mosaic Law, it was a 10% tithe, and there was a second 10% tithe, and there was a third tithe that was every third year. So that runs out to be about 23% or 24% depending on how you figure it out under the Mosaic Law. And then you have your taxes to Caesar on top of that. So you didn’t have a whole lot of paycheck left over at the end of the second day, and you still had about 28 more to go before you are at the end of the month. So it’s really difficult to live and to make a living.
So they’re asking this question, and it’s interesting the language they use, they say, “Tell us what you think? Is it lawful to pay taxes?” This word for “pay taxes” is the word on the left, DIDOMI—“Is it lawful to give taxes to Caesar or not?”
What’s interesting is in verse 21 when Jesus answers, and He says, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” He doesn’t use the same language. He changes to the word APODIDOMI, which means to give back. That’s the idea. “This is his. Give it back to him.”
So He doesn’t walk into their trap. He doesn’t let them set the vocabulary. He’s very thoughtful about His particular answer.
As we look at the various situation and taxes in Rome, they had two basic taxes—the property tax or a poll tax, which was called the tributum capitis or head tax. Since Judea was an imperial province after AD 6, all of the taxes were paid directly into the imperial treasury; that’s again something that really irritated the Pharisees and Herod Antipas and his brother Philip, who governed the rest of the Palestinian territory to the north.
The area going up towards the north of Samaria and into the Galilee also would have paid a tribute to Caesar, just as their father Herod the Great did.
So there was this huge tax. They also had water taxes and meat taxes and salt taxes and house taxes. If it moved, it was taxed, and if it didn’t, it was taxed. So they collected everything.
Now that’s not … just as a little warning, I did a little research on this yesterday to help us understand something about our taxes; we have to pay off the national debt. The national debt as of June 2, 2016 is $19,229,279,536,522. Let’s just round that off to $19.2 trillion.
That boils down to $59,409 for every person living in the US, taxpayer or not. That’s a $154,344 obligation for every household. That’s 105% of the US gross domestic product. That means it’s twice what this country produces to make money in a year.
The problem with that is the countries that get over indebted over 90% of their domestic product basically are looking forward to recessionary economics, unemployment, and the collapse of their economy, historically. But that’s if you’re just looking at the national debt.
I’m looking at a website that’s called Justfacts.com, and so they go a step further, and they say that publicly traded companies are legally required to account not only for the explicit debt, but they are required to account for the implicit future obligations, such as employee pensions and retirement benefits.
So the federal budget and the deficit just relates to the explicit debt that we have, but if we factor in the $8.3 trillion in liabilities that are part of federal employee retirement benefits, accounts payable, and environmental liabilities, we have a greater debt.
If we factor in the $26.7 trillion in obligations for current Social Security participants and also factoring in projected payroll and benefit taxes, we have an even greater debt.
And if we factor in again. The 28-1/2 trillion dollars in obligations for current Medicare participants above and beyond projected revenues and benefit taxes, then we have an even greater debt.
The bottom line is that there is actually, if we factor in all of the obligations and liabilities of the federal government has, we have a $76.4 trillion shortfall. I can’t even think that big. 76-1/2 trillion dollars just about. That’s $273,284 for every person living in the US. $613,531 for every household in the US.
Well, let’s just stop there. That’s almost impossible to ever pay that off. That means that we are on a downhill slide. Now some people think, “Oh, let’s tax the rich.” Well, if you took all the income that all the rich, you know that 1% that Wall Street … the group that it was attacking Wall Street and having the sit-ins a few years ago … Occupy Wall Street. That’s right, thank you. They’re worried about the 1%. Well, if you take everything that the 1% owns, that’s not even going to pay off the 19 trillion, but it’s going to destroy the productivity of the country.
You don’t have productivity by overtaxing people. In fact, the more you tax people, the less they’re able to invest money and make money. The only way that you’re going to grow the economy in order to have the income in order to pay off the debt is to reduce taxes.
But that’s not how progressives think. They just want all the money to go to Washington and dole it out. Well, we see how the cost of living and the quality of life in places like Ukraine and Belarus and China and Russia has developed over this. It all comes down, though, to taxes.
But Jesus says, even if your taxes are onerous, and they were incredibly onerous under Rome, you need to pay taxes.
Look how He handles it, “He perceived their wickedness”—He saw that they were evil—“and He said, ‘Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?’ ”
The word there for wickedness is PONERIA, meaning evil. It’s the same word He used to describe the evil vinedressers back in Matthew 21:4.
And He called them hypocrites. Hypocrites is a term that comes out of drama. It’s putting on a mask when you come out in a play. The mask covers up who you really are, and you’re trying to project another identity. That’s the idea. They’re trying to act like they’re genuine and talking to Jesus, but they’re not.
So He says, “ ‘Show Me the tax money.’ So they brought him a denarius.” Here we have a picture of the coin—“and He says, ‘Whose image and description is this?’ ”
This is what it says: on one side it has Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the divine Augustus. On one side it’s claiming that that Caesar is God. And on the other side it says he’s the High Priest, PONTIF MAXIM. If you come from a Catholic background, you’ll recognize that that’s the title for the pope. He’s the high priest. So this is the coin.
So Jesus looks at that and right away He’s alluding to a basic problem that they’ve got, and that is that it violates the second commandment to make an image of anything. And so that’s why the Pharisees won’t pay it. It is paid with a coin that has a blasphemous image on it.
But Jesus says, “Whose image is it?”
“Well, it’s Caesar’s.” So he says, “Render—APODIDOMI—render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”
He is making a clear case that there is a sphere of authority in the secular government that has certain rights and privileges, and you are under that authority; and therefore, you pay for the cost. That’s the price of doing business and living in the Empire, even if it’s onerous. He says pay the tax and render unto God the things that are God’s.
The other thing that He’s making a point here is Caesar is not God. The coin claims that he’s God, but he’s not God. So render under Caesar what’s his, but there is a higher authority, and that is the service of God.
And so “when they heard these words, they marveled, and they left Him and they went their way.”
So He foils this first trap, sidesteps it, and gets ready for the next one.
Now what I want to do is come back and look at this topic in a broader sense next time. We have passages like Romans 13:6–7, where Paul says, “For because of this”—that is, what you said earlier in the passage that every soul is supposed to be subject to governing authorities, said— “because of this you also pay taxes, for they—that is the government—are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, custom to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”
So we’ll come back next time and develop this a little bit more because as I said in the introduction, this is one of the three key passages in the New Testament that talk about the role and authority of government and the believer’s relationship to the authority of government.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to think through this situation and talk about these things because they do impact our thinking about current events and understanding what Your Word says about economics, what Your Word says about politics, what Your Word says about how You structured society so that certain absolutes should not be violated.
Father, ultimately we realize a basic problem everyone faces is not a problem of government or politics, it is a problem of sin and that every human being is born a sinner spiritually dead, incapable of saving themselves. But You in Your grace and Your goodness provided a Savior for a solution for us, as You sent the eternal Second Person of the Trinity to die on the Cross for our sins.
He entered into human history, lived among us, and yet He was rejected, He was crucified, and that fulfilled Your plan. And in that crucifixion He paid for our sins.
Salvation is not based on something we do, it’s not based on some bargain we make with You to clean up our lives. It’s based on the fact that Jesus Christ died for us, and that He paid the penalty, and that our sin was imputed to Him, and if we trust in Him, His righteousness is given to us, so that we are saved not by our goodness, but by His perfect righteousness.
We pray that if anyone is listening to this, if they’ve never trusted in Jesus as Savior, they would do that right now. They would believe that Jesus died on the Cross for their sins.
And Father, we pray that You would challenge each of us that we need to understand how Your Word applies to every area of thinking in our lives, not just spiritual and moral things, but how it relates to politics and economics, how it relates to science, how it relates to every field of ethics and morality, how it relates to learning and every field of human endeavor.
Father, we pray that we might be willing to take up the challenge Jesus lays down so often, and that is to follow Him, to be disciples, and to be willing to do what is necessary to grow to spiritual maturity.
We pray this in Christ’s name, Amen.”