Then they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement. They came and said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay or shall we not pay?” But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at.” They brought one. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” And they said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him.
– Mark 12:13-17 NASB
The religious leaders thought they had Jesus trapped. They figured that if He said that the poll-tax was legal, He would look bad to the Jews, but if He said it was illegal, He would look bad to the Romans. Either way, they figured He’d be in trouble. He gave an answer no one was expecting…and that no one could improve upon. In doing so, He left us a principle to help guide our lives.
The apostle Paul expanded on this principle when he wrote:
Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
– Romans 13:7 – NASB
Jesus and His apostles always submitted themselves to human authorities. They only disobeyed human authorities when obeying them would require them to disobey God. And even on those occasions where they did have to obey God rather than men, they accepted the consequences of their actions without reviling or cursing the authorities who were punishing them.
A police officer, because of his devotion to Jesus, may personally forgive a wrongdoer for resisting arrest, but the officer has a professional responsibility to bring the wrongdoer to justice. Thus must we submit to human authority even while we are submitting to divine authority. One of the purposes of prayer is to help us sort out such responsibilities.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Heavenly Father, help me sort out and keep straight my duties to You and my duties to others. Even when I become confused about these things, I trust you to help me see them clearly…one day at a time…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.