But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“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.” Matthew 22:15-21
Tax day! April 15 is so not my favorite day of the year. Even if we end up getting a refund, it still is a reminder of how much of our income is not really ours, and there is always the stress of making sure we have kept the right paperwork, filled out the right forms, and done our math right, lest the government come back at us with charges, fees, and penalties.
Funny how some things just don't change. The people of Jesus' time weren't fans of taxes and the government either, and some of Jesus' enemies figured out a way to use the topic of taxes to trap him. By asking him if they should pay tribute to Caesar, they would either make him look like a rebel, or they would make him look bad to his followers. I'm sure his answer frustrated them, but I wonder how many of them were able to see the challenge behind it as well.
Jesus' reasoning was that if Caesar's image was on the coin, then ultimately it belonged in the realm of the earthly government and should be rendered as the law demanded, "give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." What Jesus leaves out is the parallel thought of what bears God's image in the same way that the coin bore Caesar's image. And what is that? You and me. We who are made in God's image. We are to render ourselves to God.
But in what way? When we pay taxes, that money is gone. We cannot get it back or tell the government what to do with it. It is out of our control. In the same way, when we truly surrender ourselves to God, it needs to be with an attitude of total submission, allowing God to be God.
Never is this harder than when we are going through a fiery trial of loss or other kind of testing. But unlike the government, our God is pure and loving and righteous - and absolutely trustworthy. Recognizing that even when our circumstances tempt us to believe otherwise is the truest expression of faith, and it is times like that when God's image in us shines forth the most clearly.