God and Country Matthew 22:15-22

 

They plotted against Him

This literally means to set a trap. All of this was taking place in a couple of days and they were still trying to trap Jesus. There may have been at least 1000 people listening to Jesus at this point and the religious leaders were scared to upset them and have the people turn on them. Jesus had questioned their authority and power and if they did not stop Him then they would lose control of the people. So they were trying their best to discredit Jesus with questions hoping to turn the crowd against Him.

The first thing we see is that the Religious leaders sent their disciples and the Herodians to confront Jesus. The Herodians were committed to Herod and even though the religious leaders hated them they needed them to trap Jesus.The Herodians hated anyone that spoke against the taxes and thought that the taxes were good because government was the answer to the problems they faced.The saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”, was true of the religious leaders who were looking for anyway to defeat Jesus.

Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead  and was suspicious of him and so the followers of Herod would have been leery of Jesus as well.

They sent their disciples along to trap Jesus because the disciples of the religious leaders could use flattery. After several confrontations the religious leaders knew they were not capable of using flattery without revealing their true intentions.

Teacher we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully.

If you are a parent you know what it is like to be treated differently by your kids when they really want something. They use flattery to try and get you distracted in order to get what they want. This was what was happening in this situation as they were giving false praise to Jesus, not because they believed it, but for the purpose of getting Him to drop His guard.

They were literally buttering up Jesus with words that they did not believe. Although they did not believe what they were saying, they were professing the truth about Jesus.

Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?

Jesus could see that they were trying to cause division of the people because just like in our day the people had to pay taxes they did not want to pay. They had the temple Tax , customs, sales tax ect. Similar to what we have to do in America. Along with those taxes one tenth of grain and one fifth of wine had to be given.

Not all the taxes were bad because it provided good and safe roads for the people to travel. The taxes would fund the military which would walk the roads for the people to be able to bring their goods to buy and sell. This is also where we received the term “Go the extra Mile” from Jesus because the Roman soldiers could ask you to carry their belongings for a mile and Jesus encouraged them to go two miles. (Matthew 5:41-42)

Although almost all the taxes were hated, the tax that people hated the most was the Poll or Head tax. This tax was aimed at non-Roman citizens. The Romans would tax every non- Roman a day’s wage per head. So if you had a family of 5 then it would take an average person paying 5 days wages in order to pay off this tax. This was the tax that Joseph and Mary had to go to Bethlehem for.

If Jesus answers Yes then the Jews would hate Him. If Jesus answers No then Jesus would be in trouble with the government.

In any work of God Satan will use people to try and divide the people.

Romans 16:17-19 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites,[a] and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.

Watch Out and Avoid are not something we discuss in our churches much but there are people, especially religious people, who will try and divide the work of God instead of furthering the Kingdom of God.  You can spot them because everything they are doing is for their own benefit and not for the benefit of others. They also prey on the weak and naïve and manipulate and lie to get more out of them.

Knowing their evil purpose/ Why are you testing me Hypocrites?

Jesus saw through their plan to divide the people against Him and He let them know that He knew what they were doing. The people who did not catch that their flattery was not genuine would have been woken up to the fact that these men actually meant harm and not just a question for information.

Jesus was respected as a prophet by most of the people and sent from God so this question would have been intriguing to them. The crowd would have wanted a true answer even if the religious leaders disciples did not.

Show me the coin for the tax/ Whose image is on the coin?

Unlike our government where all the coins have the same emblem for the same amount they would have local money printed and then the Roman government had their money printed. This printed image of the ruler is what would have to be used to pay the Head tax. So just like what was happening before I am sure the people were being asked to pay extra than needed to purchase the certain coin for the head tax.  This was the same with the temple when they would not allow any money with an image on it be used and it had to be exchanged.This was another reason that tax collectors were hated because they could take extra money if they wanted to and the people had no recourse.

The Ruler would have his image stamped into the money and the Jews believed it to be wrong because the Bible said do not make an image of yourself.

Deuteronomy 5:8 You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

It was also taught by some Rabbis that it was wicked for a Jewish person to have such coin and carry it. The Jews hated the tax because they believed themselves to belong to God and not Rome even though they were under Roman suppression.

So they had Jesus right where they wanted Him and then He answers

Give to Caesar the things that Belong to Caesar and to God the things that belong to God

Jesus point was clear The things of this earth fall under the authority of God. Most people want to separate God from the world but we worship a God that made this world and is overseeing every aspect of it.

1)    All earthly authorities are placed there by God (Romans 13:1-7)

Romans 13:1-7 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.

Whether they are a Christian leader or not God is using them for His purposes. Read the Old Testament and you will see God using evil countries to fulfill His purposes. Rome was not a Christian government and was very corrupt and evil but God in His Sovereignty uses evil somehow.

By the time Paul wrote those words in Romans 13 there was a tyrant named Nero in charge.  Nero was so evil and killed so many Christians that some believe him to be the antichrist and the Christians at the time,  living through the great tribulation.

This Roman rule, although not always for Christianity, provided many avenues for Christianity to be spread around the world. Even as a Church we have to submit things as a non- profit that take time and effort to complete. You can say we do not have to answer to the government but at the same time keeping a tax exempt status allows us to be able to keep more money and use it for Kingdom purposes. We have a responsibility to do things the way the Government has told us to do them unless they go against the clear teaching of Gods word.

2)    Submission to authorities is the will of God (1 Peter 2:13-17)

1 Peter 2:13-17 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,[a] whether it be to the emperor[b] as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants[c] of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Many people are looking for the will of God and yet He tells us clearly that submission to authority is one of them. When you obey the laws of the land you are submitting to God not just them. Jesus said that we are morally obligated to pay the tax and to resist government is to resist God.

“Jesus made no qualifying exemptions or exceptions, even under rulers such as the blasphemous, pagan, idolatrous government that in a few days would nail Him to the cross. “ John MacArthur.

3)    You are to respect authority (Romans 13:7)

Romans 13:7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Christians are known as some of the most venomous when it comes to our leaders in office. Imagine if a politician was not worried about meeting a person who was a Christian because they knew they would at least be respected even if not agreed with. We need to respect the people God has placed in leadership positions even when we do not agree with them.

4)    You are to pray for your Leaders (1 Timothy 2:13-15)

1 Timothy 2:13-15 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,

When is the last time you prayed for our president? Our leaders? Your Children’s Teachers and Administrators?

5)    You are to only go against government when it goes against God (Acts 5:27-29)

Acts 5:27-29 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

As our society turns to be more anti Christian we may be faced with this exact scenario one day. It may become not politically correct one day to proclaim that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. (John 14:6) Some believe that Christianity is actually hurting our progress as a society and so as that thought grows so may opposition to Christianity.

Until that time we are to be a people that live obediently in every area of our lives and become part of the solutions of our society. Jesus taught both God and country of course with God being first. Just like Daniel and Esther we are to be obedient even if we might lose our lives for it. In doing so we might just turn a nation to God.

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