Commands of Christ

Render to Caesar

Where is this command found?

“Show me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

Matthew 22:19–21

Applying This Command

We are to honor all civil authorities as ministers of God. As such, we are not to speak evil of them, even if we disagree with their views or decisions. To honor a ruler is to revere him as one whom the Lord has placed over us for our protection and the fulfillment of God’s bigger purposes in history. God’s Word assures us that “the king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).

When the question of tribute was put to Jesus, He asked for a coin and had them admit that the image of Caesar was part of its superscription. By this He was first of all affirming that they should pay tribute. “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21). However, He was also recognizing a higher principle: that the acceptance of the emperor’s coinage was an acknowledgment of his authority to collect taxes.

In the wise and discerning answer that Jesus gave to the Pharisees and Herodians, He affirmed our responsibility to give to Caesar what belongs to him, but He pointed out this would in no way hinder our higher responsibility to give to God what belongs to Him. God is to be feared above all gods. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is the Sovereign above all nations. He is the very God of the heavens and the earth. He sets up one ruler and takes down another. He created us for His glory and all that we have or are is because of His mercy and grace. We are to worship God by keeping the commands that He gave us through Jesus Christ and, by the grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, to live them out in our lives.

Because God created us and Jesus redeemed us by His own blood, we doubly belong to Him. It is therefore reasonable that we should dedicate our bodies to Him. This is the appeal of Paul, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1–2). Just as the image of Caesar is on coins that belong to him, so the image of God is on us and our children, and we belong to Him.


Bible Verses for Meditation

In addition to meditation on Matthew 22:19–21, meditating on the verses below will provide you with further insight and understanding of Christ’s command: Render to Caesar.

Romans 13:1–2, 5–7

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. … Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”

I Peter 2:17

“Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”

Proverbs 21:1

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.”

I Peter 2:13–14

“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.”

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Study Question

Q: Jesus condemned the unfaithful steward for not increasing the amount of money entrusted to him. Why, then, did Jesus entrust money to Judas and not even reprove him when He knew Judas was stealing it? (See John 12:6 and Matthew 25:24–27.)

A: While at first it may appear that Judas was not reproved, in the end he was severely rebuked by God. He was entrusted with care of the money purse, and he was unfaithful to that trust. In the same way, he was disloyal to Jesus Christ and betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver. As a result of Judas’s unfaithfulness and deception, he “fell, that he might go to his own place” (Acts 1:25; see also John 12:6).

The lesson of the unfaithful steward would certainly apply to Judas. “His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant … . Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. … And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:26, 28, 30).

In order to be faithful stewards of what God has entrusted to us, we must learn to view money from God’s perspective. We tend to view money as our possession and assume we have the right to decide how it will be spent. We also tend to view money as a means of security for the future, storing up as much as possible since we do not know what will happen to us in coming years.

The result of this human perspective is that we make money our god, because we expect from money what only God can give us, including happiness, security, freedom from fears, and peace of mind. When we build our lives around money, we reveal that we are guilty of the love of money, which is the root of all evil, bringing with it grief, temptations, and disillusionment.

However, God views all money as His possession. “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Proverbs 16:4). He even blesses the ungodly in that He “… maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

God created all true wealth and has given us the ability to acquire a certain amount of it. He sees money as a trust that He gives to each individual as a steward of what belongs to Him. When He instructs us to give a portion of “our” money to the government, we need to be obedient to do so. Money is not to be hoarded or squandered but wisely invested in order to bring increase that glorifies God and fulfills His purposes in the world.

For Further Study

You can learn more about the command Render to Caesar in the book Commands of Christ: Series 6.

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