"Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" (Matt. 22:21). This is certainly one of the most famous things Jesus ever said. It's a well-known saying within the Christian church, but outside of it as well. Poets, philosophers, songwriters, politicians—most everyone's familiar with this saying of Jesus, and rightfully so, because it also happens to be one of the most brilliant things he ever said.
We see from the context that the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders at the time were sick and tired of Jesus. So, as we read, they "laid plans to trap him in his words" (Matt. 22:15). Like kids on the playground tired of playing with little Johnny, they wanted to find a way to get little Johnny into trouble so he'd be taken off the playground and down to the principal's office—only in this case, what they had in mind for Jesus wasn't a detention, but an execution.
They tried to throw Jesus on the horns of a dilemma and there watch him skewer himself to death. Of course, before they do that, they flatter him a bit, trying to cause him to lose his wits, telling him how virtuous they think he is. "Teacher," they said, "we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are" (Matt. 22:16). You see what they're doing: they're buttering him up before they try to barbeque him.
Then they say to him: "Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?" (Matt. 22:17). In effect, they're asking Jesus a question without a good answer: "Jesus, are you pro-Roman or anti-Roman? Are you in support of this idolatrous pagan ...
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