And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s,” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. (Matthew 22:20-22 ESV)
The Pharisees were plotting against Jesus, attempting to “entangle him in his talk” (Matthew 22:15). The Pharisees, being cowards like many overly religious people, sent their disciples to Jesus with a controversial question, hoping to provoke a condemnable response. The Pharisees’ lackeys approached Jesus and prefaced their question with flattery to deceive him, and then asked, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” Matthew records here that, “Jesus, aware of their malice” (Matthew 22:18) asked the hypocrites why they put him to the test, and proceeded to give a gospel answer that encompasses all of life.
He held up a coin and it was plain that Caesar’s image was upon it, stamped as a sign of ownership, validating Jesus’ response to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”.That answered the deceitful question, but Jesus went one phrase further saying, “and to God the things that are God’s.”
These men each would have been well acquainted with the Old Testament, and given the context, would have understood the implication of Jesus’ statement. It was an unstated question, “Whose likeness and inscription is on you?” It was a gospel answer to a sinful question, encompassing the whole of life. We bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and we are to render unto God, that which is God’s; our life. Marvel at the brilliance of Jesus today, knowing that we bear his image and likeness, and are made alive through the Holy Spirit who lives within us (I Peter 3:18).
What have you not rendered to God today?