Then the Pharisees met together to find a way to trap Jesus in his words. They sent their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are genuine and that you teach God’s way as it really is. We know that you are not swayed by people’s opinions, because you don’t show favoritism. So tell us what you think: Does the Law allow people to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Knowing their evil motives, Jesus replied, “Why do you test me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used to pay the tax.” And they brought him a denarion. “Whose image and inscription is this?” he asked. “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” When they heard this they were astonished, and they departed (Matthew 22:15-22, Common English Bible).
You are asked an innocent question that sounds simple. So, you quickly blurt out your answer. That is when the trouble starts. What you thought was simple and easy isn’t really so simple. In fact, it is a trap and you just walked right into the middle of it.
Life can be that way sometimes. We try to see ahead but sometimes we just don’t see the problem and before we know it we have walked off head long into it and find ourselves in over our heads.
This could have happened to Jesus in our lesson today. The Pharisees were trying to find a way to trap him and they think they have what they are looking for with a seemingly simple question. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor or not?”
To our modern ear we hear the question and don’t think much about it. We are used to paying taxes. We may not like it but we are used to it. And, from a secular perspective, without question it is lawful. So, Jesus should just go ahead and say “yes” and that would be the end of it.
Well, not so fast. The Romans believed the emperor to be a god. So, to pay taxes to the emperor, many Jews saw, including the Pharisees as paying tribute to a false god. By that logic, paying taxes to the emperor would not be a lawful act on the part of a good Jew.
Still, to not pay the tax? One could find yourself in serious hot water. What would happen between you and the IRS if you didn’t pay your taxes today?
So, here was Jesus’ dilemma. If he says, “Yes, it is lawful to pay taxes to the emperor,” he is a bad Jew. If he says, “No, you shouldn’t pay taxes to the emperor,” he is a subversive to the state and could have some very real consequences to those decisions.
Things are not always as simple as a quick glance might lead us to think. If we react to quickly we can find ourselves in deep trouble. Sometimes we need to first, stop and take a step back. We need to think through what we are about to do and only then see if we can find a solution.
That is what Jesus did. But, more on that to come over the next few days.
What do you do that allows you to walk into someone’s word trap?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Thankfulness,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved