Whose image is stamped on your heart? Luke 20:19-26

Luke 20:19-26 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people. 20 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” 23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?” 25 “Caesar’s,” they replied. He said to them, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” 26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.”

Luca 20:19-26 «In quella stessa ora gli scribi e i capi dei sacerdoti cercarono di mettergli le mani addosso, ma temettero il popolo; perché capirono che egli aveva detto quella parabola per loro. 20 Si misero a osservare Gesù e gli mandarono delle spie che fingessero di essere giusti per coglierlo in fallo su una sua parola e consegnarlo, così, all’autorità e al potere del governatore. 21 Costoro gli fecero una domanda: «Maestro, noi sappiamo che tu parli e insegni rettamente, e non hai riguardi personali, ma insegni la via di Dio secondo verità. 22 Ci è lecito, o no, pagare il tributo a Cesare?» 23 Ma egli, accortosi del loro tranello, disse loro: 24 «Mostratemi un denaro. Di chi porta l’effigie e l’iscrizione?» Ed essi dissero: «Di Cesare». 25 Ed egli a loro: «Rendete dunque a Cesare quello che è di Cesare, e a Dio quello che è di Dio». 26 Essi non poterono coglierlo in fallo davanti al popolo; e, meravigliati della sua risposta, tacquero.”

It is clear from the references in this chapter that the religious leaders were trying to find a way to prosecute Jesus legally (Luke 19:48, 20:2,19) because they afraid of criticism from the people. The only way to accomplish this was to send spies to catch Jesus in a scenario that the people would not like. These verses tell of one encounter with the spies.

The question posed was a tense issue for Jews who were divided on the subject of whether it was right to pay taxes to Rome. It was not just about money but about the bigger issue of politics. A yes or no answer would create just what the spies wanted. A ‘yes’ would make the zealots, who wanted Jewish autonomy, walk away from Jesus and a ‘no’ answer would give the Romans and the spies a case for rebellion against Tiberius Caesar.

Here again the wisdom of Jesus suceeded in taking what seemed to be a lose-lose scenario and change it into a winning point. Jesus was not suggesting a divided loyalty between God and government. Romans 13:1 tells us to obey our government for the Lord’s sake. We only breach that God-ordained structure when it is impossible to obey God due to a government restriction. Then we must put God first (Acts 4:19-20; 5:29).

The two points here are the image of Caesar (on a coin) and the image of God stamped on us. In a sense, the tax goes to the image placed on it. One should pay it but citizens of the kingdom of God also have an image of God branded on them so they must render to God the reflection of His image. We should never violate our conscience but at the same time, we should desire to be at peace as citizens of heaven in an earthly land. Daniel, even though he was carried away to a foreign ungodly land, is an example of someone who had to deal with both sides of this issue and, by his faithfulness, served with honor numerous kings in Babylon.

Pray with me: Lord, I live in a world that is governed by people who do not have Your interest in the decisions they make. Help me to live at peace, whenever possible, knowing that although human governments are flawed, I am a witness to Your image stamped on my life.

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