Thoughts for the Day

Tuesday, 4th June 2024: Taxes and Caesar

Work Pharisees Herodians Mark 12 Jesus Tax

Reading : Verses from Mark, Chapter 12

Ancient denarius

* A Roman denarius.

Then they sent to Jesus some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?’ But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.’ And they brought one. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were utterly amazed at him.

(Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)


What a trap is set for Jesus. Firstly, let us notice that the Pharisees and the Herodians, who absolutely loth one another, have come together to sidle up to Jesus with their smiling flattery, to give him an impossible question. They see him as an even bigger enemy, and they intend to destroy him, using their Roman oppressors to do the job for them. The Jews were forced to pay taxes direct to the Emperor: ground tax (10% of grain and 20% of wine and fruit), income tax (1% of income) and poll tax (1 denarius a year for men and women). This was on top of Temple tax which their faith demanded. Paying tax to the Romans overlords was hated. If Jesus supports Roman taxation he will upset his own people and if he argues against such taxation he can be accused of treason.

Jesus' answer though, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s,’ does not argue against taxation, nor does it deny that money belongs to God. Over the centuries though many have used these words to argue that business and religion have nothing to do with one another. However, God recognises no such divide. If money belongs to Caesar, it belongs even more to God because Caesar himself is under God’s authority.

Yahweh is the God of all creation! God's kingdom is breaking into our world, not just into our church but also into the office, into sport, and into a general election in the UK concerning those who govern us. As Christians we are called to engage with the world not to ignore it. We might "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's" (ie taxes), but we must also "Give to God what is God's" (which is everything, taxes included).


Lord Jesus Christ,
when the world tries to shut out our cries
about the evil being perpetuated in our world,
whether that is about climate change,
injustice, poverty, or war,
may we seek ways to make a difference.
Help us to take our faith into our work life
and not keep it at home or in church.
May we never forget our entire world is Yours.

Follow Up Thoughts

The Christian Institute offers help to UK voters for the upcoming General Election. It is a non-denomination charity seeking to help all Christians:

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