LUKE 20:20-26 AUGUST 16, 2015
“DON’T YOU LOVE PAYING TAXES?”
One of Benjamin Franklin’s most famous sayings is: “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes!” I think it is time to update this saying: “In this world nothing is certain but death and that taxes will increase!” I have never enjoyed paying taxes, especially when our government wastes so much money on frivolous things. I also get upset over taxes being used for immoral purposes, such as supporting Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is a business that makes profits by the killing of babies during pregnancy. My revulsion over this practice supported by the money I pay in taxes is very high.
In much the same way the Jewish people were horrified that they had to pay taxes that supported the Roman Empire. They were also offended that the currency portrayed the Emperor Tiberius. The coin had the description: “Tiberius Caesar, Augustus, son of the divine Augustus”. The coin declares Tiberius to be a god. Remember, that the first commandment is that you shall have no other gods before me. Some of the Jews thought that even carrying the coin was breaking the commandment.
The context of this encounter with Jesus is important. This encounter took place after Jesus had again humiliated the religious leaders of Israel by declaring that judgment was going to come against the nation because the nation had rejected Jesus as being sent from God. Luke 20:19 (NIV) “19 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.”
The religious leaders looked for another way to get rid of Jesus. So they hoped to lure Jesus into saying something treasonous so they could enlist the Roman authorities to dispose of him. Luke 20:20 (NIV) “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.”
I like the wording in the ESV better. Luke 20:20 “So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authorities and jurisdiction of the governor.
People still use this tactic to trick people into saying something that can be exploited. The media often seeks to flatter people so they can then entice them to say something that can be twisted and thus newsworthy. Like the local affiliate who asked an employee of a Pizza Parlor what they would do if a gay couple wanted to use the pizza place to host a wedding reception. The outpouring of hate toward the owners of this restaurant was sickening.
Scripture is very clear with warnings about those who flatter. Psalm 5:9 (NIV) “9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit.” Psalm 12:2-3 (NIV) “2 Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception. 3 May the LORD cut off all flattering lips and every boastful tongue.” Proverbs 26:28 (NIV) “28 A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” Jesus set a good example of being wary of the schemes of those who would demean the faith as he discerned that they had ulterior motives. James provides us with good advice. James 1:19-20 (NIV) “19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
Luke 20:21-22 (NIV) “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?” Again the ESV translates the question differently. Luke 20:22(ESV) “Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” The flatters asked if it was right in God’s sight to pay taxes to a pagan government. If Jesus came out in support of Rome then his loyalty would be questioned. If he sided with those who opposed paying taxes then he would be in trouble with the Roman government.
Luke 20:23-25 (NIV) “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.” Notice that when Jesus asked for a coin they had one in their pockets. By their own actions they knew it was okay to pay taxes.
Jesus was not a revolutionary in the political sense. Jesus came to preach the gospel and build the kingdom of God. He told us plainly in Matthew 6:33 (NIV) “33 Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” Jesus did not step into their trap and the response by the leaders was one of silence.
The early church understood that our first allegiance is to God; and secondly to the governing authorities. Peter told the church how to relate to government. 1 Peter 2:13-17 (NIV) “13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”
We are entering a difficult period in our country where we are being challenged to go along with governmental intrusion into what we believe and practice. As much as I don’t like paying taxes, scripture is clear that we are expected to be good citizens and pay our taxes. Doing so honors our God and His Word.
In these times we must be careful and prayerful in responding to these challenges. We must speak the truth and be obedient to the Word of God with love and respect for all people. Yet in our country many people, including the media and our leaders, fear to speak the truth about Islam. Islam is a religion of hate and is from Satan. We must not be silent and we must speak up for Christ and speak out against the evil acts being perpetrated against our fellow believers in Christ by Muslim terrorists.
I will do my best to follow the laws of our country. But I will also do my utmost to put Christ first. People need to hear the truth that everyone is lost unless they turn to Christ and repent of their sinful lives. I will stand against any government that seeks to put a muzzle on me speaking the truth as found in the Word of God. I will stand against any government that seeks to demand that I support any law that goes against the Moral Law of God. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” May God be with us as we seek to honor him!
Let us pray.