A Reflection on Matthew 22:15-21 by Eddie Olewinski

Chapter 22 of Matthew’s Gospel is overflowed with various Jewish leaders coming to Jesus questioning his authority, the resurrection, and challenging the Law. This relatively short Gospel reading follows an account that Jesus had with the questions Pharisees had regarding taxes. The Pharisees, wishing to avoid unsuccessful confrontation, sent their disciples to ask Jesus these questions. In hopes for Jesus to lower his guard, these disciples flattered him in stating that he is ‘honest’ and ‘teaches the way of God.’ They acknowledge Jesus as a teacher, essentially to pressure him into answering this question. They ask, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 

Jesus understood their plot and purpose, which was to attempt to try to destroy him. He requests them to bring the coins to him. He asks, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription”. The disciples respond: “Caesars.” Jesus replies, “Give, therefore, to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” As citizens, we have an obligation to obey the laws and pay the required taxes. He continues “and give back to God the things that are God’s.” We bear God’s image, and it is only appropriate to give ourselves back to God because God created us, and we are all integral parts within His world. 

Jesus is not here to divide our world between the obligations of Caesar and our obligations to God. Instead, He answers and acknowledges the state’s responsibility, but affirms that a more massive commitment is to God. Coins and images that bear Caesar’s face may belong to him, but all things on this earth are under the dominion of God. 

The world asks for money, but God asks for your heart.

Eddie Olewinski