Render to Caesar

Matthew 22:15–21

Principle for Bible Reading

Jesus does not always give us every answer explicitly. Sometimes he wants us to think and come to the right answer for ourselves, like when the Pharisees tried to trap him over taxes. In this lab, John Piper helps us understand how we relate to the government by highlighting God’s governing of all things.

View the outline.


Introduction/Prayer (00:00–00:55)

Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes? (00:55–06:43)

  1. The Pharisees and Herodians wanted to entangle Jesus over the issue of taxes. If Jesus says they ought to pay, he betrays the Jews who resented the Romans. If he says do not pay, he would be in trouble with Caesar and the Romans. Either conflict could undo him and his influence.
  2. The malice in the question springs from envy. Even Pilot knew the Jews were handing Jesus over out of envy. (Matthew 27:18)
  3. Jesus asks them to bring him a denarius and show him the face on the coin. He answers them by saying they ought to give to Caesar what it Caesar’s, and to God what it God’s.
  4. Jesus did not deal with the scope of Caesar’s sphere of power and possession, or God’s. He also does not deal with the relationship between Caesar’s sphere and God’s.

Give to God What Is God’s (06:43–11:56)

  1. Everything belongs to God, meaning the things that belong to Caesar do not belong to him ultimately. All of his possession is derivative. (Matthew 22:21; John 19:11)
  2. Therefore, Caesar’s rights and claims over you are limited. If Caesar calls us to do anything God prohibits, we refuse. (Acts 5:29)
  3. Caesar’s influence and our allegiance to him are shaped by God’s superior possession and authority. We render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s as an act of worship to God. (Ephesians 5:22; 6:7)

Study Questions

  1. Why did the Pharisees and the Herodians think their question would entangle Jesus (Matthew 22:15–16)? What made the question so difficult (even impossible) in their minds?
  2. Why does Jesus call them hypocrites for asking that question (Matthew 22:18)?
  3. Jesus doesn’t answer their question directly, but his answer does suggest a lot. List two or three implications you see in Jesus’s answer (Matthew 22:21).
Piper: “Any allegiance we give to any government we give as an act of worship to God.”