Matthew 22:21
They say to him, Caesar's. Then said he to them, Render therefore to Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's.
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(21) Render therefore unto Cæsar.—As far as the immediate question was concerned, this was of course an answer in the affirmative. It recognised the principle that the acceptance of the emperor’s coinage was an admission of his de facto sovereignty. But the words that followed raised the discussion into a higher region, and asserted implicitly that that admission did not interfere with the true spiritual freedom of the people, or with their religious duties. They might still “render to God the things that were His”—i.e. (1), the tithes, tribute, offerings which belonged to the polity and worship that were the appointed witnesses of His sovereignty, and (2) the faith, love, and obedience which were due to Him from every Israelite. The principle which the words involved was obviously wider in its range than the particular occasion to which it was thus applied. In all questions of real or seeming collision between secular authority and spiritual freedom, the former claims obedience as a de facto ordinance of God up to the limit where it encroaches on the rights of conscience, and prevents men from worshipping and serving Him. Loyal obedience in things in different on the part of the subject, a generous tolerance (such as the Roman empire at this time exercised towards the religion of Israel) on the part of the State, were the two correlative elements upon which social order and freedom depended. Questions might arise, as they have arisen in all ages of the Church, as to whether the limit has, or has not, been transgressed in tins or that instance, and for these the principle does not, and in the nature of things could not, provide a direct answer. What it does prescribe is that all such questions should be approached in the temper which seeks to reconcile the two obligations, not in that which exaggerates and perpetuates their antagonism. Least of all does it sanction the identification of the claims of this or that form of ecclesiastical polity with the “things that are God’s.”

22:15-22 The Pharisees sent their disciples with the Herodians, a party among the Jews, who were for full subjection to the Roman emperor. Though opposed to each other, they joined against Christ. What they said of Christ was right; whether they knew it or not, blessed be God we know it. Jesus Christ was a faithful Teacher, and a bold reprover. Christ saw their wickedness. Whatever mask the hypocrite puts on, our Lord Jesus sees through it. Christ did not interpose as a judge in matters of this nature, for his kingdom is not of this world, but he enjoins peaceable subjection to the powers that be. His adversaries were reproved, and his disciples were taught that the Christian religion is no enemy to civil government. Christ is, and will be, the wonder, not only of his friends, but of his enemies. They admire his wisdom, but will not be guided by it; his power, but will not submit to it.Render, therefore, to Caesar ... - Caesar's image and name on the coin proved that it was his.

It was proper, therefore, to give it back to him when he called for it. But while this was done, Jesus took occasion to charge them, also, to give to God what he claimed. This may mean either,

1. The annual tribute due to the temple service, implying that paying tribute to Caesar did not free them from the obligation to do that; or,

2. That they should give their hearts, lives, property, and influence all to God, as his due.

Mt 22:15-40. Entangling Questions about Tribute, the Resurrection, and the Great Commandment, with the Replies. ( = Mr 12:13-34; Lu 20:20-40).

For the exposition, see on [1343]Mr 12:13-34.

See Poole on "Matthew 22:22". They say unto him, Caesar's,.... Either Augustus Caesar's; for there was a coin of that emperor's, as Dr. Hammond reports, from Occo, which had his image or picture on it, and in it these words written, Augustus Caesar, such a year, "after the taking of Judaea"; which if this was the coin, was a standing testimony of the subjection of the Jews to the Romans; and this being current with them, was an acknowledgment of it by them, and carried in it an argument of their obligation to pay tribute to them; or it might be Tiberius Caesar's, the then reigning emperor, in the nineteenth year of whose reign, Christ was crucified; and seeing he had reigned so long, it is reasonable to suppose, his money was very common, and most in use: we read in the Talmud (s), of , "a Caesarean penny", or "Caesar's penny", the same sort with this: now this penny having Caesar's image and inscription on it, our Lord tacitly suggests, that they ought to pay tribute to him; since his money was allowed of as current among them, which was in effect owning him to be their king; and which perfectly agrees with a rule of their own, which runs thus (t):

"A king whose "coin" is "current" in any country, the inhabitants of that country agree about him, and it is their joint opinion, "that he is their Lord, and they are his servants".''

This being the case now with the Jews, Christ's advice is,

render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God, the things that are God's: give Caesar the tribute and custom, and fear, and honour, and obedience, which are due to him; which may be done without interfering with the honour of God, and prejudicing his interest and glory, when care is taken, that all the worship and obedience due to God are given to him: subjection to civil magistrates is not inconsistent with the reverence and fear of God; all are to have their dues rendered unto them, without entrenching upon one another. And the Jews themselves allow, that a king ought to have his dues, whether he be a king of Israel, or of the Gentiles:

"a publican, or tax gatherer, (they say (u),) that is appointed by the king, whether a king of Israel, or of the Gentiles, and takes what is fixed by the order of the government; it is forbidden to refuse payment of the tax to him, for , "the right of a king is right".''

Just and equitable, and he ought to have his right.

(s) T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 6. 2.((t) Maimon. Hilch. Gerala, c. 5. sect. 18. (u) Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Nedarim. c. 3. sect. 4. & Maimon. Hilch. Gezala, c. 5. sect. 11.

They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.
Matthew 22:21 f. “There He catches them in their own trap,” Luther. The pointing to the image and inscription furnishes the questioners with ocular demonstration of the actual existence and practical recognition of Caesar’s sway, and from these Jesus infers not merely the lawfulness, but the duty of paying to Caesar what belongs to Caesar (namely, the money, which shows, by the stamp it bears, the legitimacy of the existing rule); but He also recognises at the same time the necessity of attending to their theocratic duties, which are not to be regarded as in any way compromised by their political circumstances: and to God what is God’s (what you derive from Him in virtue of His dominion over you). By this is not meant simply the temple tribute, nor the repentance which God may have desired to awaken through punishing them with a foreign rule (Ebrard), nor merely the life of the soul (Tertullian, Erasmus, Neander); but everything, in short, of a material, religious, and ethical nature, which God, as sovereign of the theocratic people, is entitled to exact from them as His due. By the τὰ Καίσαρος, on the other hand, we are not to understand merely the civil tax, but everything to which Caesar was entitled in virtue of his legitimate rule over the theocratic nation. So with this reply Jesus disposes of the ensnaring question, answering it immediately with decision and clearness, and with that admirable tact which is only met with where there is a moral insight into the whole domain of duty; in a quick and overpowering manner He disarmed His adversaries, and laid the foundation for the Christian doctrine which was more fully developed afterwards (Romans 13:1 ff.; 1 Timothy 2:1 f.; 1 Peter 2:13 f., 17), that it is the duty of the Christian not to rebel against the existing rulers, but to conjoin obedience to their authority with obedience to God. At the same time, there cannot be a doubt that, although, in accordance with the question, Jesus chooses to direct His reply to the first and not to the second of those two departments of duty (in answer to Klostermann’s note on Mark), the second is to be regarded as the unconditional and absolute standard, not only for the first of the duties here mentioned (comp. Acts 5:29), but for every other. Chrysostom observes that: what is rendered to Caesar must not be τὴν εὐσέβειαν παραβλάπτοντα, otherwise it is οὐκέτι Καίσαρος, ἀλλὰ τοῦ διαβόλου φόρος καὶ τέλος. Thus the second part of the precept serves to dispose of any collision among our duties which accidental circumstances might bring about (Romans 13:5). According to de Wette, Jesus, in the first part of His reply, does not refer the matter inquired about to the domain of conscience at all, but treats it as belonging only to the sphere of politics (Luke 12:14), and then adds in the second part: “You can and ought to serve God, in the first place, with your moral and religious dispositions, and should not mix up with His service what belongs to the domain of civil authority.” But such a severance of the two is not in accordance with the context; for the answer would in that case be an answer to an alternative question based on the general thought: is it lawful to be subject to Caesar, or to God only? Whereas the reply of Jesus is: you ought to do both things, you ought to be subject to God and to Caesar as well; the one duty is inseparable from the other! Thus our Lord rises above the alternative, which was based on theocratic notions of a one-sided and degenerate character, to the higher unity of the true theocracy, which demands no revolutions of any kind, and also looks upon the right moral conception of the existing civil rule as necessarily part and parcel of itself (John 19:11), and consequently a simple yes or no in reply to the question under consideration is quite impossible.

ἀπόδοτε] the ordinary expression for paying what it is one’s duty to pay, as in Matthew 20:8, Matthew 21:41; Romans 13:7.

Matthew 22:22. ἐθαύμασαν] “conspicuo modo ob responsum tutum et verum,” Bengel. Οὐκ ἐπίστευσαν δέ, Euthymius Zigabenus.Matthew 22:21. ἀπόδοτε, the ordinary word for paying dues (Meyer), yet there is point in Chrysostom’s remark: οὐ γάρ ἐστι τοῦτο δοῦναι, ἀλλʼ ἀποδοῦναι· καὶ τοῦτο καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς εἰκόνος, καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς ἐπιγραφῆς δείκνυται (H. lxx.). The image and inscription showed that giving (Matthew 22:17) tribute to Caesar was only giving back to him his own. This was an unanswerable argumentum ad hominem as addressed to men who had no scruple about using Caesar’s coin for ordinary purposes, but of course it did not settle the question. The previous question might be raised, Had Caesar a right to coin money for Palestine, i.e., to rule over it? The coin showed that he was ruler de facto, but not necessarily de jure, unless on the doctrine that might is right. The really important point in Christ’s answer is, not what is said but what is implied, viz., that national independence is not an ultimate good, nor the patriotism that fights for it an ultimate virtue. This doctrine Jesus held in common with the prophets. He virtually asserted it by distinguishing between the things of Caesar and the things of God. To have treated these as one, the latter category absorbing the former, would have been to say: The kingdom of God means the kingdom restored to Israel. By treating them as distinct Jesus said in effect: The kingdom of God is not of this world, it is possible to be a true citizen of the kingdom and yet quietly submit to the civil rule of a foreign potentate. This is the permanent didactic significance of the shrewd reply, safe and true (tutum et verum, Bengel), by which Jesus outwitted His crafty foes.21. Render therefore unto Cesar the things which are Cesar’s] The Jewish doctors laid down the principle that “He is king whose coin passes current.” St Paul expands this principle, which underlies our Lord’s answer (Romans 13:1 foll. Cp. also 1 Peter 2:13-17). Render = “pay back as due.”

and unto God the things that are God’s] The claim of the kingdom of Heaven is equally cogent. As the subjects and “husbandmen” of God, the Jews owe Him service and fruit. Neither in regard to Cæsar nor to God do the facts of the case leave any doubt as to what is due, and to whom, nor does obedience to the one of necessity clash with obedience to the other.Matthew 22:21. Ἀπόδοτε, render) sc. as it is just.—οὖν, therefore) In these days the coins of one country are used promiscuously in others, as happens with French money in Germany; but none except Roman money appears to have been current at that time in Judea. But if the Jews had not been subject to Cæsar, they were not of such a disposition as to have employed foreign coin, especially when stamped with heathen likenesses (imaginibus).—καὶ, κ.τ.λ., and, etc.) The one duty is not, as you suppose, destroyed by the other. The things which are God’s, those which have been set apart and dedicated to Him are not Cæsar’s; but the things which are Cæsar’s are, in some sort, also God’s.[961]—τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ, the things that are God’s) whose cause you wish to appear to plead; see Matthew 22:16.

[961] Very frequently human sagacity fastens only upon one side, whichever side it be, of Duties [having a twofold side or aspect]: true wisdom weighs all things at the same time and together. These hypocrites were thinking thus: tribute ought to be given either to God for the use of the Temple, or else to Cæsar. Jesus saith, It is right, according to divine law, that both be done. So also the Sadducees were thinking thus: If the resurrection be admitted, the wife must be given back either to the first brother, or to the second, etc. But Truth subjoins the reply, She is to be given back not even to any one out of them all.—V. g.Verse 21. - Caesar's. They are constrained to answer that the coin bears the effigy of the Roman emperor. Render (ἀπόδοτε, give back, as a due) therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's (τὰ Καίσαρος). Rabbinism ruled that the right of coinage appertained to the ruler of a state, and was a proof of de facto government, which it was unlawful to resist. The current coin, which they used in their daily transactions, showed that the Jews were no longer independent, but set under and acquiescing in a foreign domination. Being subjects of Caesar, it was their duty to submit to his demands, and to pay the taxes which he had a right to levy. This was an answer to the insidious question propounded. Christ does not take either side in the controversy; he makes no question of the mutual rights of conquered and conquerors; he utters no aspiration for the recovery of independence; he uses facts as they are, and points to habitual practice as a sufficient solution of the difficulty. No reply could be wiser or simpler. Herein he gives a lesson for all time. No plea of religion can hold good against obedience to lawful authority. "Render to all their dues," says St. Paul (Romans 13:7): "tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour." The things that are God's; τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ. The things of God arc ourselves - our life, powers, faculties, means; to use these in God's service is our duty and our privilege. There need be no conflict between religion and politics, Church and state. Let a citizen do his duty to God, and he will find his obligations to the civil power are coincident and harmonious. Let the state respect the rights of God and of conscience, and there will he no collision between itself and the Church, but both will peaceably cooperate for the good of the community. Had the Jews rendered to God his dues, they would never have been reduced to their present state of subjection and debasement; would never have had to pay tribute to a foreign nation.
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