And they send to him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.…
Unable to take him with their wicked hands, because they dared not, they send selected men from the Pharisees and the Herodians. They have instructions to lay a trap with a view "to catch him in talk." "In vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird." But these blind catchers thought him to be blind also. In specious words they ply him with a question relating to an oppressive tax. "If he held that payment should be refused, he would compromise himself with the Romans; if he sanctioned it, he would embitter himself both with the Herodians and the ultra-national party," But he who "knew what was in man" knew their hypocrisy, and in a word, and doubtless with a look, exposed it. "Why tempt ye me?" Then with the coin before their eyes, which was at once the symbol of their unfaithfulness to God and their subjection to man, he threw back upon them the onus of answering themselves in their own conscience and by their own deeds. Ah! "in the net which they hid is their own foot taken." But Jesus does not only evade the dilemma on which they had cast him; nor does he merely utter a word of condemnation to them who had failed to "render unto God the things that are God's," and who would be only too glad to escape rendering "to Caesar the things that" were "Caesar's." But he, in high wisdom, teaches the great truth for all time, that fidelity to the demands of God and fidelity to the constituted powers of earth need not clash. The loyalty of the subject and the obedience of the saint are on the same plane. So a just distribution is made of things pertaining to Caesar and of things pertaining to God, and yet the true unity of the service rendered to both is declared; and, moreover, as God is above all, the duty to him includes the duty to Caesar. For our learning we may see -
I. THAT CHRIST BEARS HIS TESTIMONY TO THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE CLAIMS OF EARTHLY AUTHORITY. The Christian need be under no apprehension of following this principle out to its extremest limits. For if the earthly government be oppressive and unjust, he knows full well that the King of kings has his own methods of deposing; for he believes that "he putteth down one and setteth up another." He has learned to submit even to oppression for conscience' sake. But these questions respect the extreme, the occasional, the exceptional conditions of political life. Fidelity to the constituted head of authority would, according to Christian principles, secure the divinely appointed Head.
II. CHRIST UTTERS HIS EVER-REITERATED DEMAND FOR FIDELITY TO THE INALIENABLE CLAIMS OF GOD. "Render unto God the things that are God's." Is anything not God's? If in truth all is first rendered to him in an honest consecration to his will, then may that which he ordains for the neighbor be given to the neighbor; that which is for the poor to the poor; or that for the family, or for self even, so given; and therefore that which is for "the king, as supreme," to the king may be rendered.
III. LET THE MAN' HIMSELF, WHO TRULY IS GOD'S, BE RENDERED UNTO GOD. One has beautifully taught thus: "That which bears Caesar's image is, as belonging to Caesar, to be given to him; but that which has God's image belongs to God." Had Israel been faithful to "render" themselves "to God" they would not in those late days have been given up to the Romans, as in earlier days fidelity to God would have kept back the armies of Nebuchadnezzar. The great principle to guide nations and individuals alike is truly to be the Lord's. Then, when he is the God of the nation, all other service and all other obligations fall into their proper order and degree of importance. And he who serves his God in humility will serve his king in fidelity. He who is obedient to the Lord's claims will know how to render the claims of masters, and lords, and rulers, and sovereigns. Not more truly is the Law one," Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," and "Thou shalt love thy neighbor," than is "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." - G.
Parallel VersesKJV: And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.