“Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, give to God what belongs to God” — Matthew 22:15-22

This statement is often made within the Church world, based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:21 — “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (NKJV)

It is apparent from a cursory glance at the text that “the things that are Caesar’s” refers to the taxes he imposed upon the people (see vs. 17). The dilemma, however, ensues when we try to decipher what exactly the things which are God’s (or which belong to God) are. Many intelligent answers have been given.

Tithe advocates, for example, have said Jesus was referring to tithes, in parallel with Caesar’s tax. But how true is this? Note that outside of Matt 22:21b (and its parallel in Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25), the phrase “the things that are God’s” (“ta tou Theos” in the Greek) occurs also in Matt 16:23 and 1 Cor 2:11;

Matthew 16:23 (NKJV)

23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of THE THINGS OF GOD, but the things of men.”

Here, the context used implies the plans or interests of God.

Then 1 Cor. 2:11 (NKJV)

11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows THE THINGS OF GOD except the Spirit of God.

In context, the “things of God” here refers to the thoughts of God.

In both Matt 16:23 and 1 Cor 2:11, the context reveals to us the interpretation of the phrase. What about Matthew 22:21? Is there anything in the text that tells us what the “things that are God’s” are. Yes, there is.

Observe the text closely;

18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.”

So they brought Him a denarius.

20 And He said to them, “WHOSE IMAGE and INSCRIPTION is this?”

21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

The answer is in the words “image” and “inscription” in vs. 20.

The denarius belonged to Caesar because he had put His stamp of ownership (his image and inscription) on it. In like manner, man belongs to God because man was made in His image (Gen. 1:27).

So “giving to God the things that are God’s” refers to men giving their whole selves to God because they were made in His image. Jesus is actually admonishing the evil crowd who sought to deceive Him (the Pharisees and Herodians) to wholeheartedly give themselves over to God and His ways. This will show in a change of their thinking (repentance) and consequently, their lifestyle. Nothing in this text implies the tithe. What is due to God is our very lives, not a tithe (10%) of it.


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2020.


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