“Then he said to them, ‘Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.” (Matthew 22:21-22)
In response to Jesus’ rebukes, the main ruling political-religious sects of the Jews banded together to oppose Him. They tried to trip Him up with controversial questions in the hope that He would make a statement that would cause Him to lose favor with the people, or incriminate Himself under either the Mosaic or Roman law. Their attempts failed because Jesus exposed their evil intentions with a demonstration of His own divine authority that forced them to answer their own question. Because they stood opposed to God, these religious politicians failed to see the truth. They failed to believe in Him. They lacked the spiritual insight, courage and wisdom to answer Him properly.
When we look at Jesus’ answer we see that He commends the paying of taxes to government as well as respecting its authority and obeying its laws, a teaching timely both then and now. These days many people disrespect the government because those elected to govern are as foolish and self-centered as were the Pharisees, or at least we think so. Many of them do not conform to the popular standard of morality. Therefore, many people feel justified in criticizing them with zealous self-righteousness as if they were paragons of virtue with the right to judge who is good and who is bad.
But they are not. Those criticized and those doing the criticism are both utterly sinful before a Holy God. Even their good deeds and all their righteousness are as filthy rags in the sight of God: corrupt, vile, and useless. When we look at our own lives we should realize that we fall short of what Jesus demands. This is because what He requires of us is perfect faith, love, and obedience, qualities which we are incapable of displaying without His wisdom and grace. Jesus went to the cross to enable us to have such faith, to make us righteous in God’s sight. He became sin for us; He extended mercy toward us while we were His enemies. We should do the same to all people. This is how we render to God what is His, extending mercy, love, and compassion to all people.