The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.
 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor.  So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
 He saw through their duplicity and said to them,  “Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?”
 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
He said to them, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.
“So the spies questioned him: ‘Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.’ ” (20:21)
The spies begin with a fawning flattery, trying to paint Jesus into a corner. When people flatter us our antennae should go up immediately. People who flatter are either sincere gushing admirers who can’t control themselves or shrewd individuals seeking to manipulate us by means of our pride. Bible authors hold no sympathy for flatters:
“Everyone lies to his neighbor;
their flattering lips speak with deception.” (Psalm 12:2)
“A lying tongue hates those it hurts,
and a flattering mouth works ruin.” (Proverbs 26:28)
“Whoever flatters his neighbor
is spreading a net for his feet.” (Proverbs 29:5)
“By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” (Romans 16:18)
What is the difference between flattery and learning to be gracious in speech? A very fine line. Graciousness seeks to honor and act the best toward a person. Flattery seeks to manipulate and turn them to our own purposes. The key is motive.
Do we as Christian disciples use flattery to get our own way? Did our mothers or fathers demonstrate before us how to use flattery to their own ends and teach us manipulation by their example? Have we become flatters?
But another important question for disciples concerns our own susceptibility to flattery. What makes us susceptible? Insecurity and a need for the approval of others. Pride can easily become our downfall — many, many leaders have succumbed to its enticements. The only antidote to flattery is genuine humility. Not mock humility that fences with flattery, but genuine humility that boasts in Jesus alone and not in one’s own accomplishments.
For Jesus, the model Servant, flattery bounced off like raindrops off a raincoat. What the spies say is actually true: Jesus DOES “speak and teach what is right,” He DOESN’T show partiality. He DOES teach with full integrity. But their truth is meant as flattery. If they can get Jesus to preen before them and nod as they praise him, they may be able to force him to blurt out his true antagonism to the Romans. That is their strategy.
Springing the Trap (20:22)
Now the loaded question:
“Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (20:22)
The term “taxes” (NIV) or “tribute” (KJV) is Greek phoros, “that which is brought in as payment to a state, with the implication of dependent status, tribute, tax.” In addition to property taxes, the Romans required an annual payment of one denarius, a day’s wage, per adult male. The Jerusalem Sanhedrin itself was responsible for collecting this particular head tax.
If Jesus agrees that Roman taxation is right, then perhaps they can turn public opinion against Jesus with the same vehemence with which tax collectors are hated. But if, as they suspect, Jesus secretly despises the Romans’ right to occupy Israel and place burdensome taxes on its citizens, perhaps they can get him to say something that can be construed as rebellion against Rome. Perhaps they can paint Jesus as a Zealot, one who fights to free Israel from Roman domination. It is a trick question, all right!
Render to Caesar (20:23-25)
Notice how Jesus answers their trick question with a question? We see this elsewhere in Jesus’ ministry (11:53; 20:3; Matthew 22:34-46; Mark 8:12; John 8:6). It reminds me a bit of the Semitic tradition of riddles and may have been a Rabbinic form of discourse in Jesus’ day. In verse 23, Jesus refers to their trickery as “duplicity” (NIV) or “craftiness” (KJV), Greek panourgia, “cunning, craftiness, trickery,” literally “readiness to do anything.”
“He saw through their duplicity and said to them, ‘Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?’
‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.
He said to them, ‘Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’ ” (20:23-25)
It is important to recognize that the head tax must be paid with a denarius, the very coin Jesus asks his opponents to show him. That they have the coin indicates that they should have already known the answer. That they would even be holding such a coin was ironic, since it bore an inscription that the Jews considered blasphemous: “Tiberius Caesar, son of the deified Augustus, Augustus” and on the obverse an image of the emperor’s mother Livia as an incarnation of the goddess Pax (peace), with the words “High Priest.”
Jesus’ answer is marvelous in its balance. “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” The word “give” (NIV) or “render” (KJV) is the Greek verb apodidomi, “to meet a contractual or other obligation, pay, pay out, fulfill,” used of wages, taxes, vows, duty, etc.
Jesus is saying: If the coinage bears Caesar’s image, then it indicates that Caesar is the ruler who should be submitted to in paying taxes. Later Jesus’ Apostles spell out the Christian’s obligation to submit to earthly rulers (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). By his answer Jesus indicates that his is no rebel.
The implication is that we are to pay our taxes fairly and honestly, without any attempt to subvert the law. This is required of us as Jesus’ disciples.
Render to God (20:25)
But Jesus continues, “And [give] to God what is God’s.” Perhaps there is the implied question, whose image do you bear? The image of God, all Jews would acknowledge (Genesis 1:27). Then, Jesus is saying, with your bodies, minds, and spirits, you yourselves, you owe allegiance to God himself.
You and I pay our taxes because we are afraid of being penalized for cheating. But are our motives to serve God any more exalted. Do we serve him because we fear displeasing him or because we love him?
My dear friend, whose coinage are you? Whose stamp and image do you bear in your soul? God’s. Then you own Him your full allegiance — to love him with all your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength (Deuteronomy 6:5; Luke 10:27).
The lesson the Pharisees and chief priests learned from this encounter was not to ask Jesus trick questions. But disciples learn two lessons infinitely more important: to submit willingly to the requirements of the civil government, but even more important, to give our all in tribute to God, for it is his image we bear in this world.
Father, forgive us for the games we would play with our taxes. Be even more, forgive us for obscuring your image to those around us. Help us to give you your full due — with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Sometimes, we can read certain verses from Scripture a hundred times and fail to take them to heart, the way the Lord wants us to. Other times, we can linger on a verse or two, and let them minister life, healing, and comfort to us. Isaiah 41:10 is so rich with the promises of God, that it warrants some special attention from us.
The first thing that the Lord wants to impart to us through this verse is that He doesn’t want us to be afraid. “Fear not.” It’s been said that there are 365 “fear nots” in the Bible, one for every day of the year. One reason why God warns us against fear is that it can short-circuit the answered prayers and blessings that He has in store for us. Just as the Lord has plans for our lives, Satan and his dark forces do, too. While God’s plans for us are good plans (Jeremiah 29:11), the devil’s plans for us are evil (John 10:10). And the Lord knows that while faith in Him and His Word opens the door to His plans and purposes for us, fear can open the door to Satan’s. If we keep these things in mind when adversity hits, we will do everything in our power to resist becoming fearful–including praying, praising, and immersing ourselves in God’s Word.
“I am with you.” And here’s the best reason of all for us not to give in to fear–we have the Lord’s presence to accompany us at all times, everywhere we go. (Joshua 1:9) Jesus Himself said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20 TLB) In desperate times, our feelings will often tell us that we’re all alone in our troubles. We can live by feelings, or we can live by faith–the choice is ours. If we choose to live by faith, as the Bible instructs (2 Corinthians 5:7), we will position ourselves to receive the rewards and victories that the Lord has in store for us.
“Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.” When we give the Lord His rightful place in our lives, He becomes responsible for our welfare and well-being. He becomes our Protector and Provider. He fights our battles for us. And He makes Himself available to us every moment of every day. If we will let God be God in our lives on a daily basis, we will witness Him moving heaven and earth to fulfill His purposes for us, and to bless us with His best.
“I will strengthen you, I will help you.” Sometimes, we may feel as though we’ve been “ambushed” by sudden calamities or troubles, but nothing that comes our way is a surprise to God. That should give us great comfort in desperate times. Before we ever have a problem, God’s got a custom-made solution prepared for us. And we know that no matter what happens, we can endure it–and even overcome it–when we rely on Him to strengthen and help us.
” I will hold you up and retain you with My righteous right hand.” The Bible tells us repeatedly that our God is a God of justice. Because of that, He is committed to seeing that His faithful ones eventually come out on top in every situation. It may seem at times that we are the losers, but whenever we deal with our problems using godly principles, our victory can be delayed, but it can never be denied.
Let me challenge you today to take these precious promises to heart. Make them your own by claiming them in faith, and open the way for our loving and mighty God to reveal Himself to you like never before!
You can always count on a church or christian organization to arrive on the scene when there has been a natural disaster of some sort. Hurricane Katrina was a great example of this. Churches continued helping in New Orleans by cleaning and rebuilding years after the storm struck.
Why does the church live this way? Why do Christians spend their money and time to help others in trouble? There are many reasons for this, but a great component is the comfort we receive from our Father in heaven when we are in need of it. A person who has truly experienced the grace of God in these events simply cannot stand back and watch others suffer. Especially after they have experienced the comfort and peace that comes from none but the Almighty God (Philippians 4:7).
We do not only provide a physical comfort to those who are suffering though. The Christian’s is a comfort that cannot be matched by food, money, a new house, or anything here on the Earth. The early church actually grew, in many ways, because of the manner in which Christians treated and helped non-Christians in their time of need. There is something special when a person helps someone who is not of their family without expecting to receive anything in return.
Remember the words of James, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
Thank God for the comfort he provides and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you in comforting others.
“This world” doesn’t mean the ground that we walk on, but in the Greek tongue “world” is “aion”, the world society, and the way that the world does things. We are not to conform to the pattern, or fashion that is set by the world standards for our lives, because the one that sets those standards is the prince of this world, Satan.
We are not to conform to those things that the world considers a way of doing business, of bribery, stealing, lying, and you can probably run the list as long as I can, but those things are of Satan. When you become a new creature in Christ, not only your soul and spirit become changed, but you are to transform, or change our minds also. That means the way that you think and say things, and the standards that you set for ourselves. Upon repentance of your sins and your belief in Jesus Christ, even your goals change. All those things that once were important are just not that important any more. Then what is important are the things that are important to our heavenly Father.
God’s “Will” is given to us through His Word by the prophets, disciples, and even through His own words while He walked on this earth. That is His Will, and the Will of God is perfect. When you strive to live within the Will of God in all that you do and say, then you are in His perfect Will. It doesn’t mean that you won’t fall short, for all men and women in the flesh bodies will fall short, but that is what the freedom that we have in Christ is all about. When we sin and we repent those sins to Him “in Jesus’ name”, then He is faithful and just to forgive us of those sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This is a daily thing, it is also hourly and to that very moment that you are living, for it is our way of life, totally committed to living our lives as a “living sacrifice unto God”.
Your “transforming” takes place within your mind and not your spirit, for God does the transforming there. It becomes your “duty” change your mind, and this is done by seeking the knowledge of God. You can only renew your mind when the knowledge of God’s Word is placed there, and you place it there when you get into His holy Word and study it.
Then you become a “sacrifice” for God, and as a sacrifice, it is not for your pleasure that the sacrifice is made, but the one that the sacrifice is made to. As we live in our local communities, there are many different local customs that we must respect, in order to have the people in that community to see Christ in us. Jesus walked in His local community, and he left the church of that day and He walked down where there were a bunch of sinners. Jesus was not afraid to talk or even eat with them. They were the ones that Jesus came into the world to save. Remember those self-righteous hypocrites were all wrapped up in them selves and seeking their traditions to save them.
Come on and get real, Christianity is not a religion, it is a reality in the way we live our lives. You can’t help people if you are not where they are at. The point is that you just don’t conform to what they are doing, but transform them by the example that you set before them. You don’t have to say a word, but by your example you can be a wealth of information to them, as they struggle in their problems. It is while in their presence that you plant the seeds of truth, that the Holy Spirit can work and make your thoughts grow in their minds. If they think you are a nut and off your rocker, why would they ever listen to anything you have to say. You live the life that they can see is credible, and God will place the time for your planting of the seed, when His time is ready.
Partial Excerpt From https://www.theseason.org/romans/romans12.htm
1. To be wise witnesses, walk with wisdom.
“Walk” is a metaphor for steady a way of life that is headed in a particular direction. “Wisdom” in the Old Testament comes from a word for “skill.” It is used to describe the craftsmen who built the tabernacle (Exod. 36:1, 2). The Book of Proverbs often contrasts the wise man with the fool. The fool disregards God’s commandments about how to live, but the wise man skillfully orders his life according to God’s Word so that the results are like a finely crafted piece of furniture. To walk in wisdom produces a beautiful life.
When Paul says that we are to walk with wisdom toward outsiders, he means that we are to live in line with God’s Word so that those who are not Christians will see the beauty of our lives and relationships that reflect Jesus Christ. They ought to be able to see the fruit of the Spirit in us, which should draw them to the Savior.
A. WALKING WITH WISDOM BEGINS PRIVATELY THROUGH PRAYER.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (4:2). Paul goes on (4:3) to ask for prayer for his own witness, but these verses also apply to our witness: A private walk with God in prayer is the foundation for verbal witness.
So, prayer is the first step in wise witnessing. Before you talk to a person about God, talk to God about that person. One of the most helpful books that I’ve read on evangelism is Concentric Circles of Concern [Broadman Press, 1981], by the late Oscar Thompson. He taught his students to make a list of the people in what he called “concentric circles of concern.” You are in the center of the circle—you’ve got to be right with God before you can be His witness. Moving outward, in the next circle is your immediate family, then your relatives, close friends, neighbors and business associates, acquaintances, and finally, “person X,” someone you don’t know.
You list each person’s needs and begin praying for them, that God would engineer the circumstances in their lives to draw them to Christ. Also, pray that He would use you as His channel of love and give you the opportunities and boldness to talk to the person about Christ. Meanwhile, look for needs that you can help meet in each of those circles. In the context of praying and lovingly meeting needs, God will give you opportunities for witness.
B. WALKING WITH WISDOM OCCURS OUTWARDLY BY MAKING THE MOST OF THE OPPORTUNITY.
Paul asked for prayer (4:3) that God would open the door for the word, but also that he would speak forth the mystery of Christ. In Ephesians 6:19, he asks for prayer “to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.” God has to open the door, but we need the boldness to speak about Christ when the door opens. If we bash in the door without God’s opening it, the message probably will not be well received. But if God opens the door and we don’t go through, the opportunity will be lost.
“Making the most of the opportunity” (4:5) is literally, “redeeming [or, buying up] the opportunity.” “Buying up” pictures a businessman or investor who knows an opportunity to make money when he sees one. He quickly moves in before the opportunity is gone. Or, picture a careful shopper who knows that all of the sale items will be gone within the first hour. So she gets to the store early to take advantage of the good deals. A wise witness is on the alert to buy up opportunities to share Christ with lost people.
Excerpt From https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-4-wise-witnessing-colossians-42-6
Four things are here taught, as a Christian’s directory for his day’s work. When to awake; Now; and to awake out of the sleep of carnal security, sloth, and negligence; out of the sleep of spiritual death, and out of the sleep of spiritual deadness. Considering the time; a busy time; a perilous time. Also the salvation nigh at hand. Let us mind our way, and mend our pace, we are nearer our journey’s end. Also to make ourselves ready. The night is far spent, the day is at hand; therefore it is time to dress ourselves. Observe what we must put off; clothes worn in the night. Cast off the sinful works of darkness. Observe what we must put on; how we should dress our souls. Put on the armour of light. A Christian must reckon himself undressed, if unarmed. The graces of the Spirit are this armour, to secure the soul from Satan’s temptations, and the assaults of this present evil world. Put on Christ; that includes all. Put on righteousness of Christ, for justification. Put on the Spirit and grace of Christ, for sanctification. The Lord Jesus Christ must be put on as Lord to rule you as Jesus to save you; and in both, as Christ anointed and appointed by the Father to this ruling, saving work. And how to walk. When we are up and ready, we are not to sit still, but to appear abroad; let us walk. Christianity teaches us how to walk so as to please God, who ever sees us. Walk honestly as in the day; avoiding the works of darkness. Where there are riot and drunkenness, there usually are chambering and wantonness, and strife and envy. Solomon puts these all together, Proverbs 23:29-35. See what provision to make. Our great care must be to provide for our souls: but must we take no care about our bodies? Yes; but two things are forbidden. Perplexing ourselves with anxious, encumbering care; and indulging ourselves in irregular desires. Natural wants are to be answered, but evil appetites must be checked and denied. To ask meat for our necessities, is our duty, we are taught to pray for daily bread; but to ask meat for our lusts, is provoking God, Psalm 78:18.
1. THINK ON WHATEVER IS TRUE.
The word means, “true as to fact … it denotes the actuality of a thing”. The “true” is that which corresponds to reality. God Himself is the only final test for truth. Since He is unchanging, the moral standards revealed in His Word, which stem from His holy nature, are also unchanging. They apply to every culture in every age. John 3:33 attests, “God is true” (see also, John 8:26; Rom. 3:4). As Paul writes to Titus, who was in Crete (the Cretans were notorious liars), “God … cannot lie,” and He made known His truth by “His word” (Titus 1:1-3). Jesus also claimed for Himself that He is true (John 7:18; also 5:31-32). Opposed to God and Christ, Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He is a deceiver, and he uses sin to deceive those ensnared by it (2 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 4:22; Heb. 3:13).
Since as fallen creatures we are prone to Satan’s lies and deception, the only way we can know the truth and walk in it is to steep ourselves in God’s Word. We should know the Word so well that we automatically run everything we encounter through the grid of God’s Word. We live in a day that is geared toward emotions and strongly influenced by the supposed “virtue” of tolerance. Our culture assumes that love means being tolerant and accepting of everyone and everything, even if God’s Word plainly declares that something is an abomination. If you go with the flow, you will be carried far from God’s absolute standard of moral truth as revealed in His Word.
We also must resist the pragmatism of our culture, which determines the true by whatever works. If something works, which means, it brings you happiness (at least at the moment) or it accomplishes what you want, then it must be true. But God’s Word doesn’t always line up with what works. In fact, it’s clear that sin often brings pleasure for a season; if it didn’t we wouldn’t be so enticed by it. Many of the “positive mental attitude” methods are effective in making you a successful sales person. But the question is, Are they biblical? We must test everything by God’s Word, not by feelings or pragmatism.
2. THINK ON WHATEVER IS HONORABLE (NIV = “NOBLE”).
The word means “that which inspires reverence or awe; dignified, worthy of respect.” It is a character quality required in deacons and deaconesses (1 Tim. 3:8, 11). Elders should keep their children under control “with all dignity” (1 Tim. 3:4). All Christians should “lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Tim. 2:2).
This means that Christians are to take life seriously. We are not to be silly goof-offs, who treat life as a perpetual joke. We live in light of eternity, keeping in mind the uncertainty of this short life and the reality of heaven and hell. This doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate clean humor. But our overall tenor should communicate to a lost world that they must stand before a holy God someday soon. Think on these reverent themes.
3. THINK ON WHATEVER IS RIGHT.
This word is used of God Himself who is righteous (Rom. 3:26; 1 John 2:29; 3:7) and of Jesus Christ (Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 2:1). Thus we are to be righteous people, as John writes, “Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil” (1 John 3:7-8). To think on what is right means to think on the holy nature of God, especially as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, and to model our behavior after Him.
4. THINK ON WHATEVER IS PURE.
The word refers to ceremonial purity, but also to the moral purity that is pictured by the ceremonial. It especially means keeping our bodies undefiled by abstaining from sexual sins (see 2 Cor. 11:2; 1 Tim. 5:22; Titus 2:5; James 3:17; 1 Pet. 3:2; 1 John 3:3). In Ephesians 5:3-5 Paul warns, “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” As Christians, we must say no to our sexually impure culture and focus on moral purity.
5. THINK ON WHATEVER IS LOVELY.
This word occurs only here in the New Testament. It means what is pleasing, agreeable, and attractive. At times we all find ourselves attracted to that which is evil. But this word must be taken with the context, meaning that which is both pure and attractive. Jesus Christ is inherently attractive, and so we should think often on our lovely Savior, who gave Himself for us on the cross.
6. THINK ON WHATEVER IS ADMIRABLE.
This refers to something that “deservedly enjoys a good reputation”. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, love believes the best about another person, it refuses to believe an evil report about a brother or sister until there is certain evidence to establish it.
ANYTHING WORTHY OF PRAISE.
The word “praise” is used both of what is praiseworthy in God (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14; Phil. 1:11) and in people (Rom. 2:29; 13:3; 1 Cor. 4:5). Of course, every attribute and deed of God is praiseworthy, and so we should daily think about how great God is and on the marvelous works He has done, both in creation and in history. Toward other people, even toward those in the world, we should be gracious by focusing on their strong points and good qualities. Even though we all are depraved by nature, because of God’s common grace even unbelieving people can be kind, caring, and loving. Ultimately those qualities, even in unbelievers, do not bring glory to the person, but to God. So we should be appreciative and affirming toward people rather than negative and critical.
*THINK ON THESE THINGS.
Paul means to reflect on these qualities that stem from God and should be characteristic of us as children of God. Give them weight in your decisions. Allow them to shape your conduct. In other words, think on these things with a view to doing them.