“Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
Separation of Church and state, right? Easy. God wants us to be good citizens, and good Christians. Everyone knows this, right?
Everyone is wrong
This isn’t about the entirely modern idea of the separation of Church and state, or the need to be good citizens. It’s about false gods.
“Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.”
The image is of Tiberius Caesar, and the inscription reads, “Ti[berivs] Caesar Divi Avg[vsti] F[ilivs] Avgvstvs”, i.e. “Caesar Augustus Tiberius, son of the Divine Augustus”. Now that Jesus has drawn attention to the claim that Caesar is the son of a god, is He really going to be immediately encouraging secularism and citizenship?
Or, is He saying to give back what is false to the false god? Let Caesar have his riches, not because he deserves them, but because they are no good any way. St Augustine said we must give Caesar money, that bears his image, and give God ourselves, because we bear His image. The Christian doesn’t live by wealth or power, but by love and lowliness.
I have been told that in Jesus’ day, the question of tax was extremely controversial: If Jesus accepted paying tax, the people would stone him, but if He opposed it, the state would kill Him. Jesus managed to not only avoid being killed, but also to accuse the emperor as a false god, in such a way that no religious leader could rat Him out to the authorities without being forced to agree with Him.
When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
God bless you!