Give Unto Ceasar?

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Jesus often used parables and other indirect rhetorical devices, some that represented more complete stories like "The Laborers in the Vineyard," (Matthew 20:1-16), some that offered shorter insights like "The Pompous Pharisee and the Sinful Tax Collector" (Luke 18:9-14), and many that present thought-provoking short metaphorical commentaries like "Putting New Wine in Old Wineskins" (Matthew 9:17), and "The Leaven" (Matthew 13:33). The Bible often requires us to think about what is meant by something like "…a dog returneth to his vomit." (Proverbs 26:11)

These verbal devices cause the listener (or reader) to come to the truth through thought on underlying truths. Jesus also employed these methods when being challenged by those who wanted to hand him over to the state to be tortured and killed. One of the verbal devices used by Jesus was the technique of giving the question back to the belligerent asker to require him to figure out the truth for himself. It avoided confrontation while at the same time presenting the truth in the conversation if the asker chose to honestly follow logic and obtain the true conclusion.

One such occasion involved an attempt to get Jesus to say something about the evil nature of the state that would result in him being imprisoned. This may be the only time recorded when Jesus (rather than one of his apostles) actually conversed directly on the topic of the nature of the state. The loaded question was carefully constructed and posed by the interrogators with the assumption that there was no way for Jesus to present an answer that wouldn't anger the state's minions resulting in Jesus' arrest.

Matthew 22:15-22

15 Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.

16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.

17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?

18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?

19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.

20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

What should we derive from this? Jesus clearly gives the question back to the asker by saying to render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's. The asker was given the task to do the thinking. This answer avoided confrontation with those who would have immediately bound him in chains if it was stated more directly. So, Jesus has the interrogator ask himself, "what things are Caesar's?"

Friedrich Nietzsche said, "Everything the State says is a lie, and everything it has it has stolen."

Frederic Bastiat pointed out that men “can secure the means of existence in two ways: by creating them or by stealing them” (Economic Harmonies, p. 479)

Bastiat, said that "The Romans could not fail to consider property anything but a purely conventional fact — a product, an artificial, of written law. Evidently they could not go back, as political economy does, to the very nature of man and perceive the relations and necessary connections that exist among wants, faculties, labor, and property." He said that it "would have been absurd and suicidal for them" to do so because "they lived by looting, when all their property was the fruit of plunder, when they had based their whole way of life on the labor of slaves." (Selected Essays on Political Economy, p. 101). In other words, what the state claimed as its property was actually stolen. A state decree of written "law" attempted to legitimize the theft from those who actually owned the property which they obtained through their own production or voluntary exchange.

This scriptural passage is often used incorrectly to postulate that Jesus was a statist. The true meaning couldn't be farther from that. The passage itself directly states that Jesus perceived their, "wickedness." Jesus then masterfully has us ponder and determine what the state really owns. The answer is nothing. Give Caesar what pertains to him. You do the math.

David Hathaway [send him mail] is a former supervisory DEA Agent who homeschools his nine children. He enjoys writing about the injustices of the state.

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