“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
Many of my readers have asked me to explain what Jesus said in this verse. They want to know if Jesus meant to say to pay taxes or not.
In order to explain this verse, I need to quote several other parts of the Bible, first.
The first Biblical Principle to understand is that Jesus spoke in parables, on purpose, to hide understanding.
Mat 13:10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? Mat 13:11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
This means that for every parable, there are at least two meanings. There is the misleading meaning for the foolish world (the popular interpretation), and then there is the true meaning that would be understood only by true believers.
Thus, if there are two meanings, at least, both seemingly valid on the surface, then, in order to know which is which, we need to see what God has already said on this matter. Furthermore, it gets even harder, because some verses might be used by false Biblical teachers (false prophets) to justify the wrong view! Thus, discernment is needed. And what is discernment? I had one Christian man email me recently to say that discernment is not even a word!
1 : the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure
: showing insight and understanding
: to see or understand the difference
Discernment is the ability to know what is true, and what is not true! And it is gained by experience. Just like muscles get stronger with use, so does your own discernment.
Hebrews 5:14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
I take pains to explain this, because today, discernment is a skill that is greatly needed.
So, first of all, before we ask if God approves giving money to kings, we ought to consider what God thinks of Kings in general.
When the Israelites wanted a King, God said that was because the people were rejecting God, and thus, the King itself was a form of God’s punishment upon them. Kings are thieves.
1 Samuel 8:6-18 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.”
10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”
Why won’t the Lord answer prayers for deliverance? Because God is the one sending the punishment upon the people in the first place, a punishment they deserve! God raises up Kings to punish God’s people. Kings are used by God to oppress and punish rebellious people.
Daniel recognized this while in exile in Babylon:
Daniel 9 “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you.
What Law was Daniel recognizing? This one if they disobey the commandments: Leviticus 26:14-43
Leviticus 26:25 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.
Daniel, and all the Israelites were delivered into the hand of the Babylonian King, as a punishment.
Some preachers support a doctrine called “the divine right of Kings”. They teach this to preach obedience to tyrants.
They use Daniel 4, that says that God raises up all Kings, to teach submission to tyrants. They forget that God uses kings to punish God’s people when they disobey God!
Daniel 4:17 ” ‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.’
They forget that Daniel himself, in obedience to God, refused to obey orders of the King to worship the king, and Daniel himself was thrown into the Lion’s den for disobedience, and the man who wished Daniel to worship the King were thrown in, instead. Rightly, then, those who teach total submission to tyrants ought to be thrown to the Lions!
Tyrants were always resisted by God’s people.
Daniel’s friends were commanded to worship a golden statue. They didn’t and were saved from fire.
The book of Esther is about a King who allowed those who hated the Jews to attack them, but later, Esther revealed that she was a Jew, and the King then issued another order allowing the Jews to resist their attackers.
Pharaoh in Egypt issued the order to kill babies. Moses was placed into a basket, and was saved.
King Herod issued the order to kill babies. Jesus was saved; his family fled to Egypt.
God will punish Kings.
Isaiah 24:21 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.
God is the King of Kings!
Revelation 17:14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
I also teach the “divine right of Kings”. But only if it is understood that WE are kings!
1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
Revelation 1:5-7 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 5:10 And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.
In actual fact, the USA was founded by people who understood their Biblical sovereign rights, that is, the rights of Kings!
This is why there were no taxes for the first 200 years there were colonists in the USA, and why there was rebellion at the idea of 1% tax on tea by the King of England. It was not the amount they were battling, and they did not fight for the right to “be represented” while paying 55% tax rates; they were battling the idea of any taxes at all!
The entire book of Judges is all about God raising up Judges to free his people from having to pay tribute, or taxes, to foreign powers. After the period of Judges, and after the age of Kings began, that kind of Godly deliverance stopped, and the nature of the Kings grew worse and worse, particularly after the first three kings, Saul, David, and Solomon. Solomon’s child was a tyrant who raised oppressive taxes.
So, yes, God sets up Kings, but that does not mean that submitting to them in all cases is the same as submission to God; rather God sets up kings as a punishment for people who will not submit to God, Kings are a punishment.
These kinds of nuances are often lost on many people who read the Bible.
Skeptics and fools cry out that God sanctions slavery. The reality is that God calls his people out to freedom.
Skeptics and fools cry out that God sanctions usury. The reality is that the prophets described usurers as extortioners, murderers, thieves, & slave owners, etc.
So, to understand Jesus’s answer, we need to understand the nature of the question, and who was asking it and why.
The Pharisees asked the question. They hated Jesus, they wanted to kill him, and they eventually succeeded. This question was a trap. It damned Jesus if Jesus said to pay taxes, and it damned Jesus if Jesus said to not pay taxes. How so?
If Jesus said to pay taxes, Jesus would be violating all the Biblical laws, principles, and stories of Godly deliverance, and could have been condemned by the laws of the “self-righteous” Pharisees.
If Jesus said to not pay taxes, then Caesar would have reason to kill him. Just like today in our world if you don’t pay taxes, there is tribulation awaiting.
This is why the question was a trap, it was a classic “Catch 22”, damned by God if you say to pay, damned by Caesar if you say to not pay taxes.
This is why they marveled at the answer. Jesus was wise. He gave an answer that would be interpreted as “pay taxes” by unrighteous people, and only those who know the Bible would understand that Jesus was saying “of course you have no obligation to pay taxes”.
Matthew, Chapter 22 Paying Taxes to Caesar
15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” 18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”
21″Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
It does not take a scholarly understanding to know how to interpret the words of Jesus. It’s simple. But the wicked will slander even the simple answers.
Exodus 20:15 Thou shalt not steal.
That applies to all men, as the Pharisees admitted that it did, and, of course that applies even to Caesar. But the foolish will say that Caesar has a right to steal, or that compulsory taxes are somehow not stealing, or that it’s not stealing if we have a right to vote, despite the clear warnings in Samuel 8:6-18 that the king will take, take, take, and that Kings are a punishment on people who will not obey the King of Kings.
And really, to follow the second part of what Jesus said, to pay “To God, what is God’s”, you have to know what belongs to God.
Haggai 2:8 All silver and gold belong to me, [says the Lord God]
Psalm 24:1 The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
1 Corinthians 10:26 For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.
So, if everything belongs to God, and if you give everything to God, then what is left over for Caesar? Pause and think.
Some will say that Jesus implied that the coin belonged to Caesar, because the coin had Caesar’s image on it. Really? Our money today has the images of dead presidents on them. Does that mean it belongs to them? Nobody ever makes that claim!
Some say that all US paper money belongs to the Federal Reserve. Not so.
In truth, Federal Reserve Notes are not the “property” or “assets” of the Federal Reserve who issues them, they are the LIABILITIES of the Federal Reserve who issues them! Our money today used to be based on promissory notes, or promises to pay.
If you have a $5 bill, it does not mean that you owe the Fed $5, it means that the Fed owes you $5, and it should have been five silver dollars, too!
It is amazing to me that fools can get that basic understanding so wrong, in their twisted attempts to mis-apply the words of Jesus!
Money is money because it belongs to the one holding it, not the one who issued it!
There is a risk in explaining the words of Jesus. Especially today. I will be viscously attacked for this article, primarily by Christians whose government approved, tax-exempt, 501(c)3 Churches teach them, in full hypocrisy, that the people attending their Church need to pay taxes that the Church need not pay.
Christians will quote Romans 13.
But if you understand that WE THE PEOPLE are sovereigns, kings, the power, then the passage reads entirely differently!
Here it is, unedited:
Romans 13 (NIV) 1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Here it is, more properly translated, if you know that WE, Christians, are KINGS and authorities.
Romans 13 (NIV) 1 Everyone must submit himself to WE THE PEOPLE UNDER GOD, for there is no authority except that which God has established. THE PEOPLE THAT exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against THE PEOPLE is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For THE PEOPLE hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of THE PEOPLE WHO ARE SOVEREIGN AUTHORITIES UNDER GOD? Then do what is right and THE PEOPLE will commend you. 4 For THE PEOPLE ARE God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for THE PEOPLE do not HAVE THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS FOR nothing. THE PEOPLE ARE God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to THE PEOPLE UNDER GOD, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6 This is also why THE STATES are to pay THE CONSTITUTIONAL CAPITATION TAX, for WE THE PEOPLE are God’s servants, AND THE PROPERLY DELEGATED CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITIES give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you LEGALLY AND LAWFULLY owe taxes, pay those taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
I have hesitated to preach this in full, for the many years I have known all of this, because persecution upon me is a likely result. But I have been encouraged today by my wife, who said, “you must preach that”, God bless her.
Matthew 10 22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. 23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. 24 The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? 26 Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. 27 What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.
Finally, you ought to think carefully if you decide to defy Kings on this earth. They will likely bring punishments due by God, and you may need a miracle to be delivered, as Daniel and his three friends were delivered.
2 Timothy 3:12 (NIV) In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 1 Chronicles 16:22 “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.”
July 31, 2010