No one I’ve met loves to pay taxes, and yet, taxes are an essential part to maintaining a civil society. The people of Israel, being an occupied nation, had even more to complain about. Jesus, however, calls us all to recognize that all we have is a gift from God.
Here's the tax story from Mathew 22:15-22
That’s when the Pharisees plotted a way to trap him into saying something damaging. They sent their disciples, with a few of Herod’s followers mixed in, to ask, “Teacher, we know you have integrity, teach the way of God accurately, are indifferent to popular opinion, and don’t pander to your students. So tell us honestly: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Jesus knew they were up to no good. He said, “Why are you playing these games with me? Why are you trying to trap me? Do you have a coin? Let me see it.” They handed him a silver piece.
“This engraving – who does it look like? And whose name is on it?”
They said, “Caesar.”
“Then give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his.”
The Pharisees were speechless. They went off shaking their heads.
Jesus knew there was trouble brewing when some Pharisees and some Herodians (the ones Herod appointed to run the temple) came together to ask a question. The Pharisees and the Herodians despised one another. Then they came up with a hot-button question about paying taxes, a question guaranteed to torque off half of Jesus’ followers and, therefore, rob him of his power.
Come on Jesus, who are you going to side with, the government – seen as an occupying illegitimate force – or the new enthusiastic fundamentalists? It’s a no-win situation for Jesus, and the Herodians and the Pharisees can continue their battle uninterrupted.
Humanity always tends to choose the conflicts we know over the change and hope we don’t know. Jesus holds up a coin. Whose image is it? The people answer disappointingly: “Caesar.” Jesus’ next answer then points to the fact that all we have, all Herod has, all the people in common have, all the government has, is a gift from God, and we are called to see it accordingly.
Even the taxes we pay, and fight and fret over, are a gift from, and a gift to, God. So although we don’t like paying taxes – and could perhaps come up with ways that would more efficient, better, or more evenly distributed – in the end, it is all a gift from God. In the midst of this responsibility, don’t forget to give thanks.